Time for a drink, Hudson Valley?
There’s one waiting for you at Newburgh’s sleek new distillery.
If you haven’t heard about Spirits Lab yet, you will soon. With a prime location inside ADS Warehouse on Ann Street, the distillery rests at the crux of the city’s dining scene. Prior to its arrival earlier this year, the Orange County area’s craft alcohol scene was thriving, thanks to Newburgh Brewing Company by the waterfront, Graft Cider on its way to the East End, and watering holes like Barking Goose Bookstore Bar & Café and Craft Draft to support them.
But there was no distillery. Not until March, at least.
Right around the start of NYS on Pause in the Hudson Valley, Spirits Lab opened its doors – and then promptly closed them. In fact, the distillery’s grand debut was largely as a curbside-only operation, since it coincided with the state-mandated closure of restaurants and the like. Yet for the team behind the brand, even an unusual grand opening couldn’t stop them from sharing the passion project on which they’d been working since 2018.
Led by Lab Media Group Principal Lynn Hason and partners, Spirits Lab is the result of 40-plus years of experience in distilled spirits production, development, distribution, marketing, and retail. A collaborative endeavor, it found a home in Newburgh only after an extensive search in the lower Hudson Valley came up blank.
“We wanted to find a spot that really spoke to us and would have both a cool vibe and would be functional,” Hason explains. Yet after scanning locations throughout Westchester County – they even looked at a spot on a horse farm at one point – and returning empty-handed, they decided it was time to venture northward. One of the founders has family in Newburgh, so the group decided to browse the city’s historic, industrial buildings. As they began to peruse the eye-catching spaces that define the Orange County area, they quickly realized they found the perfect home for Spirits Lab.
Their official “home sweet home” moment came when they met Jens Veneman and Gita Nandan, the owners of ADS Warehouse on Ann Street. The duo was in the process of gutting the old storage building and transforming it into a studio and creative center, with the potential for a retail component as well. In no time at all, Spirits Lab was a confirmed vendor in one of the warehouse’s two commercial units.
“In addition to being a great building that Between Spaces, LLC (Nandan’s design firm) is setting up as a hub of creativity with an art studio, event space, etc., it is in the heart of Newburgh’s beautiful historic district and only a couple of blocks from the waterfront, which has become a major destination in the city,” Hason enthuses.
With a dream space in hand, Spirits Lab began setting up shop in fall 2019, with a plan to debut a tasting room and retail space with room for private events in the future. It also commenced work on its portfolio of small-batch signature spirits, which include bourbon, gin, rye, and vodka. More recently, the brand debuted craft cocktails featuring its spirits available for purchase by the bottle. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it now produces hand sanitizer as well.
“This was not something we had ever considered before, but it felt like the right thing to do,” Hason recalls of the decision to make hand sanitizer. “We jumped into production mode for that in March and plan on continuing this well into the future.”
As far as ingredients for the drinks go, Spirits Lab sources them directly from the Hudson Valley as often as is possible.
“Luckily, we can get almost everything we need right here,” Hason says. “When there are ingredients that are not available here, we source them from the best purveyors around the world, including the juniper at the heart of our East End Gin, which comes from Italy.”
So what’s on the menu at Spirits Lab? First up would be the Bull’s Head Bourbon, a small-batch spirit crafted from corn, wheat, and malted barley and aged four years. For gin fizz fans, the East End Gin is a London dry-style gin that draws its signature flavor from a blend of 17 botanicals, many of which originate in the Hudson Valley. Then there’s the Five Points Rye, a go-to for Manhattans, which is made from local rye and malted barley and aged four years. Last but not least, the Spirits Lab Vodka is the brand’s staple, gluten-free drink that’s distilled seven times and triple filtered with local Herkimer diamonds.
For now, the bottles are available for to-go sales at the Ann Street tasting room. In addition to the core lineup, Spirits Lab offers bottled cocktails are elegant twists on classic drinks. Take the Blood Orange Old Fashioned, which mixes Bull’s Head Bourbon with blood orange amaro and bitters. Another standout is the Hibiscus Cosmopolitan, which pairs the brand’s vodka with orange and hibiscus liqueurs, cranberry, and fresh lime for a delightfully summery drink.
Yet perhaps the most noteworthy of all are the drinks featured as part of the collaborative menu between Spirits Lab and Mama Roux, a Cajun-Creole restaurant located nearby on Broadway. The C’est Bon cocktail with East End Gin, Suze liqueur, Giffard pineapple, and roasted pineapple sounds like exactly the sort of drink made for lounging poolside or watching summer sunsets.
With reopening on the way, Spirits Lab looks forward to the day it can unveil its 800-square-foot tasting room and cocktail bar for real. Once open, it will be a welcoming venue for tastings and shopping, with special events down the road.
“Our cocktail bar is located at the heart of our tasting room and meant to elevate the whole experience as well as give visitors the opportunity to see what we are all about,” Hason notes. In the months to come, she reveals that Spirits Lab will drop limited release items and single barrel whiskies that will be available only at the tasting room, with new cocktails on the way as well. Eventually, it will all be available for sipping al fresco at the venue’s outdoor courtyard, which is currently under renovation.
Until then, Spirits Lab will continue to spread the word via curbside pickup and local interaction. Although a relatively new brand in the Hudson Valley, it has found a home base in Newburgh and a strong community within the Hudson Valley.
“We already had a lot of support in the community and people knew about us and the quality of the products we are making,” Hason explains of the challenge of transitioning to curbside pickup as a new business. “We felt that, working together, we could bring our love of the traditional methods of high-quality, small-batch distilling, design, and craft cocktails together to create really high-quality products that were a little bit new and unique.”
Ready for a taste test?
105 Ann St, Newburgh