Liquid assests: Cotherman Distilling Co.'s local spirits

A Tarpon Springs couple goes all in to make their Dunedin distilling dreams a reality.

click to enlarge DISTILLATION DUO: Michael Cotherman and Tara Cupp. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
DISTILLATION DUO: Michael Cotherman and Tara Cupp.

Michael Cotherman and Tara Cupp sold their house after determining how much it would cost to launch the region’s latest craft distillery, Cotherman Distilling Co.

“Most of our life savings has been spent on opening this,” Cotherman said.

Cotherman Distilling is the wife-and-husband duo’s first foray into owning a business. Last year, they bought a former plumbing warehouse at 933 Huntley Ave. in downtown Dunedin, sat down with the city’s Development Review Committee and hired contractors.

Although the couple have run into some surprises in developing the 3,000-square-foot space (“Some things are prerequisites for other things,” Cotherman said), production day is getting closer.

He and Cupp, with their permits and licenses in tow, are waiting on final inspection and code approval. After that, they’ll generate a Holy Trinity of spirits: vodka, gin and whiskey.

The distillery’s 727 Vodka will be released first, Cotherman said, and then its gin, which the pair aptly named Half Mine (because, well, “half of [the bottle’s] mine”).

Due to its aging process, the whiskey won’t debut until later. But since it’s made from unhopped, unboiled beer, it has a good synergy with local breweries, said Cotherman, who plans to recycle whiskey barrels to brewers in the area.

While the twosome is still developing the hooch’s name, it’ll pay homage to Cotherman’s fifth-generation grandfather, who was captured by Indians during the Revolutionary War and traded back for a five-gallon bottle of whiskey.

Cotherman said he wants to start experimenting with other tastes once their signature spirits are nailed down.

Florida is home to 15 distilleries. The Florida Cane Distillery and Fat Dog Spirits craft their beverages in Tampa, while Drum Circle Distilling produces in Sarasota. Another Pinellas County liquor manufacturer, the St. Petersburg Distillery, is also in the making.

Distilleries aren’t permitted to have “tasting rooms,” or bars, like breweries. Visitors are able to tour a distillery and sip samples of its product, but “we can’t sell alcohol on the premises,” Cotherman said. By law, spirits purchases at distilleries are limited to two bottles per person, per year.

The ordinance doesn’t worry Cotherman, though. According to him, more than 1,000 people frequent the Pinellas Trail, Cotherman Distilling’s neighbor, every day.

Cupp said the distillery will likely hold tours alongside a tasting for around $10. That’s what distilleries in other states — with regulations similar to Florida’s — seem to offer, she said. The joint will be involved in events that go on throughout the city, too.

The duo will sell their spirits at Luekens Liquors, which is set to open its fourth location in Tarpon Springs sometime this week, and other liquor-slinging Dunedin establishments, including Kelly’s and The Living Room on Main.

When CL asked the Tarpon Springs couple why they decided to open their distillery in Dunedin, Cupp called the city amazing.

“We just love Dunedin,” she said, as Cotherman nodded. “There’s great people here.”  

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