Here’s the Latest in Booze News | Bites

Jene J. Long

FDC Awards

The news is all good when it comes to beer and spirits in Nashville lately. Here’s the latest.


First up is the word that Franklin Distillery Co. has won another award, this time from the Spirits Business Gin Masters Awards, taking a silver for their Southern Gin. I had the opportunity to sit down with FDC founders Michael Stainbrook and Michael Ward recently and came away really impressed with their vision and their spirits.

They met through their wives, who were neighborhood friends. Both Michaels shared an interest in home brewing but really wanted to get into distilling. The problem was, you can’t legally just set up a still in your garage and start making hooch. After experimenting with various botanical additions to vodka in an attempt to craft something akin to gin, they hit on a recipe they loved that featured ingredients mainly sourced from the South.

Of course, by law, juniper has to be the primary flavorant of gin, and you don’t see many junipers around these parts. So they import that along with some black tea. The rest of their 15 botanicals come from the South, including orange blossom and lime from Florida, along with other roots, woods and floral elements from even closer to home.

Their experiments with botanicals macerated in vodka have now been scaled up from science-lab droppers to 500 bottles at a time produced in partnership with Pennington Distilling Co. Because PDC has the still and the distilling license, they are the distillers of record, using Franklin’s recipe for their Southern Gin. Then the Michaels take over at the point of distribution as the wholesaler.

The result is a really lovely gin that changes from beginning to end of each sip, nicely balanced without any particular botanical taking over the flavors. Their other main product is (I can’t believe I’m typing this) a pretty unique vodka. I’m from the seen-one, seen-them-all school when it comes to most vodkas, a spirits category that by government edict is supposed to be “a type of neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.” Under that definition, how can a vodka truly stand out?

Franklin Distillery Co. has found a way to accomplish just that by again concentrating on Southern ingredients. They sought out a company that collects “ugly” fruits from large farming operations — the ones you probably would never pick up in the produce section of your local grocery. This company aggregates these lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges, etc., and processes them into the essence of their aromas that they sell to perfume and candle makers. Franklin Distillery Co. buys mixed citrus syrup as a byproduct of that process and distills the fructose into a neutral spirit. Although the color and the vast majority of the aromas and flavors are stripped in the vodka-making process, the oils from the peel manage to hang in there to offer a hint of citrus and a really nice mouthfeel.

Liquor stores and local bars are reacting well to Southern gin and Southern vodka and the story of FDC. Madeline Smith of Gray & Dudley at the 21c Museum Hotel downtown is a particularly ardent evangelist for the brand, and she was kind enough to share a recipe for one of the bar’s most popular cocktails, the Iris. You can make it with gin or vodka (I think gin is a little more interesting), and the floater of Creme de Violette is a great complement to the botanicals of the gin. Make one at home or let Madeline do the work for you at her bar! Here’s the recipe:

FD Iris.jpeg

The Iris

Courtesy of Gray & Dudley, created by Madeline Smith

2.75 ounces Franklin Distillery Southern Vodka or Gin

.25 ounces Lofi Sweet Vermouth

.25 ounces Creme de Violette (Float)

Served in a coupe with a borage garnish

If you’d like to sample the gin and vodka from Franklin Distilling Co. and meet the team behind the brand, they’ve set up a pretty aggressive schedule of tasting events over the next few weeks, including the first one, which is dangerously close to the Scene‘s office:

