Buy Local Booze (Philadelphia Distilling Can Help)

Baby-faced distiller Robert Cassell, of Bluecoat Gin fame, is changing the way Philadelphians drink.

INSIDE BARCLAY PRIME, Cassell slouches in an oversized leather chair and suggests we get out on a golf course soon. It’s his main—make that only—method of relaxation these days. We sip Tom Collinses made with Bluecoat and talk, not about the liquor business, but about girls, pro sports and, yes, golf, as we wait for our steaks to show. Barclay’s general manager comes by, and he and Cassell talk shop for a few minutes, then exchange business cards. As much as he works and reworks his products, Cassell realizes that this part—working­ a room, being out and about, connecting with tastemakers, schmoozing—is likely to be just as important for his business, going forward, as his fussy distilling.

On the ride back from Chester County,­ he’d asked if I knew what the responsibilities of a board member were. Someone had connected him with the board of the 103-year-old Settlement Music School, and there were a couple of other boards he’d been eyeing.

A few weeks later, he offhandedly mentioned that he’d joined the Settlement board. He’s also joined the blue-blooded Pennsylvania Society, whose membership is stacked with the who’s who of area business, politics and philanthropy. The society’s holiday dinner in New York is this month. Despite his concerns that he simply has “too much gin to make,” Cassell says he’ll be there. Schmoozing.