Another Wall Streeter Goes Rogue
…It seems that there’s a trend happening
Get a job in finance, get disenchanted, start a distillery, brewery, or any other brand of booze making. But don’t get us wrong, we’re not complaining. Another young entrepreneur creating an original, inspiring libation for our enjoyment is Steven DeAngelo. DeAngelo opened Greenhook Ginsmiths in February of 2012, following a seemingly short-lived career on Wall Street.
DeAngelo started off his career as an intern at ICAP in 2000. After graduating from Villanova, he worked full time at ICAP and soon after his start, became an interdealer broker, dealing with interest rates and money markets. Fortunately for us, Steven felt that his career in finance left him with an unfulfilling lifestyle, and his entrepreneurial spirit and love of gin lead him and his brother Philip to grow a distillery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The beginning stages of starting up Greenhook Ginsmiths weren’t easy. Finding the right space, permits, zones and architecture took months, and Steven was selling to 300 accounts out of the back of his Jeep, while still working full time on Wall Street. Greenhook Ginsmiths became a success story from the start, soon resulting in DeAngelo’s resignation from the world of finance.
On the business end, Steven tells us that distilling is a lot like finance, “It’s all about the personal relationships.” When it comes to selling the product, it’s not just about the taste of the gin, it’s the way you go about selling it. If the people you’re selling to have a different opinion of you, they may not buy your product, so forming relationships is just as important for success in distilling as it is in finance.
Steven feels that he has always been an industrial, entrepreneurial person. He tells us how important it is to do your research before starting up a company and uses distillery zoning as an example. “Part of the zoning on a distillery is needing a sprinkler system,” he says. “If you sign a lease on a place without a sprinkler system, it’ll cost you a minimum of $100,000 to install.” DeAngelo explains that when you start a business, you’re going to make mistakes no matter what, but you try not to make the expensive mistakes. Steven never had a mentor, everything he did was self taught, which he credits to his keen business sense and his past career in finance. After only being open for a year and half, Greenhook Ginsmiths already has 700 accounts in the tri-state area, and two locally loved gin flavors, proving that Steven’s business-savvy personality paid off.
As far as making the gin, Steven employs the same distillation process that was used by performers in the 9th century when distilling delicate flowers and that shows in the gin. The American Dry Gin is made using a custom made 300 liter copper still with a mercury vacuum. This process utilizes a pump that pulls air and vapors out of the distillation container, thus lowering the atmospheric pressures which allows the gin to be made at lower temperatures than traditional distillation. Traditional stills utilize atmospheric pressure and a heating mantel to initiate phase separation. Because traditional stills reach such high temperatures, the liquids and flavoring ingredients in them are cooked, resulting in a change in the qualities of the aromas. Distilling at a lower temperature, as well as the mix of juniper, elderflowers, chamomile, and cinnamon, allows the gin to have a more agreeable, pure and aromatic taste. By using the vacuum stills, DeAngelo has given a younger feel to what is commonly referred to as an ‘old man’s drink.’
The help and support from his family is a large factor in the success of Greenhook. “We bottle around 50,000 cases a year”, says DeAngelo, “every Sunday we bottle it, my mother, my father, my brother, my aunt and uncle help sometimes–it’s very family oriented. We’re a family run business.”
A local favorite, Greenhook’s seasonal Beach Plum Gin was originally meant to be a sloe gin, a liqueur flavored with sloe berries common in England. However, sloe berries are hard to lay hold of in the United States, which DeAngelo soon realized. In an effort to differentiate his gin from any other gin on the market, DeAngelo procured some knowledge of the Beach Plum, indigenous to the United States and found in great quantities on Long Island. The Beach Plum is a very close biological relative to the Sloe Berry. He decided to use beach plums for a local twist on a great tasting gin. The Beach Plum Gin is made by saturating the plums in gin for 7 months, then removing the plums and sweetening the gin with turbinado sugar, and finally filtering it. This gives way to the gin’s fruity and botanical, bittersweet flavor.
Steven says his gin is versatile, but works really well in sour style drinks, including Gimlets and Tom Collins. His favorite Gin cocktail is the Waverly Lemonade at The Waverly Inn. The Waverly Lemonade uses Greenhook American Dry Gin, lemon, Agave syrup, and cayenne pepper.
DeAngelo’s plans for the future of Greenhook Ginsmiths are simple. Since they are a gin company, their main focus is on making more gin, and we agree with his plans.