  • July 21, 5-7 p.m. at 12th and Pine – 315 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203
  • July 22, noon-3 p.m. at Cool Springs Wine & Spirits – 1935 Mallory Ln, Franklin, TN 37067
  • July 23, 4-7 p.m. at Priest Wine + Spirits. 3688 Bell Rd, Nashville, TN 37214
  • July 23, 3-6 p.m. at Bluegrass Beverages – 553 E Main St, Hendersonville TN 37075
  • July 29, 3-6 p.m. at Westside Wine & Spirits -188 Front St, Franklin, TN  37064
  • July 30, 3-6 p.m. at Green Hills Corkdorks – 4009 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215
  • Aug. 5, 3-6 p.m. at Iroquois Wine and Spirits. 7063 US-70S, Nashville, TN 37221
  • Aug. 5, 4-7 p.m. at Madison Beverage Warehouse – 131 Gallatin Pike S, Nashville, TN 37115
  • Aug. 6, 3-6 p.m. at Last Chance Liquors. 837 Dickerson Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 
  • Aug. 12, 4-7 p.m. at Pour Vous – 263 Indian Lake Blvd, Hendersonville, TN  37075
  • Aug. 13, 2-5 p.m. at Radnor Wine and Spirits. 2635 8th Ave S, Berry Hill, TN 37204


I discovered a spirit brand new to Tennessee recently, this time a unique product line from a Seattle-based woman-owned distillery. Fast Penny Spirits is the maker of Amaricano and Amaricano Bianco, award-winning amari distilled from West Coast grapes.

The name is a portmanteau of “amaro” and “American,” reflecting that it is a domestic example of the traditionally European botanical spirits. Founder Jamie Hunt infuses the distilled grape juice with 45 organic botanicals to create rich, herbaceous amari. Delightful to drink straight up, both products are also interesting substitutes for traditional amari and vermouths in many cocktail recipes.

Mix, stir over ice and strain 2 ounces of Amaricano Bianco with one ounce of gin and a few dashes of lavender to make a Moonstruck, a floral take on a wet martini. Or sub a double portion of Amaricano Bianco for the Campari in a traditional Negroni recipe to turn the traditionally bitter drink on its head as a more herbaceous version. The darker Amaricano is a delicious addition to a couple of shots of espresso with some orange bitters to take the edge off a morning or kick off an evening meal.

In addition to seeking to revolutionize the domestic amari industry, Fast Penny is also dedicated to stirring up positive change. Their Pretty Penny give-back program was ingrained in their business model from the start and contributes 3 percent of bottle revenue to elevate women in business, local communities and the industry. Look for Amaricano in local spirits stores and bars and give it a try.


Creature Comforts.png

Finally, there’s a new line of beers in town — possibly the best thing to come from Athens, Ga., to Nashville since R.E.M. appeared at Sarratt in 1982. Creature Comforts Brewing Co. has been a popular Georgia beer for almost a decade, known for its wide range of stylistic offerings, both as seasonal specials and year-round beers. 

Now they’re bringing the fun to Nashville, courtesy of their distributor Lippman Brothers. Initially, they’ll be offering six of Creature Comforts’ year-round core beers that run a gamut of styles. Four of them are included in a variety 12-pack if you’d like to sample them like I did. I started with their Bibo Pilsner, a crisp peppery lager with a hint of lemon that I really enjoyed. Second up was their Athena Berliner Weiss. (It’s almost like they came up with the name to bring it to the home of the Parthenon.) Athena has a sturdy, foamy head (the beer, not the goddess or the statue), and I felt like the tart, food-friendly German-style wheat beer was true to style, although not exactly my favorite.

Next up was a pint of Creature Confort’s Automatic Pale Ale, a pleasantly hoppy and aggressively bitter example of the style with really nice floral and piney elements. At 5.5 percent ABV, it’s also not too crazy to think you could drink more than one or two of them at a sitting. I found it really refreshing. The final offering in the variety pack was Tropicalia IPA, a fruity, juicy beer that was bitter, but not biting. Peppery and citrusy, it hits squarely where a lot of beer-drinkers’ tastes are currently.

The other two beers that are coming to town that I didn’t get to sample yet are Cosmik Debris, described as an intensely hopped double IPA that should be impressive for local hop-heads, and Tritonia, their gently tart fruited wheat beer brewed with cucumber, coriander, salt and lime. That one sounds like it will be delightful on days like we’ve had lately. Y’know, like drinking on the surface of the sun.

Keep an eye out for these and some of Creature Comforts’ seasonal offerings as they begin to populate beer shelves at stores and coolers at bars. Now if we could only get R.E.M. back together!

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