The Alt Tasting Session: Local spirits and haunts

The Alt Tasting Session: Local spirits and haunts

Excelsior Pub – 54 Phillip Street, Albany

We stopped by on a sunny Friday afternoon to see what local liquors Excelsior has to offer and found just about everything in New York state. So, we treated ourselves to a few house favorites like the “Sunny Side Up” –a screwdriver with a Death Wish coffee twist pictured below–and the “All Buttoned Up,” a creamy bourbon, maple and mole blend that is sure to be a winter favorite.


“I’m here to make things fuzzy,” said owner and bartender Jason (Jay) Bowers as he shuffled through bottles of rum, whiskey and gin. At Excelsior Pub, Bowers has collected a wide array–the “largest selection on the planet,” he says–of spirits, liqueurs, bitters and aperitifs based out of New York state. He has collected samples from small farms, up and coming labels and is on top of New York’s newest products–like the gin and whisky lines coming out of New York breweries like Adirondack and Southern Tier. The latest state liquor trend to catch his eye? Barrel-aged gins.

“It speaks to whiskey drinkers,” he says. “A lot of people aren’t diving into the gin world but these are aged in barrels so they have a lot of that oaky-ness along with the flavor of the gin. It’s an interesting thing that New York is doing that you don’t really see anywhere else.”

Savoy Taproom – 301 Lark Street, Albany

On a cozy weekday evening we spent a few hours with Chief Beverage Officer George Fiorini, who taught us the ins and outs of cocktail pairings and spoke to the bright future of mixologists in the Capital Region.


“This is everything I was looking for in a cocktail bar,” he said of the Savoy Taproom. As chief beverage officer of the place, he may be a bit biased but the drinks he has just mixed for us speak volumes. “We have punk shows here and a vaudeville show tonight, all the while hoping to make a good drink. It does not suck, I get to try all sorts of stuff from around the world all the time. Everything that’s behind the bar, I’ve chosen.”

Fiorini speaks highly of the cocktail bars from around the region as well. “Everyone that’s in the game right now, as far as cocktails go are really trying to bring more attention to this area. I think the biggest thing is trying to get it out to the public that cocktails aren’t pretentious–or don’t have to be pretentious. They can be a lot of fun and you shouldn’t feel like you have to pay a certain amount of money or dress a certain way to have a good drink or a good spirit.”

Tonight he has crafted a classic Collins and “Capital City Renewal” (below) off of the Taproom menu, using Albany Distilling Co. vodka.


Using ADCO’s Ironweed straight malt whiskey, he crafts a treat from the bar’s upcoming fall menu called “Little Drogon.” The Game of Thrones inspired treat is slightly smokey with a bit of a bite.


Switching to Ironweed rye, Fiorini creates the “Southside” a warming vermouth-based mix topped with a brandy cherry that is almost too good to be true.


Photos and video by Richard Lovrich


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