For the past year, the city of Oakland Park has been honored to be the home of the Náhori family owned and operated Chainbridge Distillery, located at 3500 NE 11th Avenue in the Culinary Arts District. This local distillery, named after the Széchenyi bridge in Budapest, Hungary, specializes in quality fruit brandies, specialty spirits and an assortment of high quality vodkas. Béla Náhori, the owner, says he’ll soon add rum, gin and whiskey to this already impressive lineup.
In Hungary, the chain bridge connects the two cities Buda and Pest. The Nahori family feels the name ChainBridge is fitting, since their goal is to connect south Florida to the culture and traditions they brought with them from the Tokaj winemaking region in northeastern Hungary. It is their culture and tradition of making Pálinka, a traditional fruit brandy invented during the Middle Ages. The Nahori family takes the ancient Pálinka-making process and blends it with modern distillation equipment and technology to create a high quality and uniquely crafted spirit.
As I sat at the bar in the tasting room, I was overwhelmed by how many varieties were displayed before me. There was a Florida basil vodka made from sugarcane, infused with 20 pounds of two different kinds of basil (one for taste, one for aroma). The basil even comes from a local farm in south Florida. I saw spirits made from carrot and beet, and brandy made from plums and just like the basil, they source as many, if not all from Florida. When I asked Béla which one was his favorite, he told me it was the plum brandy because it is the closest to the traditional aperitif, but you can tell the painstaking effort it takes to make each batch made it hard for him to choose. “We’re really proud of the beet and carrot ones. All our brandies are not flavored and they all come from the natural beet and carrot,” says Béla with pride.
It takes about 20-25 pounds of the fresh vegetables to make one bottle of the vegetable-based spirits and 12-15 pounds of fresh fruit for the Eau De Vie style brandies; fruit they’ve hand-washed and meticulously pitted themselves. Once that’s done they pulverize and juice it, then ferment it adding only yeast. Then the distillation takes place in a beautiful machine similar to something one would find in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. After all that, the finished product gets hand bottled, corked and labeled before being presented in their comfortably stylish tasting room.
In Oakland Park, you can order a cocktail at Stout Bar & Grill with one of their selections. McSorley’s Beach Pub, as well as several speakeasies in Fort Lauderdale, like The Wilder and Unit B, are also offering their premium quality products. You can find them on the shelves at Summerland Wine & Spirits in the Florida Keys and— I’ve even been told that we could potentially find them in Total Wine and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits one day soon too.
At the Taste of Oakland Park on Friday, February 28th, Chainbridge’s booth featured three different cocktails: the Passion On Dixie, the Sunshine State, and the Cray-Cray. The Passion on Dixie is a blend of ChainBridge vodka, fresh lime juice and Tazo hibiscus tea. The Sunshine State uses Fresh Florida Basil Vodka and is mixed with fresh lemonade. The Cray-Cray is a spin on the classic screwdriver using Chainbridge vodka with cranberry and orange juices.
I asked Béla what fruits or vegetables would he use to create our very own Oakland Park blend. After taking a moment to think he said, with a laugh “I would probably consult the urban institute on that”. I can only imagine what concoction he could come up with using our beautiful urban garden.
Béla Náhori is a dreamer but he isn’t trying to get carried away in a hurry. He says, “I want to create everything naturally, organically. I’m not trying to become a the big, big manufacturer of artificial flavors.” The Náhori family is interested in keeping things as local as they can, including carrying lines of cocktail accoutrement made by local artisans as well, like Jolene’s Jar, a company out of Delray Beach.
I recommend the tours, which are $10 a person and include a sampling the lineup. They host bottling parties and get-togethers of all sorts. Chainbridge Distillery is closed Sunday and Monday and their hours are from noon to 7pm.
Today March 27, 2020 Chainbridge celebrates its one year anniversary. To say it has been an eventful year for Chainbridge would be in an understatement. Besides being recognized locally and featured in local bars they have received visits from Vice President of National Food and Beverage Foundation, Philip Dobard, Dr. László Szabó, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States in Washington D.C., Aniko Kubatov, Economic Attaché to the Vice-Consulate of Hungary in Miami, and numerous representatives from the Office of Congressman Ted Deutch, Florida Senator Gary Farmer, Broward County Commission – Office of Economic and Small Business Development, and of course various visits from the City of Oakland Park’s very own City Commission.
When asked about what have been his greatest joys during this first year’s journey Béla answered : “... it has been creating spirits people have never heard of and educating people about them“.
When asked about what have been his greatest challenges he answered that it has been the Florida Craft Distillery Law. “Many people ask for our unique spirits worldwide and they would like to order online but we can’t ship. We had a week when I turned down 80+ requests for online orders“.
As Chainbridge enters Year 2 Béla shared that they will have many new spirits including aged ones. They intend to create a pear brandy that they have been aging for over a year in single malt whiskey barrels. This will be their first aged spirit.
They are also aging rum and they have created a gin with over 14 botanicals. Just over a month ago they created their first batch of whiskey too.
It is clear that Chainbridge Distillery is just getting started in distinguishing itself as unique and creater master distillery.
When we started this article we wanted to help Chainbridge celebrate their first year in Oakland Park and all their accomplishments. Then COVID-19 came to town and we all had to switch gears. Without missing a beat Chainbridge switched gears and began producing hand sanitizers for the community. This is probably not how they envisioned celebrating their first year in Oakland Park, but as a community we are thankful from the bottom of our heart for what they have done and we could not be prouder of Chainbridge Distillery being a part of our community!
If you stop by the distillery to pick up your bottle of free hand sanitizer don’t forget to wish them a Happy Anniversary!
Steven Mayer is a local Floridian who grew up in the South Corals area of Oakland Park most of his life. He attended Rickards Middle, Northeast High and earned his B.A. in English from FAU. He’s done some writing and editorial work for a south Florida lifestyle magazine and is proud to have been a partner with Starbucks for a total of 18 years.
After testing out a couple U.S. cities in his twenties, Steven realized that nothing beats home, and eventually settled back down in the Downtown Oakland Park area with his partner Douglas (another Oakland Park native), their three Pekinese dogs and two beautiful cats.
Steven enjoys anything Disney, vegan cooking, going for runs, attending local festivals, traveling, and game nights with friends and family.