Gene Marra is the distiller, founder and self-proclaimed “chief bottle washer” of Cooperstown Distillery, which just opened up shop in October of this year. A seasoned wine maker and restauranteur, Marra decided to try his hand at distilling in the mid-2000s. After a few classes and lots of research, he felt he was ready to jump in full throttle in 2010. The result is a roundup of spirits that are not only unique in flavor but also in bottling.
Cooperstown, in central New York State, is “a magical spot,” according to Marra. Legend has it that baseball was invented in the place’s pastures by a man named Abner Doubleday. Today, it is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. “We’ve executed the brand and married alcohol and baseball,” Marra explains. “We’ve taken that synergy between baseball and what it means to America and the world and packaged it in a very unique and clever decanter bottle, which is shaped like a baseball. It’s also packaged in an old fashioned nostalgic box. It’s quite a special package.”
The Abner Doubleday’s Double Play Vodka is one of the distillery’s leading spirits, along with Beanball Bourbon, named after a baseball pitch, and the Fenimore Gin, named after James Fenimore Cooper, a famous Cooperstown author.
Marra is also bringing the Cooperstown pride all the way to a gift shop tasting room, where visitors will find a wide variety of Cooperstown Distillery paraphernalia as well as other small business’s products, such as Fee Brother’s Bitters. “We have one of the most ambitious tasting rooms in the country,” Marra says. “We have one of the largest lines of bottle ware and glassware in the tasting room. Nifty gadgets like decanters, shakers, mason shakers. We’re constantly improving and honing our retail space to be inviting for people who want to appreciate this new fad of spirits and mixology.”
While Marra does not define himself as a big baseball fan, he appreciates the importance of baseball in American culture and is certainly working to brand his spirits with America’s favorite pastime.
“It’s America’s game and America’s sport,” Marra says, and the Cooperstown Distillery hopes to tap into that love to create a distiller’s home run.