Rain cascades down windows facing a still-developing city block. A Seattle-based musician performs in a wood-hewn corner conducive to introspective songs about longing. Patrons huddle at attention, soaking in the lyrics while cradling a locally distilled spirit.
This is the romantic scene on a recent evening inside Black Button Distilling, Rochester-based booze purveyor that has set up a satellite operation inside the former Handlebar space on Swan Street. And whether assembled with tattooed bartenders, blacksmith-inspired furniture or bearded patrons, its vibe is now commonly modeled within the modern barroom.
So what’s different about the arrival of Black Button? The distiller’s delectable product, which joins the locale's recognizable ambiance to provide the latest intriguing pushpin on lower downtown’s barroom map.
“I think Black Button is different in that we are a tasting room, bottle shop and full bar all in one,” said Laura Sylyea Evans, Buffalo-area manager for Black Button. “We offer craft beers from all over New York State, have Finger Lakes wine on tap, and craft cocktails made with our spirits. The idea’s to make it so that anyone can come in and find something they will enjoy.”
This falls in line with the mission of a present bar landscape expected to accommodate all types of patrons. To this end, Black Button obliges, and it's appreciated.
But for patrons interested in sipping local spirits as the leaves fall, the locale’s availability of its intricately prepared Four Grain Bourbon is the real accommodation. Made from grain to glass with Western New York-grown corn, wheat, rye and malted barley—along with freshwater from Livingston County’s Hemlock Lake—Black Button’s 84-proof bourbon is delightfully rich, with a rye spice running through for a warm, smooth finish.
Tasting novice or Matthew McConaughey-level enthusiast, this makes for an easy drinking offering, crafted with care.
However, this experience isn’t limited to sipping bourbon. It can include any one of Black Button’s 14 craft cocktails, concocted with its popular vodkas, gins, bourbon crème or apple pie moonshine ($9 each).
Curious tasters also can find a place inside Black Button’s cozy confines with a flight of four bourbons ($14) or a Trifecta Tasting Flight ($7), with mix-and-match choices of gins, vodkas and moonshines that can be purchased in bottles on site.
Or, if you want to huddle into your comfort zone, Black Button offers a rotating list of six craft drafts, as well as ready-made gin and tonic—on tap.
Just picture it all now. Delicious spirits distilled by our state neighbors, shared in our downtown. Friends and strangers perched in a delightfully clandestine location, free to share inventive cocktails. And whether brightened by sunlight or relaxed by rain clouds, it's an intriguing scene, brought to town by Buffalo’s newest downstate transplants.
149 Swan St. (507-4590)
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday to Wednesday.
Scene: Comfortable bar, bottle shop and tasting spot for those eager for a taste of Rochester-reared spirits.
Craft cocktails: 14
No food, but: You can order takeout from Skip the Dishes to your table or barstool.
Parking: Street spots on Swan; surrounded by $3 lots.
Don’t forget to: Look at the bottom of your tasting glass, embossed with the locale’s logo.