Gin it up! Two booze makers seize Brooklyn’s good name

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Manhattan has its own eponymous cocktail, but Brooklyn now has two gins — and this being Brooklyn, the makers are in a street fight over who’ll get to use our borough’s great name.

In one corner, weighing in at $39.99, wearing the cobalt blue bottle and preferring the modern name of the borough is Brooklyn Gin, a concoction distilled upstate by a Miami Beach-based company run by a former Bacardi and Dewar’s executive.

In the near corner, weighing in at $35, in a clear bottle and opting for our homeland’s ancestral spelling is Breuckelen Gin, a spirit concocted on 19th Street in Sunset Park by a laid-off stock broker-turned-flannel-clad booze aficionado.

Round 1: A federal trademark lawsuit, filed on Oct. 25 by the makers of Brooklyn Gin, claiming that the liquors are “phonetically identical” and that mix-ups have caused the Florida firm “irreparable harm.”

Round 2: The counterpunch. “It doesn’t make sense,” said Breuckelen Distilling owner Brad Estabrooke, whose gin has hibiscus notes and a velvety finish. “How could someone who doesn’t live in Brooklyn try to squash me when I’m making a product right here?”

Of course, like any good heavyweight battle, this one has been months in the making.

It all started in April, 2010, when Brooklyn Gin owner Angel “Joe” Santos — who really does own a posh waterfront condo in Miami Beach — filed papers to legally trademark the name Brooklyn Gin, eight months before Estabrooke. He finally started selling bottles in June 2010 — two months before Estabrooke did, according to the lawsuit, though Estabrooke’s website and lawyers claim that he was making and distributing his Breuckelen Gin months before Santos.

The real trouble began brewing in August, when Santos visited New York bars to hawk his liquor. But at Fatty ’Cue and Peter Luger in South Williamsburg, workers told him that a rep from his company had already come in with the stuff.

But they hadn’t; those reps, it turned out, were hawking Breuckelen, not Brooklyn.

That’s when Santos called Estabrooke for a classic mano-a-mano sitdown at Brooklyn Bread Cafe in Park Slope. Santos wanted a settlement, but the sides were far apart, so Santos hired a lawyer.

“If this is happening at a bar level,” he said. “It’s going to happen at a consumer level.”

The case now hangs on two big things: If buyers are likely to confuse the liquors, and whether Estabrooke can show he really was first to make it. A photo on Estabrooke’s website shows him distilling gin back in March when Santos was still officially operating as Maverick Distilling — a name that was not changed until May.

Estabrooke’s lawyers might also be able to argue that Brooklyn Gin — which is bottled closer to Canada than Brooklyn — is “geographic­ally deceptive” under the federal Lanham Act.

Estabrooke, 31, has lawyers Alex Chachkes and Joe Sherinsky fighting the suit pro-bono. They argue that Brooklyn Gin’s trademark “was obtained improperly and fraudulent­ly,” using misleading statements, court papers show.

“We certainly feel strongly about this case,” Sherinsky said. “Our position is that consumers are not confused and the mark shouldn’t have been registered in the first place.”

The court battle raises questions about local business, bragging rights and geographic authenticity now that Kings County has become the Napa Valley of hand-crafted distilleries. It also tells the story of two young entrepreneurs — with opposite business styles — vying for turf.

Both businessmen were inspired two years ago by Brooklyn’s independent entrepreneurial spirit and reputation for artisan food and drink. Santos chose the name after reading newspaper articles about a movement to eat locally; Estabrooke noticed an in-flight magazine about laws that make it easier for micro-distilleries to open.

“This place has a cache to it,” Estabrooke said. “And that’s part of what the fight is about.”

Red, White and Bubbly on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope sells both spirits — whose bottles flank a sign reading, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”

The bell clangs — and the winner is…?

Owner Adam Goldstein said that his pick is Breuckelen Gin.

“If it’s going to be a street fight,” he said. “This one has an edge because he’s making it right down the block.”

And if Goldstein had to sell just one?

“I’d let my customers decide,” he said, swirling his drink.

“Brooklynites can sniff-out if someone’s heart isn’t in it,” he said.

