Q+A: Alexandra Farrington of Mouth Indie Spirits + Wine Gallery
If you're looking to sample tasty local treats from around the U.S., look no further than Mouth Indie Spirits + Wine Gallery, a wonderful shop tucked into 192 Water Street. Their brick & mortar location, along with their online retail shop, offers some of the best alcohol and small-batch treats available. But most importantly, Mouth prides itself on being a gallery and an indie food destination. We sat down with Alexandra Farrington, the Indie Spirits + Wine director, to learn more about how Mouth landed in DUMBO.
How did Mouth get started?
Our three founders, CEO Craig Kanarick, COO Sam Murray, and CMO Nancy Cohen have been friends since elementary school. They are all from New York and they all have very different backgrounds. About 5 or 6 years ago, they were all in transition and knew they wanted a new challenge. To varying degrees, they were all interested in the craft food movement. They saw their friends who had moved away from Manhattan start raving about local foods in other boroughs like pickles in Brooklyn or a little jam place that was hard to get to. So Mouth started off as
New York Mouth, which meant they were only focusing on products made in New York. After a few months, they realized that every place in America has their own local and/or hidden food specialities that people would really want to experience because they either moved away from one of those places, vacationed there or would just like to try something new. So, New York Mouth expanded into Mouth. Fast forward three years, we started Wine + Spirits and opened our shop here at 192 Water Street. It's great because we have the same ethos for Spirits + Wine that we have for food. I know all the producers. We constantly communicate to support their business and promote them as much as we can. We try to find places that are local to New York but also local to Oregon, California, Texas, etc. There are so many places to explore and find new foods and wine to try. This space has been really great for us and the DUMBO community is so receptive to hearing the stories of these great makers. So that's really what Mouth is, it's telling the stories of the makers.
Indie food is mentioned multiple times on your site. Can you tell me what indie food is?
It means being independent. Similar to the indie music movement which was made to create music without a label like the grassroots music genre. Indie food is basically the same thing in the sense that we carry products that are owned by the people that make it, such as family-owned businesses or people who make small-batch foods. There are a lot of ways to label indie foods–like artisanal, craft, small-batch–but those are all marketing terms. You could say small-batch pickles but that can also mean different things to different people, so indie food for us means that the owners have a hand in what is being made. A lot of our wines are from estate grown grapes or the winemaker owns the winery with their name on the bottle. Indie food is food that you can really relate to that isn't made by big companies in facilities based in the middle of nowhere but by real people.
How did the Wine Gallery become a part to Mouth?
With the craft cocktail movement, the founders, Sam, Craig and Nancy, saw an opportunity to grow the business in a really interesting way. Alcohol management is different in every state but the way it works in New York State is that to sell anything with alcohol online requires you to have a physical location. That is just for legal purposes to tie who you are to what you are are selling online. It is a very legitimate process. So this location came about as a natural progression of Mouth and what it stands for.
How do you choose your products?
I choose what I like to drink. I get samples sent to me from all over the country all the time. The samples come from varying degree of big distillery products to small-batch products made on farms. I have a lot of bartender friends that I love to talk to and pick their brains about what they love to drink. Also, bourbon and whiskey are our biggest categories because that's what America is really obsessed with right now. We like to look for things that are a little bit original and weird like maybe it's naturally made organic wine. I like to support female makers as much as possible as well. We've got a bunch of different gins made with interesting products and rums that are made with weird and cool things. I try to pick items that that are really interesting and are going to pique someone's interests.
Name two of your most memorable products.
The Hillrock, the single malt whiskey is amazing. It's made upstate in Ancram, New York. The whole facility is great because the whiskey is estate grown. Their distillery is gorgeous, the distillers there are fantastic. Everything they make is so thoughtfully done. They do a ton of testing and they waited a long time to make the best product that they can. They do different variations of peating. For example, the first batch was peated for a couple hours and the second batch was peated for a couple more hours. It is very reminiscent of a great scotch from Scotland. For me, that's important because by grandpa is a great scotch guy so whenever I have something with peatiness, I think of my grandpa.
The second product that I'm thinking of is the Solveig Gin. They do everything precisely by distilling everything separately. Whereas, a lot of gins put all the botanicals in and distill it. They are the most Northern distillery in America except for Alaska but it's difficult to get anything from them. It's a very unique and original product that is made in America but the taste really takes you to Scandinavia. It's got a lot of really cool warm gin notes. It kind of makes you think of salmon. It's a really nice upper beat gin.
The packaging of the products and the setup of the store is very pleasing to look at. How did you decide on the store layout?
Thanks to Nancy Cohen, our wonderful chief marketing officer, this store is the way it is. She had the wonderful direction for this store. We call it a Spirits + Wine Gallery to harken back to DUMBO being a big art center. In general, most liquor stores put as much product on the shelves as they can because space is money. But, these companies and people spend so much time choosing a bottle, finding a glass maker, finding someone to do the design and they spend so much time on what's inside and what's outside of the bottle. We really want to showcase their hard work so it's a gallery in all sense of the word. Also, this is so great because we have local DUMBO art this year from Sarah Bird. Her studio is in 68 Jay Street and we were lucky enough to showcase some of her work.
Let's talk a little bit about how you made it to the Brooklyn waterfront. Why DUMBO?
Sam was looking for a place where we could get enough warehouse space but at the same time, Craig also has a tech background. When they found out DUMBO was a tech hub and had enough warehouse space, they were on board with being in the epicenter of tech in New York. It was definitely the tech and e-commerce core that drew Sam and Craig here for sure.
What are some of your favorite spots in DUMBO?
I love Modern Anthology. It's a menswear store but their candles are amazing! They curate what they carry really well. It feels like a cool apartment inside and very cozy. Atrium is amazing because I love oyster happy hour. Also, the Brooklyn Bridge Park John Street walkway is amazing. I am always taking phone calls and walking all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge. It's great to be right on the water. I'm also really excited about the climbing wall that's going to open up. We are going to have a big office group outing and learn how to climb it soon. I'm really looking forward to it!