Craft cocktails, food hit Berlin
By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(Aug. 10, 2023) If you are looking for County Commissioner Eric Fiori, you might try the local bar.
That’s right, Fiori has partnered with Cody Miller, the former distiller at Secrets to open the Forgotten 50 Distilling on Old Ocean City Boulevard in Berlin. The distillery takes its name from its location, Fiori said.
The building that houses the operation was built in the 1940s as the Wright Plymouth dealership. Fiori purchases buildings to rent to small businesses. When his wife saw the building, she told him they had to preserve it.
Cody Miller, then the distiller at Seacrets, heard that Fiori purchased the building and reached out to him to see if he would be willing to turn it into a distillery.
They shook hands on it, leading Fiori to observe, “It was a good old fashioned Eastern Shore business deal.”
Miller started home brewing beer out of his garage. In 2010, he started brewing across the street at Burley Oak to take his brewing skills to the next level.
But he made more money as a barback at Seacrets in Ocean City, where he worked for 17 years.
Seacrets started building its distillery and he asked management if he could get into that work. He said they made him the head of the distillery, without any experience under his belt.
He took classes to learn the craft, eventually taking Seacrets to a first-class distillery with 50 awards and 20 different flavors sold throughout the region.
“We would go through so much product, I could not really create anymore,” Miller said. The production was on a finely tuned schedule, leaving him with less time to explore new ideas.
Partnering with Fiori was the answer to feeding his creative drive and getting back to small batches. He wanted to create boutique gin, rum, whiskey and other flavors.
Besides creating spirits for a craft cocktail bar, he plans to work with other establishments in town to create their own recipe and labeled spirits.
He expects to start small and make the best possible product.
To make the most of their craft spirits, they have brought on board Tim McCall, a Scotsman who has spent the past 23 years traveling the world where he learned many styles and influences in the craft cocktail universe before he settled in Berlin, with his wife (a Salisbury native), whom he met in New Zealand.
He said some of his cocktails take two to three days to make, such as his Mango Pudding Punch, which is infused with bread pudding.
He is teaching his techniques to his new staff, dedicating a day a week to training, not just in fine cocktail making but in wine and beer knowledge as well.
“I want them to understand what they are doing,” McCall said.
“I want Berlin to be known for its intellectual drinking.”
Miller said the distillery should be operating, producing spirits by September. Until then, they will be crafting with fine spirits, many of which are locally made, such as Lyon’s Rum, out of St. Michaels.
While they will not initially host distillery tours formally, Fiori said that he can see them bringing various dinners through for spontaneous tours.
To compliment the fine cocktail fare, Miller and Fioni have brought in Jeff Phillips, of Phillips Crab House as their head chef.
Phillips is planning seasonal menus and pairings with various spirits.
Miller expects to host theme nights, pairing an agave spirit with a Latin inspired menu or a rum pairing with a South American/Caribbean style cuisine.
Fiori said their food will be farm to table fare. To illustrate this, he said this weekend, they ran out of tomatoes and corn so they ran to the Berlin farmers market to purchase more.
McCall considered this an eclectic place, that is more considerate and thoughtful with its food and beverages.
Fiori hopes to connect the Forgotten 50 and the other establishments with the rest of Berlin. He hopes to partner with Tracks and Yaks, the new railbike business that opened in Berlin. He also would love to see sidewalks on Old Ocean City Boulevard,. He built a sidewalk in front of his establishment and hopes other businesses on the street follow suit.
“I would like to make this a secondary business district for Berlin, with sidewalks and Rails to Trails that link the entire town together.”
As a county commissioner, he said there are efforts and funding initiatives from South Point on to make Worcester County a more bikeable region. He also hopes that any development at Heron Park will enhance the bike/walking concept.