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

K. from Arkady says:
I should think that for the times, "Victory Gin" would be the most appropriate thing, amirite proles?
Dec. 7, 2010, 1:14 pm
sg from sunset park says:
I highly recommend checking out Breuckelen Gin on 19th St. They are open most days, and do tastings/tours on Saturdays and their product has more flavor than any gin I've ever tasted. Also, they are working on some experiments with whiskey, which are not yet on sale but you can sample it at a tasting. All this, and they are in walking distance of my house.
Dec. 7, 2010, 1:25 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
if it's not better than Hendrick's than what's the point. Regardless, I'm looking forward to trying this stuff.
Dec. 7, 2010, 4:12 pm
Fatimah from Cobble Hill says:
Now you can join the ranks of Spike Lee (whose father was a heroin addict). Alcohol ruins the lives of individuals and their families. Alcohol causes brain damage, liver damage, depression, drunk driving, unsafe sex and other harmful behaviors .. to name a few. Perhaps you should check out a few AA meetings before you go to press. Please stop promoting alcohol. Thank you.
Dec. 8, 2010, 3:48 am
Al from Park Slope says:
While we are at it, lets stop promoting restaurants and all the "great food" to be had in brooklyn. Most reasons that people are in poor health from heart disease to diabetes and other obesity related diseases as well as most other reasons adults are constantly needing to see the doctor and needing some kind of pill mostly stem from their poor diet.
Dec. 8, 2010, 7:28 am
Neil from Ft. Greene says:
What's the problem if they're spelled differently?
Dec. 8, 2010, 1:52 pm
Trudy from Clinton Hill says:
I have been to the Breuckelen Gin distillery and have met the man behind the curtain. It truly is a superb Gin and an amazing one man operation done with so much knowledge and passion. I hope that heart wins.
Dec. 8, 2010, 5:29 pm
Tammy from Park Slope says:
Brooklyn and Breuckelen may be spelled differently but sound alike. Could create some confusion.
Dec. 8, 2010, 7:19 pm
Joe Santos from Warwick says:
Thanks for taking an interest in my product, Brooklyn Gin. Just to add to the above article, I wanted to share more about my story. After honing my craft for the past 8 years, I left my job about a year ago to pursue my dream of making my own handcrafted spirits. Through the generous hospitality of many friends, I’ve been couch surfing in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. It’s a well coordinated rotation of different couches. Being a company of one comes with many sacrifices. One such sacrifice is not having a permanent address. Not having wall street money to build my own distillery, I was fortunate to meet the folks at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery in Warwick, NY (less than 50 miles from NYC). Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery is New York’s first licensed distillery since prohibition. In Warwick, I found a home for my gin. They have a beautiful copper pot still where I take my locally purchased ingredients, recipe, and master distiller to make what we think is a great tasting gin. Much of our process is done by hand. I cut, pulp, and peel all of my citrus fruits. I crack open my juniper berries by hand. After we distill, we fill, cork, and label the bottles by hand. I go door-to-door to local bars and liquor stores to sample my gin and hand deliver every bottle. Brooklyn Gin is available in several liquor stores and bars in Brooklyn, and so far the local owners and their customers have been happy. Please check out my facebook page ( to see more about Brooklyn Gin.
Dec. 9, 2010, 12:18 am
chuck from carroll gardens says:
My wife and I both enjoy our cocktails. We both like Hendrick's and Blue Coat (phille, I think). We recently stumbled across both of these gins in the neighborhood. There is no comparison between the two. "Brooklyn Gin" has great botanical aromatics and finish, where as "Breukelyn Gin" has an astringent finish. My wife and I strongly recommend "Brooklyn Gin" as the superior tasting gin.
Dec. 10, 2010, 1:16 am
Wendy from Park Slope says:
Chuck must be Joe Santos' brother because his assessment of Breuckelen Gin is completely off. Breuckelen Gin is delicious. And if Brooklyn Gin isn't made in Brooklyn, then what business does its maker have in acting like its from Brooklyn?
Dec. 11, 2010, 10:16 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
An unbiased assessment:

Breuckelen Gin is has the edge iin regards to its connection to brooklyn, however the brooklyn Gin is a superior gin (in my opinion). Again, I dont know the connection that the brooklyn Gin maker or has brand have to the borough to want to be called Brooklyn as I do for the Breuckelen gin company, but the Brooklyn gin is by far a superior tasting gin.
Dec. 12, 2010, 1:07 pm
David from Ditmas Park says:
I can't wait to try them both.. to the anti-alcohol poster near the beginning.. you ARE correct that the ABUSE of alcohol can lead to all sorts of problems. So can the abuse of things like TELEVISION, MONEY, the INTERNET, and so on..

As a wise man once said, moderation in all things..
Feb. 7, 2011, 4:15 pm
Brooklyn-ite from Boerum Hill says:
I think it is ludicrous that someone would name his gin for Brooklyn and not actually be in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, a young, local guy is making the real deal, here in Brooklyn. I think Santos has a lot of nerve bullying this guy (from Miami of all places). Santos suggests in his above posts that his competitor has "Wall Street money," and that he is forced to couch surf, as if he were an underdog and not a former liquor executive. What a fabulist.

Death to Brooklyn. Long live Breuckelen!
Sept. 28, 2011, 6:01 pm

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