Tommyrotter Distillery owner and head distiller Bobby Finan. Tommyrotter produced small batch vodka and American Gin in Buffalo NY's emerging Larkinville Neighborhood

A new friend passed a recipe on to me recently that’s become a favorite.

1 oz. Tommyrotter small batch vodka
1 oz. Tommyrotter American gin
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 wedge of lemon

Muddle the lemon and Lillet Blanc in a cocktail shaker, then add gin and vodka. Drop in ice and shake, shake, shake. Use a Hawthorne strainer over a fine strainer to remove any excess lemon pulp and pour into a coup glass. Rim the glass and garnish with a slice of lemon peel.

Congratulations, you just made a Tommyrotter Vesper.

You can thank me later… but in the meantime go ahead and mix yourself another one to sip on while you read the rest of this post.

Bobby Finan is the one who passed this recipe on to me – he’s also the creative and technical mind behind Tommyrotter, where he produces small batch vodka and American gin in a converted 114-year-old paper box factory in Buffalo, NY’s emerging Larkinville neighborhood. A one-time student of economics who turned his back on the world of finance to embrace liberating changes in New York State’s Farm Distillery Law, Bobby has become one of a handful of pioneering craft distillers operating in the Buffalo area – and though Tommyrotter wasn’t the first of these distilleries to pop open a bottle for the public, their singular focus on quality, presentation, and drinking experience has made them many’s favorite (mine included) amongst this small pack. They’re even starting to garner attention outside of the spirits world, as their branding and packaging just received a major award in the much lauded Communication Arts Magazine.

Tommyrotter first grabbed my attention because of their gin, a distinctly intense pot distilled take on the classic form of the spirit that manages to be both familiar and novel to tasters. It leads with floral, citrus, and piney juniper notes but quickly transitions into dark warm spicy flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, grains of paradise, and ginger – making for an herbaceous and incredibly cocktail friendly spirit perfect for the wintery climates along the northern border.

Tommyrotter Distillery Small Batch Vodka alongside a signature Tommyrotter Vesper

Like cornflakes, penicillin, and Velcro, an accident played a big part in elevating Tommyrotter’s gin into something spectacular. “I wanted to make a gin that was accessible, and that I personally liked drinking, but also one that wasn’t just a summer-time spirit for people to drink with tonic, something that had some complexity that worked year-round and was at home in more refined cocktails like Negronis. So we decided to create a flavor profile that combined these darker winter spices with classic gin notes, resulting in something intense and complex. That intensity was furthered through a happy accident. As we approached our target opening date and were in the last days of refining our recipe, I was fatigued and sleep deprived, creating half size test batches of our product that weren’t quite perfect, but with one particular half sized batch I mistakenly used the amount of botanicals I would have used in a full sized one, and it ended up creating this incredibly flavorful but balanced taste that ended up defying most gin making logic, but it tasted awesome and we said ‘this is it’.”

Buffalo, like many others, is a city that embraces the local, but Bobby and others of his mindset are realizing that just having a locally produced product isn’t enough – and have their sights set higher. In his view, local needs to be coupled with extremely high quality (and a splash of true uniqueness) to really get the point across – resulting in a beverage that isn’t just a great local spirit, but a great spirit period. Thankfully, quality and uniqueness are both attributes that Tommyrotter has in abundance – and in a sea of bars dedicated to interminable offerings of small batch bourbon or craft tequila, the presence of an exemplary craft gin is both exciting and refreshing.

Many think of Buffalo as a beer town, with our long history of German and Polish brewers to our current resurgence of great craft beer, to our grain silos painted to look like a six pack of Labatt’s Blue – so a craft distillery in an emerging neighborhood may seem like something of an anomaly, especially one receiving so much well-deserved praise in such a short time. But one thing that Tommyrotter has in common with many of the area’s best breweries is a constant drive for both refinement and experimentation. Bobby’s experimental drive is embodied in what he hopes will be Tommyrotter’s next offering to passionate fans – a much anticipated barrel aged gin steeped in used bourbon casks.

Bobby shared one final recipe for those who like a little amaro in their cocktails – the Tommyrotter Fernet Rinse Negroni

Swirl a few drops of Fernet Branca to coat glass and ice.
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet vermouth
1 oz. Tommyrotter American gin

Stir and finish with a slice of orange peel.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s