We’ve all been to bars and had our fair share of cocktails, shots, etc., on a Friday night, but do we really know where
they come from? What goes into those beautiful craft cocktails with the artsy garnish? Well, to be honest, I never really thought about it while I made my trips to Grove Street or Hoboken or even until I attended bar school in the summer and learned the step-bystep process myself. It is an artistry, and I can only imagine those who make the spirits are just as creative as the ones
who serve them. This month I was fortunate enough to not only meet Ghost Hawk Brewery Company and talk about beers, but also their neighbor, Silk City Distillers, who just so happened to be right next door to find out their backstory and talk about their whiskey, bourbon, and more. So take a few steps, open the door, and let’s talk spirits!
Silk City Distillers was started by founders Jim Bednar, John Bednar, Tim Paul. At the time, both John and James
had discussed going into their own business, but didn’t have any idea on what kind to pursue. They got their start when
they found out New Jersey was going to pass a law into effect granting licenses for craft distillers. This motivated
the founders, and although it wasn’t their cup of tea (they come from a long line of engineers), they couldn’t resist
pursuing this venture. Silk City got its name from Paterson’s nickname. It was a historic area near the falls during Industrial Revolution era. It all started from the Silk factories and silk machinery. Since the founders were opening a craft distillery based in Jersey, they wanted a name that had a strong sense of what New Jersey was. So what started as an idea, soon became a name,
growing more from there. The founders started traveling to other distilleries and taking classes, getting books and going on forums learning as much about their craft as possible in order to make their venture a success. According to John: “Craft distilling is probably like craft brewing, it’s a real tight knit community where everyone is helping each other out.” In regard to sharing information on processes, how things got things done, what vendors were being used, or even on suppliers, John found himself
quite surprised on how forthcoming everyone was, and not “tight lipped” or “secretive”. Everybody in the craft on the smaller side was quite helpful to Silk City in their beginning stages, which made it easy for the next step to happen…procuring a space.
Silk City Distillers came across their unit in Clifton and found it to be a great location. Conveniently located near Rutt’s Hut and
at the crossroads of route 3 and 21, it was easy to get to. It’s not set up for retail or easy to spot, but being a secret little nook had
its perks! When people discovered Silk City Distillers, they were amazed at what they found and what was behind closed
doors. Once the city approved the building and zoning, they went through the federal and state licensing process. The journey
was long, but worth it! Once licensed, Silk City Distillers were able to start producing whisky and started with their first bourbon. At the time, the founders knew that was going to be their main focus, but not their only focus. With having the tasting room, and possessing the craft distilling license they have, part of the deal is they could only serve spirits they produce here. All three founders, Tim, John, and James bring something to the table for Silk City Distillers. While the three started the business, and
are attached at the hip, they all share responsibilities doing work in the tasting room, or in the production area with some technical help from John and James’ father, Joseph.
Silk City Distiller’s focus is whiskey, main products being bourbon and rye whisky. The bourbon and rye they create are made using grains grown in the state for them (corn and rye). They do a lot of experimenting, incorporating alternative grains that aren’t typically used in the big whiskey houses like oats and millet. In fact, they even came up with a 100% percent Quinoa whiskey! Silk City is not just a bar, for they also give educational tours to show you the process behind the bottle, the raw
materials used, a tasting of the products they make, and then of fer the opportunity to purchase from them. Although they carry whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, they are always expanding their product line. One idea on the horizon is even an idea for Absinthe! According to John, “We get obsessive about things, we’ll start researching and getting crazy about it.” On the secondary side of it, in the tasting room they are super obsessive on how they make their cocktails. All the simple syrups and ingredients are made
from scratch, using special ranges of botanicals, and a little ingenuity, to keep things fresh and interesting. Silk City prides
itself on experimentation not just in making their product, but in the creation of the specialty drinks made on premises as well.
One thing Silk City Distillers prides itself in is they didn’t rush to be the “first on the shelf”. They follow the rules/protocols; take
their time in creating a quality product, while sometimes marching to the beat of their own drum to construct something new and unique that we have never tried before. In the future they hope to continue expand their brand, and collaborate with other
local businesses, including neighbor Ghost Hawk Brewery for more joint ventures. If you are looking for a one of a kind experience this spring, I highly recommend taking a trip down to Clifton and checking out Silk City Distillers to try their
famous whiskey. Thanks for taking the time to sit with me, Silk City! Until next time, cheers and happy drinking!