When Easter arrives, a Buffalonian's mind turns to thoughts of Krupnik.
The honeyed liqueur, beloved in Poland, has conquered Buffalo thanks largely to Dyngus Day, the big Polish festival Easter Monday that celebrates the end of Lent. So big is Krupnik around here that a few years ago, in a calamity that still makes people shudder, we ran out.
That shouldn't happen again. As of this spring, Buffalo has its own Krupnik.
The maker is Buffalo Distilling Co., located on Seneca Street. Its Krupnik is made with local honey and Buffalo Distilling's own vodka. It is the first commercial Krupnik produced in Buffalo, and it is sanctioned by the Krupnik makers in Poland.
"We consulted with Krupnik," explained Andy Wegrzyn, one of Buffalo Distilling's three owners.
Bottled under the name One Foot Cock — the logo is a one-legged rooster — the Krupnik rolled out only a scant few weeks ago. You can find it around town, but there's nothing like visiting the distillery itself.
"Finding out how something is made is fascinating," said Frank Weber, one of Wegrzyn's two business partners. "Whether it's food, bread, or if you're visiting a tire plant."
Formed in 2012, Buffalo Distilling Company moved in 2017 to a historic building at 860 Seneca St. that used to house a carriage manufacturer. There is a lovely cocktail bar in the front, and when it is open, the public is free to observe the operations in the adjoining back room. Parking is free and easy.
When you walk in, the first thing you do is inhale. Deeply.
The aroma was intoxicating the evening two of us from The News stopped by. It was like rich baking bread.
You won't find this aroma at every distillery, because not every distillery distills -- that is, makes its spirits from scratch. Many begin with commercially made spirits, adding their own flavorings. It's all good, you could argue, but here, the booze is made from the ground up. The alchemy happens right out in the open. Wegrzyn is proud of that.
"You get to see things," he said. "We're not letting people jump into the mixing tank," he laughed. "But whatever people are doing, we let visitors see."
At that moment, Weber was up on a ladder, stirring various gigantic vats. One held vodka. Clear as glass, it was 100 proof, but would be 80 proof by the time it went into the bottle.
There was also corn mash for bourbon. That was what was producing the beautiful aroma. Weber was adding grain that came from wheat and malted barley from Sheldon Grain Co. in Wyoming County.
Apples and corn from Western New York also find their way into the various elixirs. So do other regional products. Charred white American oak from the Adirondacks age the bourbon. New York State maple syrup goes into the bar's signature Manhattan.
And yes, local honey goes into the Krupnik. It was waiting, in huge containers.
What a paradise we live in. Everything we need is right here. It's time we started using what we've got.
Eons ago, Buffalo Distilling folks will tell you, there was a company called Buffalo Distilling. Founded in 1893, it made quality products like Golden Grain Whiskey and Old Tom Gin before it folded in 1918, because of impending Prohibition.
Its founders must be looking down proudly from that great still in the sky, seeing the name resurrected. That thought can make you glow even if you never take a sip of that Krupnik.
But if you do, you'll enjoy the play of sweetness and spice. Sniff it first. Admire its golden tone. Savor the happy suspense.
"We're proud first-generation distillers," Wegrzyn said.
"Opening up a barrel is like Christmas to me. You get to see how it all turned out."
Buffalo Distilling Company
Where: 860 Seneca St.
When: 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Cost: Around $6 for cocktails and drinks. Bottles, T-shirts and other merchandise also for sale.
Tip: Starting April 10, Buffalo Distilling will also be open on Tuesdays to correspond with Food Truck Tuesdays in Larkinville, beginning their new season. Larkinville is just a stone's throw away.