Karrikin Spirits Company to mix craft cocktails, fresh eats in Fairfax

Karrikin will host grand opening Friday, Dec. 7

FAIRFAX, Ohio -- Karrikin Spirits Company promises a unique experience during its grand opening this Friday.

'When we set out to do this we didn't just want to make beer or do one thing," said Jeff Hunt, one of Karrikin's co-founders. "We wanted to be a flavor house. When we hand a customer a cocktail we want to say our cola and our rum is in this drink."

The ownership of the new Karrikin Spirit Co. (L-R): Jeff Hunt, John Pattison, Mike Powell, Dan Hueber, Eric Baumann, Jeff Reichard and Mike Florea.

Hunt and his business partners spent the last two-and-a-half-years planning for Karrikin's opening that will start at 5 p.m. Friday at 3717 Jonlen Drive in the village of Fairfax.

His fellow co-founders include former Maribelle's Eat+Drink executive chef Mike Florea; former Oskar Blues and Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. employee Eric Baumann; Jeff Reichard, president of Holt & Reichard, Inc; Dan Hueber, owner of the V Collective; Mike Powell, former vice president of operations at Panera Bread, LLC.; and John Pattison, owner and director of marketing firm Project Red.

The 30,000-square-foot former industrial building that houses Karrikin includes a bar, dining area, lounge, a 1,000-gallon pot and column still from Vendome Copper & Brass Works of Louisville, a 30-barrel brewing system from W.M. Sprinkman Corp. of Columbus and a full scratch kitchen.

As Florea points out, the kitchen, still and brewhouse all rely on the same two essential elements – fresh ingredients and flame.

"Field to fire, that's it," he said. "From raw grains to boiling and fire . . . Really, making anything in a glass or on a plate from scratch is what it is all about. I'm so proud of this."

Pattison added the distillery's name, "Karrikin," is the same as the compounds found in the smoke of a forest fire that stimulates dormant seeds to sprout and promote new growth.

When Karrikin starts serving customers on Friday, the bar will be stocked with a variety of gin, rum, vodka and brandy distilled from raw grain processed in-house. Bartenders and mixologists such as Madeline Winters will then use non-alcoholic sodas, made in-house as well, to craft Karrikin's cocktails.

"Our ethos is Cincinnati home-made," said Baumann, who grew up in Cincinnati and started his career in the beer industry by washing kegs while in college. "We go out and hand select our yeast, raw materials."

That ethos also includes Karrikin's dining tables and an exposed flame grill, all of which Hueber's V Collective made.

Karrikin's founders plan to distribute the distilleries spirits to local retail outlets in the coming months. They also plan to barrel age bourbon and whiskey.

"Gin will be a mainstay," Patteson said. "We'll have a spin on it. Down the road, I think we'll be doing some brandies, along with barrel-aged scotch."

On the craft beer side, Karrikin will open with a traditional hoppy IPA, hazy New England-style IPA and an unfiltered lager on tap. The owners plan to add ciders.

Baumann warned local craft beer fans may not see Karrikin's brews on tap in stores anytime soon.

"If you want Karrikin beer you're going to have to come here," he said.

Florea said former Metropole executive chef Jared Bennett will work with an experienced staff to craft small plates and New American cuisine in Karrikin's kitchen.

"We are dealing with a lot of local farmers," Florea said. "Overall, it's just a scratch kitchen. They are making everything from scratch. We're going to do whatever we want."

Some of Karrikin's initial small plate offerings will include Mustard Pickle Eggs and a cheese spread.

As Florea explained it was Hunt, an original founder of MadTree Brewing Co., who brought Karrikin founders together with the idea of opening a distillery and restaurant.

"It's been a mixture of a whole lot of stuff for me," said Hunt when describing his role in launching Karrikin. "I like to design and build."

As far as the build-out of Karrikin's physical space is concerned, the co-founders have future plans for that too. In the coming months, they hope to build out event space on the building's second floor and add a rooftop patio.

Reichard's Holt & Reichard, Inc. construction company oversaw Karrikin's initial build out and will also oversee those future expansions.

"My nickname is the fixer," Reichard said. "It (Karrikin) is really three to four projects in one. I'm really honored to be part of it. You hear of those projects and think, 'Dang, I wish I had thought of that.' This is one I finally got to be a part of. It's kind of a dream come true."

For more details and future hours of operation for Karrikin visit karrikinspirits.com.

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