Fiasco! Is the Wine and Spirits Store NYC Needs in 2021
It's all about transparency and superb curation at this new Crown Heights booze shop
“Who are the people making this? And are they good people?”
If you’re going to open a wine and spirits shop, those are two really good questions to ask when you’re curating.
But they’re also questions that don’t get asked enough. Thankfully, with FIASCO! Wine and Spirits, those queries are front and center. Just opened in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, the bottle store is a collaboration between friends and drinks industry vets Ivy Mix (Leyenda), Conor McKee (Frankly Wines) and Piper Kristensen (Oxalis).
It’s a wine/spirits shop with a mission, although one that was delayed for months by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — the store’s name is both “flask” in Italian and an apt description of the last year for the three co-owners. Originally expecting an opening only as late as August, the store finally opened 13 months to the day of their liquor license approval, on March 17th, 2021. Mix, McKee and Kristensen ended up doing most of the interior work themselves, since their restaurants, bars and stores were either shuttered or under severely reduced hours of operation.
“We were spending money on rent, so why not?” says Mix, who also released a book on Latin American spirits during the quarantine.
“Fortunately, COVID has been the one challenge; otherwise, opening this feels seamless,” says McKee. “We like the process, so nothing felt like a challenge, it just felt like work.”
The good news is that the partners were able to transform what had been a rather garish liquor store that had closed two years prior into an airy, well-designed space that seems ideally suited for both uncomplicated browsings and, coming soon — once it’s safe to host them — tastings, classes and book signings.
For now, though, it’s about the bottles, and the thought process behind those bottles.
“We’re focusing on producers and makers who are not only making tasty things, but share our ethos and ethics as well,” explains Mix. “It’s a lot of stuff I picked up working with mezcal and tequila at Leyenda — just because something is ‘good’ doesn’t mean it’s ethically good.” Expect an emphasis on female, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ producers, as well as local favorites, sustainable brands and some hard-to-find tipples.
Speaking of ethos, the shop will also be hiring from the local neighborhood. As well, they’re a member of Good Goods, a new program in New York geared at eliminating wine and spirit bottle waste.
But this isn’t a civics lesson. It’s first and foremost a liquor and wine store run by three incredibly knowledgable and friendly people who live in the neighborhood and are happy to share their expertise. And save you money!
“Take natural wine,” says Mix. “People think it’s this really expensive thing. You can drink really well and drink something made by really good people, and you can do it at $15-$25 a bottle.” (I personally spent just a few minutes in the store on their busy opening day and got an incredibly informative overview on piquette wines from McKee.)
And speaking of recommendations, here are three local (well, NY-based) wine and spirits that the trio behind Fiasco enjoy.
A “farm to disco” brand from upstate, the vodka here is made from 100% organic corn.
A New York rye (no corn here) that takes inspiration from the Revolutionary War and how Americans enjoyed their whiskey before Prohibition. “It’s from Alex Clark over in Industry City; he’s a long-time bartender around the city and now a local distiller,” says McKee. “His Double Rye is a blend of some Indiana and New York ryes and this is one of the more balanced and elegant rye whiskeys I’ve ever had. Quite silky with just the right amount of spice.”
“They’re from outside Buffalo,” as Kristensen explains. “They’re all about using a really gentle hand to coax their wines along and they all are super exciting. There’s a freshness and grittiness that I don’t see from many other producers in that area.”
Visit FIASCO! Wine and Spirits at 1148 Union Street in Crown Heights, or give them a call at (347) 365-2042.
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