Anyone who lives in Brooklyn has, some time in the last couple months, encountered Brad Estabrooke's new Breuckelen Gin, the first new gin to be distilled in Kings County since Prohibition. Far fewer are aware of the existence of Brooklyn Gin, another new gin which, its name notwithstanding, is made in upstate New York by a guy who lives in Florida.
Now one distiller is suing the other, citing the liquors are "phonetically identical" and that mix-ups have caused the firm "irreparable harm." But the suit is not brought by who you might think. The Florida guy is telling the Brooklyn guy to cease and desist naming his gin after the borough.
According to Brooklyn Paper, which broke the story,
It all started in April, 2010, when Brooklyn Gin owner Angel “Joe” Santos — who really does own a posh waterfront condo in Miami Beach — filed papers to legally trademark the name Brooklyn Gin, eight months before Estabrooke. He finally started selling bottles in June 2010 — two months before Estabrooke did, according to the lawsuit, though Estabrooke’s website and lawyers claim that he was making and distributing his Breuckelen Gin months before Santos.
The real trouble began brewing in August, when Santos visited New York bars to hawk his liquor. But at Fatty ’Cue and Peter Luger in South Williamsburg, workers told him that a rep from his company had already come in with the stuff.
But they hadn’t; those reps, it turned out, were hawking Breuckelen, not Brooklyn.
That’s when Santos called Estabrooke for a classic mano-a-mano sitdown at Brooklyn Bread Cafe in Park Slope. Santos wanted a settlement, but the sides were far apart, so Santos hired a lawyer.
“If this is happening at a bar level,” he said. “It’s going to happen at a consumer level.”
This move, I predict, will backfire on Santos. Brooklyn—both its foodies and its food entrepreneurs—prize authenticity and locality. Not only are they not going to take well to a product being called "Brooklyn" that's not made in Brooklyn, but they react with high dudgeon to any legal move from an outer-borough force that tries to take down a local boy. Even if Santos wins the suit, he won't win any hearts, or accounts, in Brooklyn.