Restaurants aren’t the only ones doing field-to-fork; at this urban farm distillery, patrons sip grain-to-glass.
The roots of Black Button Distilling run deep. Not only does this small batch distillery source 95 per cent of the ingredients for its spirits from New York farms, but Jason Barrett, president and owner, is a fourth-generation Rochesterian.
“I grew up sorting buttons in my family’s factory in nearby Victor, New York, but realized early on that I wasn’t very good at it,” Barrett explains. Being colourblind meant he could only see the black buttons. “Nevertheless I wanted to honour their entrepreneurial spirit when I started my own business in 2014 – hence the name Black Button.”
Black Button is the first distillery to open in Rochester since Prohibition. Among its offerings are an award-winning bourbon cream, four-grain bourbon, corn vodka, citrusy gin and apple pie moonshine, created with apple cider from a neighbouring farm. The sustainably sourced, grain-to-glass ethos is so strong that the distillery even makes a special lilac gin that’s only available in the spring, to coincide with the area’s annual bloom of flowers.
The distillery holds another first as well: it’s the first to be accepted into the New York Grown and Certified Program, a designation that recognizes Black Button’s commitment to supporting area farmers and growers, to being a good environmental steward, and to developing its own spirits and craft beverages in a responsible manner.
“Our main goal is to produce great spirits, of course. But we also care about this community and this city. Western New York has a proud farming history, and we want to applaud that and be a part of it,” notes Barrett.
So, in 2018 the distillery opened its very own farm: Black Button Farm & Forestry. In time, the farm will provide white oak, which will be used to build the barrels needed to properly age whiskey; juniper for gin; and other ingredients for spirits and cocktails. Barrett’s sister, currently finishing a PhD in the study of insects, will oversee the farm’s beehives, including honey production. Expanding into farming was a natural extension of the distillery’s mission to buy, make and stay local.
You can taste the terroir at the distillery’s tasting rooms in Rochester and Buffalo. Both locations offer classes in cocktail making; in addition, the Rochester location runs regular tours of its operations, giving you an up-close glimpse into how your whiskey or your vodka went from seed to plant to sip.
For a truly special treat, try a cocktail or coffee made with Black Button’s Bourbon Cream – whiskey infused with luscious cream from an area dairy. Much like Black Button Distillery itself, this liqueur nods to the state’s farming past while ensuring its future.
ROCHESTER TASTING ROOM
85 Railroad Street
Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
BUFFALO TASTING ROOM
149 Swan Street
Closed Monday - Wednesday