There’s something new amongst the flurry of breweries that have popped up in Ballard in recent months – it’s called the Old Ballard Liquor Company (4421 Shilshole Ave), one of the first craft distilleries in the area.
The distillery is housed in an old warehouse located just across from the boat ramp and on the corner of 14th Ave NW and Shilshole. The Old Ballard Liquor Co. is owned and operated by Lexi, a former software engineer and boat worker. The distillery will specialize in Cherry Bounce, which Lexi says will be her flagship liquor. The bounce comes from sour pie cherries, which Lexi says goes straight into the bottle less than 12 hours after being picked off the farm. She says cherry bounce is a throwback to the days of the colonists, when preserving fruit with alcohol was a common trend. Lexi explained that after the 1940s, “with fewer people picking fruit out of their backyards, it fell off the cultural radar, because it just became inconvenient and difficult to make.”
Only three states in the country produce the sour pie cherries; Washington, Utah and Michigan. “Once a year, I get into a van at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I drive out to Eastern Washington to a farm, I pick them up, and I bring them back here, and we spend the whole day making the bounce for the whole entire year,” Lexi said. “I like to say it’s 12 hours from tree to bottle.” She said that quick turnaround is absolutely necessary because the cherries start to go bad after just one day off the tree. The bounce she’ll be selling has been aged six months, but Lexi explained that the flavors change quite a bit the longer the bounce ages, sweetening and becoming more complex over time.
In addition to the cherry bounce, the distillery will produce a well vodka (which Lexi says will be no-frills, because vodka should only be for getting drunk, not sipping) and Scandinavian aquavits on a rotating menu. The fruit infused liquors will take the main stage at the Old Ballard Liquor Co., and Lexi is always working on new concoctions. In large jars along the wall, rhubarb, watermelon, plums and blueberries float in different colored liquids. This is her testing zone. “Most of the recipes are based on my pie recipes,” Lexi admitted.
The distillery opens its doors at 4 p.m. today, but there won’t be any tastings just yet. Lexi is still waiting on some permits to come through, which she expects to have secured in two to three weeks. In the meantime, she will be on site to talk about her product on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday hours will be 2 to 8 p.m.