By Joseph Mintz, Co-Founder, Siponey
Growing up in Greenwich Village, I remember the independent stores of Bleecker Street, the 24-hour bodegas, the numerous Chinese restaurants, and the seemingly endless variety of people and high level of energy on the streets.Today, after COVID-19 has sickened, killed, and economically ruined many people of our community and our city, Greenwich Village is a distorted version of what it was like growing up here in the 80’s and 90’s. The sidewalks are empty of tourists and out-of-towners. It’s eerie—but also somehow strangely invigorating—to know that virtually everybody that you walk past is your neighbor. It’s nice that the traffic easily flows north and south and the air is cleaner than it used to be because of the pandemic, but our local businesses have suffered. We are starting to finally find ourselves in the bars, restaurants, and stores again that have thankfully been allowed to safely reopen. Sadly, not all of our local businesses will survive.When I was growing up, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would have a business that I could be proud of as a New Yorker. But what a time I chose to finally embark on that endeavor.
It started more than a year before COVID-19 made its first appearance. Someone brought a canned cocktail to a small party that I was attending with Amanda Victoria, my partner in both life and business. Amanda is a professional in the wine and spirits industry who is highly respected for, among other things, the cocktails she has created for restaurants and bars. After one sip of that canned cocktail, I immediately saw an opportunity. We could do this. We could do better than this. Amanda could create a high-quality, delicious, locally-produced cocktail. With only moderate pressure from me, Amanda soon started “cooking” up cocktails. While she was producing numerous recipes, we decided that the finished product needed to be made from local suppliers. We would also support environmental sustainability by giving back a portion of our profits to honeybee organizations assisting apiaries across the country—what we identified, as a company, to be the first step in recovering the environment. This is especially important to me after my horticultural studies at the New York Botanical Garden.
We worked for over a year to create our product, Siponey, that is made in NY from NY local ingredients: a four-year-old rye whiskey, wildflower honey local to Saratoga Springs, and real lemon juice from a local supplier upstate. Our entire team has New York City roots: I went to PS 41 and Lab School, our graphic designer went to PS 3 and Hunter High School, and our canner went to Stuyvesant High School. The three of us met at Camp Kinderland as kids, and serendipitously came together again for this project after many years of being out of touch. Amanda is from the Bronx originally and likes to boast about having lived in four out of five boroughs.
We wanted to see Siponey on the shelves of our local liquor stores. We wanted to see it available at White Horse Tavern, WXOU, and Katana Kitten, along with other local bars and restaurants. We want it to be known as NYC’s cocktail.
Siponey was ready for full production at the beginning of 2020. Then the pandemic descended upon us.
Despite the full lockdown in New York City, our canner in Saratoga Springs went into production, deemed as essential workers. Today we have thousands of cans ready to go! We have our accounting and distribution teams in place, no easy feat, distributing alcohol in America. Our initial marketing and sales plan, however, relied on restaurants and other outlets that knew Amanda and were well aware of the quality of her work. Unfortunately, those establishments were no longer open for business. We pivoted to primarily online marketing and sales. No longer is it possible to have tastings, events or any traditional means of promoting a new beverage. It’s been difficult, if not impossible, to sample Siponey to our customers.
Launching a new product in the epicenter of a global pandemic while, incidentally, raising a newborn when childcare is virtually nonexistent and while nationwide protests rightfully take center stage—all of that is truly a much larger challenge then this local boy ever expected to face.
I know we will bounce back both as a community and a city. I hope that our wonderful way of life comes roaring back and that our local businesses can adapt and thrive in this new world. As for Siponey, both myself and Amanda hope that you’ll give us a try.
I look forward to seeing you on a stoop sipping on a Siponey soon!
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