The Armory is a large entertainment venue in downtown Sonora that offers guests a Beer Garden, banquet room, a wine room, and the swanky Bourbon Barrel. After being dormant for several years, two families – Jenn and Doug Edwards and Rebecca and Jordan Barrows – joined forces to bring this entertainment mecca to life in the 209, including the relaunch of the Bourbon Barrel this year.
Although they are new owners of the Armory, the families are not new to the industry. The Edwards are locals that have operated two hotels and restaurants in Groveland. Doug is a chef that has worked as a private chef and has been in the food industry for many years. Jordan has also been in the industry for many years as an executive chef, restaurant consultant, and a private chef. He is the Executive Chef at the Armory and has created the menu that features American cuisine.
There are so many custom and unique designs throughout the Armory, like the wide-open outdoor Beer Garden with a waterfall that comes out of beer tap handles, the cozy rooftop terrace with misters, the upstairs VIP table, the silo, and walking through a barrel to enter the posh Bourbon Barrel. Guests can also find live music and a DJ on Thursdays and Fridays.
“People are coming here for the experience,” said Rebecca. “It is the whole package with the music, aesthetics, drinks, food and just the vibe.”
The Bourbon Barrel has an impressive whiskey wall that has a rustic sliding library ladder along with the coolest bartenders. The Bourbon Barrel has its own kitchen with their own food menu. Although it is called the Bourbon Barrel they have a full bar with a long list of exceptional specialty cocktails like the Sierra Pack Mule, Blackberry Mojito, Aviator, Donkey Tongue, Pain Killer, and a guest and Instagram favorite, the Prickly Pig Paloma.
Lead Bartender Lydia Berwick has been in the industry for a long time and truly enjoys working for the new owners, as well as a team that she adores.
“Our team is perfectly overqualified because everyone here has either been in a position of leadership or has been in the industry for a very long period of time,” stated Berwick. “We have this beautiful team that we’ve been able to pull recipes from so this is kind of a conglomeration of all our minds combined. We have a lot of respect for each other’s opinions in this building. So, there was a lot of tweaking and coming together and kind of marrying ideas and so that’s what our list is. It’s quite a large specialty cocktail list. There are a lot of fine details that go into every one but it’s cool, because you ask the employees and they all have pride, because they’ve been able to input and be a part of creating this.”
The Prickly Pig Paloma is served in a unique pig glass that has tequila, prickly pear, grapefruit, lime juice, agave and pink grapefruit soda that delights the tastebuds and is very refreshing. The guests snap photos of this one regularly.
Lead Bartender Avery Walker has been in the restaurant industry for several years and as a bartender she loves making drinks and the interaction with the people including hearing all their stories.
“I love to hear their stories. It is a safe place for people to come and there is no stress. They do not have to share but if they want to, I am here to listen,” Walker said, adding that, like many bartenders, they often feel like counselors. “We are both psychologists and psychiatrists. We prescribe and we chitchat.”
However, after all it is called the Bourbon Barrel and that they do well. They make their very own Barrel-Aged Black Manhattan that has just the right blend that is very tasty. The Smoked Old Fashion made with Four Roses Bourbon is quite the site to see with the flame burning bright and the smoke swirling around giving your palate some excitement. Perhaps, guests may be looking for something a little more delicate like the Strawberry Bourbon Smash with muddled strawberries, which is one that Rebecca enjoys on occasion.
Berwick noted, “All our drinks are really well crafted by a handful of professionals.”
They offer a number of bourbons, rye, scotch, or mezcal flights or you can choose your own custom flight with a selection of three spirits.
They serve up the classics as well and a few mocktails for those that may prefer something non-alcoholic.
“There’s a lot of things that I like about bartending, but they’re even more things I love about working for this specific company,” shared Berwick with a heartfelt expression. “I love being here. Every position is so crucial. We all work together well with respect and humility. We are all worthy and valuable.”
Bartenders Berwick, Walker and Casey Aguirre shared that there are a variety of guest favorites that they serve up on a regular basis and they welcome everyone to pull up a barstool and have an intimate experience with some tasty food, a classy atmosphere, and of course, a remarkable beverage.
They plan on hosting several events including a Halloween Party on Oct. 28. For more information visit their website armorysonora.com, or call 209-694-3158 or social media on Instagram and Facebook @bourbonbarrelsonora, and @armorysonora. They are located at 208 South Green Street in Sonora.