Brooks' wins top distinction for vinaigrette dressing

Vicky Klukkert | The Daily Star Zach Bender, left, holds the award the Brooks' Bottling Company received from the Association for Dressings & Sauces for the creation of Abby's Kitchen Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing that Ryan Brooks is holding, Friday, Oct. 22.

Brooks' Bottling Company was named the winner of the Dressing of the Year Award for its Abby's Kitchen Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette at the Association for Dressings & Sauces' Technical Meeting Oct. 10-12. 

"We won the James Beard Award in 2016 and we knew we could not put our guard down," said Ryan Brooks, owner of Brooks' Bottling Company, adjacent to Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q in Oneonta.

He said his expert mixologist Zach Bender came up with the dressing. 

"It took less than a week," Bender said about the development of the dressing. Bender said he has worked at the bottling plant since it opened in 2008.

Brooks said Bender knows how he wants a dressing or sauce they make to taste like before he starts putting the spices and liquids together. 

Abby’s Kitchen Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette is a creamy vinaigrette with sweet garlic paired with tangy balsamic, the release said.

The product was produced for a private label and is sold at 300 grocery outlets across the county, Brooks said. The dressing was named after Brooks' daughter Abby, a media release said.

"My kids love this dressing and kids don't normally like balsamic vinegar," Brooks said. 

Bender said the company has produced 350-400 varieties of dressings, sauces and rubs over the past 10 years, in addition to its own brand, Oneonta 51, that bottles Brooks' sauce, dressing and rubs. Brooks said the plant makes products for private label companies and co-packing, and has clients from across the U.S. and Canada and overseas.

"We can create a recipe for you, or we can use your own recipe for a private label," Brooks said. 

He said the bottling company has 60 employees and the company needs to expand. He said that while the COVID-19 pandemic harmed the restaurant, the bottling plant saw a growth spurt.

"People were going to grocery stores to buy our products," he said. "We had a challenging growth spurt. It was all hands on deck. The crew did amazingly."

He said they had to account for the safety of the crew and be in compliance with health department regulations while still producing products for customers and themselves.

He said the company has outgrown its current bottling plant and will soon build a larger facility near the current location. 

The Dressing of the Year award is presented by ADS to recognize and celebrate truly innovative and delicious products, the release said. Nominations for the award were received earlier in the year and a judging team from the ADS membership voted via blind taste tests, based on the dressing deemed to have the best overall taste, the release said.

Brooks said the company has been part of the association for several years.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.

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