I’ve tried to expand by providing some public events and being a space for private events. We’ve worked with Rocky Neck Oyster Company and did some oyster shucking, on the patio. I even assisted in shucking oysters, because I have some fishmonger history.
During the summer, we did a Friday the 13th Halloween party, where we had Thiccy’s come in, and they were on the patio serving up tacos. We had a costume contest and made a lot of Halloween special cocktails. We’re inviting people in to enjoy the space in different ways, while being educators in the field and expanding people’s knowledge of craft spirits.
Why did you get into this business? Was there a spark in early childhood? (Maybe not when it comes to whiskey.)
It might go all the way back to growing up in the Fitchburg area. I grew up working in a Market Basket. I was in the courtesy booths for eight years of my life, from 15-and-a-half and on. The work ethic; being on your feet: I learned a lot about hospitality from a young age.
I’m also Greek. Food has always been a very important part of my culture and my upbringing. Later on, I was in grad school in Boston, and I was working in different jobs. I had just finished a job on the fish pier, where I was working for Red’s Best. They’re really great. I worked myself up from invoicing, being able to handle the restaurant accounts, to pretty much being a fishmonger for Row 34 and Eastern Standard, working with those accounts. I got to work with chefs. So I really got an insider look at the restaurant scene before I jumped into it.
I was maybe one of three women on the pier. At that time, I was 22 or 23. Really young. And it was very difficult. It’s a tough industry. You have people who are out there at five in the morning on the phones, talking to wholesalers, selling fish that hasn’t even reached the pier yet, because the boats are still bringing it in from Duxbury or the Cape. It’s gritty, a lot of a lot of swearing on phones … It’s a very male-dominated industry. Luckily, I had a good team that really taught me a lot of life lessons. . . . But I didn’t smell great. And it was really hard to stay warm. So I was looking for something maybe a little bit more social later on.
What did you do next?
I went to grad school to be a teacher. I had a history degree. My fallback had always been to be an educator. And while in grad school, I started working at Night Shift Brewing part-time in Everett. The brewing community was really, really awesome. I made a lot of good friends. I decided to go full-time at Night Shift. Being a history major, I found a deep passion for the brewing industry, which is, you know, thousands of years old. I started learning about German beers and Belgian beers and diving into the history of the beers and connecting them to today. I started to provide tours. Before I knew it, I was doing education classes for people as well.
It blossomed. I went over to their [location at Lovejoy Wharf] to help be a part of that opening team and worked my way up from beer educator to assistant general manager of the space up until last year. There, I got to dive more into the restaurant scene, really learning the back of house, the front of house, how to manage a space that fits 300 people with guests coming from Celtics games and Bruins games.
I learned about Countermark Distillers through a friend. It felt like a new challenge. Distilling is a totally different beast. It’s been so fun to learn about whiskey.
What do you want people to know about whiskey — people like me, who are scared of a strong brown alcohol?
I get that a lot. The big thing that we want people to take away is that whiskey is an extremely approachable spirit. We make bourbon, rye whiskey, and what’s called a white rye, which is super unique, because it never touches a barrel. So it holds onto these stone fruit, peachy flavors while having this rising dough sensation as well.
There are a robust amount of cocktails and ways to drink whiskey. You don’t have to drink it just straight or on the rocks. We want to break the barrier of that scary brown liquid. There’s much more that can come from whiskey: honey notes, caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, sweet corn. We want to show that it can be a smooth, really enjoyable spirit that you can try in many different ways.
Where do you love to eat and drink?
I spend a lot of time at Highland Kitchen. They’re fantastic. I’m probably there once a week. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. Personally, their Bolognese is my favorite dish. And they always have a great cocktail bar and beers. Trina’s Starlite is another one. It’s a fantastic industry spot. Monday brunch there is fantastic. What’s great about the hospitality scene in Boston is that there are some of the kindest people running restaurants, which is why I’m extremely passionate about being in a tasting room and about being in a restaurant. You want to share wonderful experiences with your guests.
And to celebrate any accomplishment or any birthday, I’d go to Spoke Wine Bar. They have such a talented bartending corps that makes unbelievable cocktails. I’m always being introduced to a new spirit. The wine list is fantastic. And their dishes are so creative. They’re able to bring in different French styles, Italian styles, but also bring everything back to New England.
What could be improved about the Boston food and drink scene? If you could change one thing, what would it be?
I think there are only so many places that are open late for the industry.
I applaud anybody in the hospitality scene. It’s generally long hours no matter what. But I think as long as guests keep appreciating what kitchens are able to provide and what bartenders are able to provide, giving back to the front of house and back of house teams, maybe we’ll see more restaurants open that can support a kitchen being open later for people like me who maybe get off a little late.
How would you describe the vibe at your distillery? What’s a typical night? What are your customers like?
I would say they’re dedicated to their neighborhood, they love their neighborhood, they’re so excited to explore something new in their neighborhood. They’re extremely supportive. Our clientele is interested in something unique and new. And they care about craft; they want to be a part of a distillery that’s doing something made from scratch. We don’t source any of our spirits. We get all our grain from Maine. We do our mashing, fermenting, distilling, and barreling on site. So we’re making a true New England spirit. We’re controlling every step of the process. And a lot of guests come in, they want tours, and I’m always there to provide them. That’s where I get to shine and showcase what we’re able to do. Luckily, we have guests who are truly interested in everything that’s going into our cocktails.
Think you’ll ever go back to teaching?
I can definitely see myself supporting a school system in the future. I would love to support teachers and be a part of the school system. I think I fell in love with the operation side a little bit more than the teaching side, which is why now I’m in an operations role, where I’m able to support my team and make sure to set them up for success, creating really fun cocktails and providing a space to entertain our guests. I definitely think school systems deserve more support. So I would love to be a part of it in the future — but maybe not in a fully teaching capacity. Now I teach about spirits and alcohol. It’s a little less intense.
Quick question before I let you go: What was the best part of working at Market Basket?
I was in the courtesy booth. It was quite unique. I made some of the best friends I had there. I grew up with people there. I learned a lot about different food and cultures, just because it was such a vibrant place for people to shop. It was quite incredible.
Last but not least: favorite snack?
Maybe it’s my years of playing sports: Saltine crackers with peanut butter, maybe a little honey. It never fails.