Big city sophistication with a small town feel in Rockford's new Artesian Distillers Underground Bar

A stylish throwback to the prohibition-era speakeasy, the new Artesian Distillers Underground Bar (49 Bridge St.) in Rockford has been capturing the interest and business of passersby since it opened in July. Soft lighting, quiet music, and intimate seating entice patrons to linger while they enjoy cocktails crafted with flair by a gregarious bartender. Although the space is only 1,100 square feet, it seems bigger, opening to a wider area in back, boasting a handcrafted bar lined with comfortable stools.

Amir Haririan and his wife, Leslie Iglesias, opened Grand Rapids' first liquor distillery, Artesian Distillery, in 2010. It manufactures RMD vodka and rum, 1492 Cristobal aged rum, Prohibition Edition bourbon, and other premium spirits, all served at the bar in Rockford and sold by the bottle in both locations. Customers can enjoy a wide variety of creative cocktails combining craft liquors with special ingredients like seasonal fruit and herbs.

Iglesias explains, "We try to use as many fresh ingredients as we can get our hands on -- like ginger, tarragon, basil, peaches, and berries." Most of the cocktails are priced from $5 to $7 and many are cleverly named. Iglesias says, "Chillax and Rockford Slugger are two of the most popular cocktails. No matter what people order, we make sure customers are happy with their drink and it's what they expected. We want their input."

Presently, the menu offers finger foods like the meat and cheese Anti-Prohibition Platter or the Purple Gang, featuring hummus. Iglesias says, "We're exploring extending the menu and hours. But before we do that, we want to make sure our six employees are fully prepared to make complex cocktails and serve food when it's busy."

Artesian Distillery Underground is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Happy Hour $3 drink specials are offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Within the next month, the bar will open at noon to serve lunch and Happy Hour will extend to 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit their Facebook page or call (616) 252-1700.

Source: Leslie Iglesias, Artesian Distillers Underground Bar
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, freelance reporter
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