Finding a Niche: Craft Cocktails in Goshen
It’s sushi night at Common Spirits in Goshen, and things are humming. Couples crowd in to wait for tables; I’m alone, so I take a seat at the bar and order. Jami Hawkins, the proprietor, is an ebullient hostess, visiting with customers and running drinks. She finds time to say hello and even to introduce me to her business partner and husband, Ryan.
“If you’re too busy, don’t worry about the interview,” I say. Watching the bartender crush fresh mint and pour fresh-squeezed juices is entertainment enough while I wait for my sushi. But Jami loves what she does, and amidst the bustling atmosphere finds time to tell me about her sparkling new business.
Jami was born in and grew up in Goshen. She planned to move away to Nashville for college and study the guitar, but life threw her a few curves and then she met Ryan. She ended up staying in town and working both in the food business and as an ACE personal trainer. She is still co-owner of the l.o.l. Fitness Studio with Maija Stutsman and teaches there on Mondays and Tuesdays. Ryan left his IT job in Kalamazoo so that he could work in the business full time.
“We’re such a good pair,” Jami says. “He does everything I don’t like to do, and we enjoy complementing each other.”
111 E. Lincoln Ave.
Q&A with Jami Hawkins
Edible Michiana: You just opened in June. How has business been?
Jami Hawkins: Amazing! Goshen is hands-down the best place to start a business, because Goshen supports its own. Furthermore, it has the amenities of a city with a community feel.
EM: How did you get the idea for Common Spirits?
JH: Bartending at Venturi (the Neapolitan pizza restaurant a few doors down the street) sparked something in me I didn’t know I had. I loved the crowd, the staff and especially mixing and creating cocktails. After work we would often go out for drinks. We have some good bars in Goshen, especially where beer is concerned, but I noticed that there was a niche for the craft cocktail.
EM: How would you define “craft cocktail”?
JH: It’s a cocktail that has been thoughtfully put together. It’s made almost like a chef would make a meal: with attention to flavor pairings using real ingredients, fresh juices and our own simple syrup.
EM: Your drinks are delicious, and also strong. What are your guidelines?
JH: Traditionally, in the 1950s, cocktails were made with 2-ounce pours. That’s the way we make them here. This was before the 1980s, when people began adding a lot of sugars to their mixes. We don’t do that. We use real juices, real ingredients.
EM: What inspires your drink menu and your specials?
JH: What’s in season, and what I can do with it. I like to go to the grocery store and see what’s fresh. Flavors inspire me.
EM: Speaking of food, I love your menu. Sometimes I come here for dinner even when I don’t want a drink. How did you come up with the menu?
JH: Chris Horst is responsible for the food. I’ve given him complete freedom to invent the menus. We worked together at Venturi, and we are friends. He taught English in South Korea for a few years and brought some food ideas back with him.
EM: What are your plans for the future?
JH: Within the next year we’re planning to expand our menu and our seating. Our ultimate goal is to add a distillery.