Jersey City, that place you drive through to get from Newark to Manhattan, isn't the first place you think to dine during a trip to New York. The city didn't even boast its own distillery until 2017.
Bob Hagemann wanted to change that. So the former marketer-turned-spirits entrepreneur started Corgi Spirits, a gin distillery on a mission to make you think of gin as more than just a mixer. When Corgi Spirits opened in November, it was the first distillery ever to open in Jersey City.
But don't worry, there's no 'Jersey-infused gin' on the shelves. Corgi Spirits makes craft gin that combines juniper with a wide range of flavors. Their signature spirit is an earl grey spiced gin.
Although Earl Grey-spiced cocktails are no stranger to bar menus, Hagemann is quick to point out that this is the first commercial product of its kind on the market.
Not only does Earl Grey-infused gin allow amateur mixologists to shake up intriguing drinks worthy of their favorite bars, it's also flavored purely through the distilling process with no unnatural flavors of any kind added.
"Most people, if they have a bad idea of gin, it comes from London dry gin," Hagemann says. Unlike the rough spirit that tastes best hidden under layers of tonic, ice and lime, the unique blends at Corgi Spirits were designed to be drunk straight.
"My favorite way to enjoy it is neat or on the rocks. Most people would be surprised, but I wanted our gin to be a replacement for brown spirits."
Corgi Spirits has yet to land on liquor store shelves; you'll need a trip to Jersey City to sample it. It's currently available in area bars, as well as mixed up in the distilleries very own tasting room.
The distillery itself is also open for tours, the perfect weekend activity.
"It was Jersey City or bust for me," says Hagemann, "I grew up in New Jersey, I live in Jersey City—I want to change perceptions of New Jersey and make people realize that there are amazing things coming out of the state."
Corgi Spirits isn't alone in changing the face of New Jersey dining. Jersey City has seen a spate of new restaurant openings—Pete Wells even named Razza in Jersey City New York's best pizza.
But one quick question, what's the deal behind the name?! "I've always been an anglophile: I love Britain, I love gin and I wanted to showcase both."