Hiding in plain sight in a warehouse on the corner of Claiborne Avenue and Bienville Street in the Treme, Seven Three Distilling has grand plans for New Orleans. Reflected in the company name, these plans involve creating a spirit for each of the city’s 73 official neighborhoods, such as St. Roch Vodka, which is the first in the lineup that’s available for purchase. This month, Seven Three will bottle two more: Gentilly Gin and a cucumber-infused version of St. Roch Vodka with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves—presumably not different enough to get its own neighborhood.
“We can go back and forth and all disagree on what the official neighborhoods really are,” says Sal Bivalacqua, co-owner. “But what we wanted to do was pay tribute to the history of many of them, and include some of that on the back of each bottle.”
There are already designs for Irish Channel Whiskey, Bywater Bourbon (which will take at least three years to age), Black Pearl Rum and Marigny Moonshine.
“Our moonshine will actually be a Louisiana rice whiskey that’s unaged, and clear,” says Bivalacqua. “Some people say you can’t use the term ‘moonshine’ for anything other than corn, but that’s up for debate since it’s not an actual classification. For us it’s a nod to old moonshiners in the swamp and sugarcane fields.”
When asked when they began distilling in earnest, Sal Bivalacqua blurts “Yesterday?!” before admitting that it’s actually been four months since they became fully licensed and hosted their soft opening the very next day.
Seven Three hopes to offer more than booze and traditional distillery tours in their newly renovated space. Working with the Historic New Orleans Collection on gathering photos from the old neighborhood, including from Storyville across the way before it was shut down in 1917 at the start of Prohibition, Seven Three plans to educate guests about local history. Eileen Bivalacqua, co-owner and Sal’s wife, points out one of her favorites—a portrait of a group of guys at the Terminal Café by the train station, just off the train and now enjoying a few cocktails, ready to go party in Storyville in 1911.
Seven Three also wants to highlight Louisiana agriculture, including their own farm partners: Robichaux in Labadieville for sugarcane, James Farms in Opelousas for rice and Schexnayder & Sons in Erwinville for corn and wheat. The Bivalacquas’ ambitious endeavor is already well under way, despite the fact that he works days and she works nights and weekends for the Poydras Street law firm Galante & Bivalacqua.
“We get asked a lot why we launched a distillery while running a law practice,” Eileen Bivalacqua says. “The answer is simple: job security! And if you worked in law all day, you’d start making booze too. I joke, of course… We just believe in the distillery project so much that it’s worth the sacrifice.”
Seven Three Distilling, 301 N. Claiborne Ave., distillery tours Tue–Sat at 3:30 p.m., happy hour Thu–Fri 5–8 p.m. with rotating food trucks on Thursdays and pop-ups on Fridays.