If you have been in the spirits industry long enough, you’ve had a memorable Gable Erenzo moment. Some act of kindness that you had no right to expect at a crowded event. A conversation about distilling amid a hundred distractions, yet you felt like the only person in the room. An unexpected meetup at an up-and-coming bar in a busy city that led to a heartfelt conversation about cocktail culture. You may have met a hundred other people this way, but you remembered Gable exponentially more than the others.
This is why his tragic passing has sent such a ripple effect through the craft distilling world when Gable didn’t wake up one morning, his aorta having failed him after watching Dr. Doolittle at bedtime with his two young kids. Gable was that alchemy of human traits that yields pure gold — humble, approachable, even-keeled, family-focused and deeply good. He was just such a good man.
Gable loved his beautiful wife, Cathy, the way we all want to be loved. He admired his father, Ralph, the way all parents wish their kids admired them. He showered fostered and adopted children (seven of them over the years) with the kind of love these kids had thus far only dreamed was possible from a father figure. He made the spirits industry feel like a hallowed hall rather than a mosh pit.
I spent an hour on the phone with Ralph Erenzo, Gable’s dad, last weekend. We didn’t finish many sentences without the tears overtaking the words. Ralph may never recover from this loss, which is made complicated by the fact that he has already recovered from so much, including a serious vehicle accident that nearly claimed his own life. Ralph and Gable were entwined personally and professionally in a way that is so rare in families anymore. Ralph lost his son, the father of his grandchildren and his closest business colleague all in one day. I wanted to wrap him up in healing the way that I would a burn victim, new skin where he has been utterly torn apart.
Ralph mentioned that Cathy was incredibly strong and holding together, but we both worried when her own crash might come. She and Gable had recently adopted one child and were in the midst of adopting another who already lived with them. What grief might be added if Gable’s passing complicates this second adoption? Gable and Cathy teamed up to change everything about common perceptions of foster care and to raise money for these causes. Cathy has lost her partner in, well, everything.
Gable and Cathy had the kind of love that lights up an entire room. This, in a professional world of clandestine infidelities, always seemed sacred and rarified.
In the wake of his death, there are words we keep hearing again and again — gracious, unpretentious, effervescent, larger-than-life — from the likes of our mutual friends Paul Hletko, Allen Katz and Tom Fischer. His godfather, Tony Vanaria, a past Hudson global brand ambassador, had trouble speaking to me of Gable in the past tense. “Even though he was almost thirty years my junior, I looked up to him. He achieved so much in so little time, and he enriched so many people’s lives, both professionally and personally.”
Jim Ryan, bartender and Gable’s fellow brand ambassador at William Grant, told me that Gable, Ralph and Cathy were an immeasurable, integral cog in his foundation as an entrepreneur in the spirits industry: “Gable was kind and disruptive, the kind of disruptive that sparks a fire in you.”
Mel Heim, a fellow whiskey distiller, remembers Gable telling her that “there is nothing stressful about distilling whiskey” and that if her distilling job was stressful, this was time to find a new job. He was the sage many of us reached toward when we needed wise advice.
Nicola Riske found that “it was always as if not a moment had passed with Gabe. We would sit at the bar and he’d encourage me to taste and try things, and we’d talk about passion projects.” These are the genuine connections his industry colleagues will miss so much.
Gardiner Liquid Mercantile (http://www.gardinerliquidmercantile.com/) is the embodiment of Gable’s passion for disruption. His farm-connected distillery (spirits made from local fruit) and craft cocktail project were the first in New York to benefit from a revision of local laws allowing the bar to serve spirits, wines and beers all made in New York. Cathy, who brings her own multi-decade experience in distillery work dating back to Tuthilltown, will keep the doors open.
Gable and Cathy were some of my first friends thirteen years ago in an industry that didn’t always feel very welcoming. They believed in my little distillery that was disrupting rum, gender norms, cocktails and geography. We were often the only distillery owners together in rooms of hired hands at Tales and Indie Spirits Expos. We bonded over the challenges of long days, too little cash and high stakes.
Like so many, I felt like I had been gut-punched when I heard Gable had died. “Please! Don’t take this one.” There is no right time, but this felt like such an unfairly wrong time for the Erenzos. Their young children at home had already experienced an unfair share of loss, Gardiner Liquid Mercantile needing so much of his time to get going.
Gable would want us to give our time or money to Family of New Paltz (https://tinyurl.com/ym5juphe) or Ulster County Family Services (https://tinyurl.com/3m97amz7). The family has also created a GoFundMe (https://gofund.me/9d37aa93) for Cathy and the kids, and are also working to create a Memorial Internship. Together we will keep Gable’s unique legacy alive.
— Karen Hoskin
Remembering Gable Erenzo
If you met Gable Erenzo, chances are he was the first to say hello, the first to make eye contact and smile, and the first to extend a hand. He was just that kind.
He was an easygoing and honest friend. He made you feel welcome, like family. And he made dozens of us — hundreds of us — feel like family.
With his father, Ralph Erenzo, Gable travelled the country representing the Hudson Whiskey they made at Tuthilltown Spirits. Toting antique-leather doctors’ bags stuffed with the distinct apothecary bottles of Baby Bourbon and Manhattan Rye, they showed us how to have fun while doing business. We all wanted to be Gable and Ralph in their “Distilleryman” T-shirts, handing out clever and fun swag, pouring shots and telling the best stories. Wherever they went, laughter followed.
In December, when Ralph slid his car off an icy highway, putting himself in a coma for more than two months, we all thought he was a goner. We were on pins and needles, followed the Wikispace blog for Ralph, hoping for updates from Gable and his wife Cathy. As Ralph slowly recovered, the distilling community saw a different side of Gable. He stepped up to do more in the business, showing himself both a caring and a tough, practical man. He also picked up the fight Ralph had begun two years earlier to reduce the Federal Excise Tax for craft distillers. This is how many distillers got to know him.
As Hudson Whiskey brand ambassadors, Gable and Cathy traveled the world. They were the cutest couple in distilling. The genuine warmth they radiated seemed like they had lucky dust dripping off of them. They were both blessed with positive energy and a willingness to share not just whiskey, but anything that could be of help — mentoring newcomers to the industry, helping them not make mistakes that had been made before and advising everyone to buy Bitcoin.
Gable and Cathy eventually left Hudson Whiskey to focus on smaller things. They started the Gardiner Liquid Mercantile, a distillery/restaurant/cocktail bar/market. Cathy and Gabe fostered many children, eventually adopting a boy they had raised from a baby, with plans to adopt another. This beautiful couple seemed to be the ideal parents, and these kids seemed destined to have the best upbringing. The distilling community was excited to see what the next chapter would bring for this young family.
So, we all felt sucker punched when we heard of Gable passing at 41. What?
Looking up at the sky pleading, “Wait a minute up there! Not him! He had so much to live for, so much to give!”
We lost one of the truly good ones, and nobody knows why. Gable leaves a big hole, for Ralph, for Cathy, for the two young boys she is raising, for all of us who knew him and those that maybe didn’t know him but benefited from work he did for the community. For those who will never get the chance to meet him, enjoy his sincere smile and big bear hugs, we are all poorer for his passing.
Gable Erenzo was a truly unique, honest and earnest person blessed with positivity and generosity of spirit. He left us far too early.
Rest in peace, dear friend. We will always miss you.