By BETH ALTENA
Picture a 1930’s era atmosphere with dimmed lighting, leather sofa, tasty appetizers and a wide variety of nostalgic cocktails. The Underground, currently under construction at 49 Bridge Street in downtown Rockford, will offer such accommodations, the first of its kind in Michigan.
Amir Haririan has been creating their own fine spirits from his Grand Rapids manufacturing facility for the past three years, and has been looking for a tasting room (martini and rum bar) location the past two years. He is proud to bring the Underground to Rockford in the upcoming weeks as they are in their final stages of announcing their grand opening.
At the Underground patrons can enjoy the atmosphere, relax and enjoy classic cocktails, wide range of martinis and many signature cocktails. The entire collection of flavors, simple syrups and mixers will be prepared and cooked with natural flavors and ingredients at the plant weekly. Even the soda is provided in the classic soda siphons as they did in the old days.. They feel the art of bartending in correlation with Artesian Distillery’s smooth and delicious products with make a very unique location.
Haririan said he needed a location with high visibility and ample foot traffic, and Rockford offers that. “It’s a nice community. I signed a long-term lease because I plan to be around long term.” Haririan believes the community—at least those of legal drinking age—will embrace the unique business concept. Patrons to his Underground will be able to taste all of his products but what makes it unique is they will also be able to purchase bottles to take home and enjoy later.
“The main thing is tasting of our products,” said Haririan. He describes his lounge as a place to enjoy the rich flavors of exotic drinks, including 50-plus martinis based on his collection of products such Remedi, and Prohibition Edition line, juice and liquor mixes, and canned cocktails. He said it will be reminiscent of an old fashioned men’s smoking club, with prints on the walls, rich and tasty appetizers paired with the cocktail.
Haririan has enjoyed success with his liquor and drink lines, which he slowly expanding nationally. All his products are themed, such as his Prohibition Edition bourbons, whiskey and gin with a 1920/30s look and feel, recalling the time of flappers and men in fedoras and gangsters. Other rum lines cater to the pirate crowd, such as the Pirate Rhum, and 1492 Cristobal Reserve, and Ron Conquistador. Other Themed product is their medicinal Remedi line (RMD) which come with fun medicinal prescriptions which is gaining popularity in their nationwide campaign. His facility is much larger than some crafty micro-distilleries with capacity to produce 30,000 bottles per day per filling line and that gives him leverage to keep costs very low.
The narrow and long 1000-square foot space gives it the unique feel of many New York and Chicago style bars. The location has gone through radical remodel and construction with new flooring, wrap-around bar and big sports screens are up.
In addition to enjoying the many cocktails with fresh ingredients, patrons of the Underground can actually try their own luck at making their own rum for aging and literally keep it on tap for whenever they desire to go in with their friends or customers and claim glasses of their creation. How this works Once a patron joins the Barrel Club, they receive a 10 liter oak barrel with engraved logo of their choice, a list of ingredients, spices, and flavors. Then 10 bottles of silver rum will be added and mixed in the barrel. “It has to age in the barrels at least three months in order to start taking shape and develop character” described Haririan. He said the option of having your own cask of rum kept at the Underground is not only unique, but a good value.
Keep an eye on the progress of the Underground as it nears completion of the transformation of the space, which will include outdoor seating on the deck as well as the plush and tasteful interior tables and chairs. Haririan said his plans include a phase two which will be expanding the building to make room for a kitchen complete with fireplace. He expects sales to include martinis in the five dollar price range, and a happy hour cocktails all day.
One of the attractions of opening the Underground in Rockford was the presence of the new downtown winery and brewery. Haririan believes the option of three places to choose locally-mad ae beverages will increase the town’s presence as a destination to out-of-town visitors and shoppers. He pictures the Underground as a good fit with the many restaurants that call Rockford home, and said people could stop in for appetizers and a few drinks before going out to eat. “Or they can come here and just have some drinks and enjoy the evening,” he said. Either way, Haririan looks forward to providing a classy, flavorful place to offer his many beverages to customers of this area.
“I am very excited that Rockford will be the first place to try the good Michigan brands we are crafting and selling in several states.”