Chef Jonathon Sawyer is a restless soul. After making a name for himself at Bar Cento in Ohio City, he opened the vaunted Greenhouse Tavern downtown. He followed this with Noodlecat, a slurpy noodle shop locals love.
But Sawyer can’t stop there. Next up for the chef is a line of handcrafted probiotic vinegars.
The Tavern Vinegar seed was planted years ago, when Sawyer was living in Brooklyn, New York. He and his wife splurged on a $25 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar.
“I got home and tasted it, and it was just OK,” Sawyer said. “You could get a good bottle of Cabernet for less than a good bottle of Cabernet vinegar.”
So he began tinkering with his own. Over time, that stovetop project would blossom into Tavern Vinegar.
Three years ago, when the Sawyers moved to Shaker Heights, into a home built in 1867, they suddenly had the space to start making vinegar in earnest. The temperature in their root cellar varies by a mere half degree day to day so he can turn at least 2,400 gallons of vinegar per year.
Sawyer is now making five vinegars: a red wine vinegar using Chateau Richard Cotes de Bergerac 1994; a white wine vinegar using Sacha Lichine “Sexy Chardonnay” 2004; a craft beer vinegar using Vintage Brooklyn Winter Ale; a garlic-beer vinegar using Busch Light; and a rosé vinegar using Mas de Bazan Bobal Cabernet-Merlot 2004.
Sawyer also has at least five other vinegars in development. “We want our vinegars to be cheaper than others and made better,” Sawyer said.
The vinegars are available at retail outlets in Chicago, New York and Houston, but as usual, Sawyer has his sights set higher. Sawyer said that by June he hoped to be partnering with a local “oak and grains guy” to up production and get the vinegars on more retail shelves.
“It turned into a hobby-business,” Sawyer said.