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Philly’s first Latino distiller: Meet Francisco Garcia

When his family immigrated to Brooklyn from the Dominican Republic, the first thing Francisco Garcia’s family did was open a bodega.

“The idea of building a business that can grow well beyond a storefront was exciting to them and they never imagined this was an opportunity that was accessible to regular people,” Francisco Garcia, the owner of Strivers’ Row Distillery, based in Olde Kensington told AL DÍA News in a recent interview.

His family ingrained in his head that education was a vital force to success, which made him excel in his academics.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a master’s in public administration, Garcia spent two years at Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce as Director of Business Development and focused on helping businesses prosper in the city.

In 2020, he jumped ship to the Biden-Harris campaign.

While there, Garcia had an idea of starting his own business that showcased an assortment of homemade whiskeys, but he never thought it would become his reality.

It took the COVID-19 pandemic to push him to act upon his dreams, and he started building foundations around his ideas.

From then on, Garcia spent hours doing research and learning everything he could about making whiskey.

“Spending more time at home during quarantine last year gave me the space to reconsider that conclusion and pick up a book my favorite distillers wrote in 2013 about their journey starting a small distillery,” said Garcia.

Beyond the whiskey business, Garcia also wanted to make sure that his parents were up for the journey.

They were on board and admitted making drinks that represented their Dominican culture would be unique.

They were also relieved that he was finally getting out of the political realm.

“Let’s just say they don’t have nice things to say about politics,” he joked.

Garcia created his own whiskey distillery in a 200 sq-foot industrial studio in Kensington. 

Not only is his business the first Latino-owned distillery in Philadelphia, but Strivers’ Row is also the smallest commercial distillery in America.

He is hoping that by producing his own drinks and making them exclusively, his customers will learn more about his roots.

“I’m launching Strivers’ Row distillery as a grain to glass operation in order to bring a bit of my culture to the Philadelphia spirits scene,” he said.

Strivers’ joins a vibrant community of Philadelphia craft brewers, distillers, and winemakers, but his love for whiskey-making and hospitality runs deep.

In producing his whiskey, Garcia aims to provide a transcending experience to his customers.

One drink that he has worked on is Papa Juan, a spiced single-malt inspired by the traditional Dominican drink “Mamajuana.”

While Mamajuana is usually made by infusing rum and wine with barks and spices, Papa Juan is made by taking Strivers’ unaged single malt whiskey and infusing it with a family recipe of all-natural barks, honey, and spices.

Garcia hopes to begin barreling the corn whiskey for aging this Spring for a release of bourbon whiskey in the coming months.

Bottles of his homemade whiskey will be available for sale on the distillery’s website on Thursday, April 29. 

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