Common Spirits mixes hometown feel with big city vibe
Jami and Ryan Hawkins took their passion for Goshen and added an old building, an array of spirits and a pack of friends.
The resulting mix is delicious at Common Spirits, Goshen’s newest hot spot.
Jami, the more outgoing of the two, is behind the bar making cocktails with fresh juices, syrups, bitters and herbs. She wakes the greenery up by slapping it before she sticks it on the top of a glass and that unique sound is part of scene at this cocktail bar.
Ryan is often in the tiny kitchen or working more behind the scenes. But together they stay open late and are fighting to keep up, yet when you talk to them they can’t stop grinning.
“There are not enough hours in the day,” Jami said.
The couple announced in February 2015 their hope to open a place by year-end. They raised $15,000 with a crowdfunding campaign, selected 111 E. Lincoln Avenue as the location and started renovating. In January, they raised another $15,000 via crowdfunding to finish the work. Common Spirits opened in June.
It’s down the street from Venturi, Goshen’s Neapolitan pizzeria, and around the corner from Kelly Jae’s Cafe and Constant Spring. The couple hoped their bright flavors and comfortable atmosphere would be welcomed. They’ve had more support, more positive response, than they expected.
“I knew my friends and the people I knew were ready for a place like this,” she said. “I’m surprised by how Goshen and the surrounding area was ready for a place like this.”
In their first month, they’ve doubled their projections every day. The 41 seats inside and back patio surrounded by ivy-covered brick are often full. And since Common Spirits is open late, it’s become a place the employees from the nearby bars and restaurants are coming after work. “That just makes my heart explode,” she said of her happiness.
Sometimes it takes a while for a place to find its vibe, but Common Spirits already has a comfortable, convivial feel. “That was what I wanted to do,” she said. “Ryan and I are both super chill people and wanted to create something that was relaxed.”
The menu of food available is small and geared toward snacking, though once-a-month sushi nights and Sunday brunches expand on that. (The next brunch is 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 31.) Cook Christopher Horst is adding sandwiches and seared tuna Asian tacos to the offerings of hummus and a pressed pita sandwich available nightly.
The flavors that make Common Spirits worth visiting are coming out of the cocktail shakers behind the bar. Jami is creating drinks with bright, dynamic flavors.
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The classics, such as an Old Fashioned ($6 to $11), are done right, with balance and a choice of rye or scotch. She’s putting enough twists on classics to make them unique to Common Spirits while honoring the traditional combinations.
The house cocktails are where Jami and their staff are showing their craft and knack for mixology. The Garden Smash ($9) is one of the biggest sellers so far. The combination of Citadelle gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, basil and dill surprises with its dill sprig on the rim and wins over people who don’t usually like gin.
“A lot of people aren’t used to having cocktails with fresh ingredients,” she said.
Hawkins was eager to try the recipes that were forming in her head before opening. So though the menu changes based on fresh ingredients available and what she’s played with that day, the house cocktails are inventive and simply taste great.
Aside from the Smash, a Strawberry Rhubarb Spritz ($6) had vodka, lemon juice, rhubarb syrup made in-house, strawberries and rhubarb bitters. It’s gone now since most rhubarb is gone for the season, but the mix of sweet and tart was memorable.
The 10 or so house cocktails and five classics offered on the menu are suggestions, but are so inviting there’s no need to try to out-invent them. Hawkins and her staff are using technique and care to serve cocktails that emphasize flavor, not booze, though the Frozen Whisky Smash dispensed like a frozen margarita has plenty of kick.
They’re bringing cocktail culture in Goshen the way others in the region did for fine dining, coffee and tapas.
Jamie says if you want an Amstel Light, you can get one, but they may urge you to try one of the four craft beers on tap. “I want people to try new things,” she said.
Goshen has another hip place in its mix. Common Spirits feels like it could have been imported from Chicago, but it’s homegrown in northern Indiana by a couple who wanted to make their hometown better.
111 E. Lincoln Ave.
“I kind of feel like I’m hosting people in my house all night long, which is really fun,” she said.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.