When Zizzo Group Engagement Marketing unveiled its new home in a renovated 1866 building at 131 S. 1st St. in Walker’s Point Thursday morning, it marked the occasion with an unusual, but appropriate toast.
The marketing and public relations firm – founded by current CEO Anne Zizzo – poured from bottles of its own special boutique bourbon created by Central Standard Craft Distilling, which itself occupies a historic 1877 building not far away.
A bevy of local dignitaries – including Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Ald. José G. Pérez – was tapped for Thursday’s celebratory toast with Zizzo Group White House Club Prohibition Style Bourbon Whiskey.
After the toast the bourbon will be served to clients and guests in a signature cocktail on new rooftop terrace of the office.
The new Zizzo building, which is, in fact, two connected buildings built for liquor merchant and whiskey rectifier Emil Schneider, has been completely renovated inside and re-painted on the outside.
(Watch this space for a peek inside that 12,200-square-foot project – designed by Matt Rinka of RINKA+ – in the coming days. In the meantime you can read about the project and the history of the building in this Urban Spelunking story from February.)
“Since acquiring 131 S. 1st Street, I’ve become enlightened as to the special place this building has in Milwaukee’s history,” says Zizzo. “So many businesses, characters and stories – particularly around the colorful era of Prohibition when one of the buildings housed a speakeasy – and later, when it was a successful liquor wholesaling and whiskey rectifying business.
“When we decided to build out a rooftop terrace – we knew that we had to call on Jim (Kanter) and Central Standard to create a proprietary spirit to serve on it.”
One of Schneider’s brands was called White House Club and, as a name, that paired nicely with Central Standard’s Red Cabin bourbon. It’s also appropriate to the building’s new look, says Zizzo.
“When we decided to paint the building white, we knew we had to bring back a 2022 version of the White House Club.”
According to Kanter – who is Central Standard’s chief commercial officer – Zizzo’s White House Club has the same mash bill as Central Standard’s other bourbons. (Just don’t ask for specifics, as the distiller never discloses its grain bills.)
This one, however, comes from a single barrel.
“A single barrel stash we keep for special occasions, events, community leaders who want to make MIlwaukee better, just like us,” Kanter says. “We keep a few (barrels) set aside for special occasions just like this.”
Zizzo approached Central Standard late last year about the possibility of collaborating on a proprietary bourbon release to celebrate the opening of the new offices. Kanter was immediately interested.
“Obviously Anne and her team are well invested in the community and having purchased an old speakeasy, this was kind of a no brainer for us to work with them,” he adds.
“We always love working with local community partners to hopefully enhance their experience with their customers,” he says. “We do get approached often to do specialty spirits or twists on our spirits for people for special occasions, from custom labels to select bourbons.”
“We love returning back to people who want to build things and move MIlwaukee forward.”
And so, Zizzo and her team were invited over to the Clybourn Street distillery, where they sampled a number of barrels – Kanter declined to say how many – seeking one that they felt captured the spirit and taste of pre-Prohibition whiskeys and bourbons.
“As with any of our barrel programs, we bring the customer in to allow them to try the spirit out of the different barrels we have,” Kanter says. “Aging bourbon is an art and a science as the wood of each barrel and the temperature of where it is stored have an impact on the final taste of the bourbon.”
According to Kanter, they settled on one with a sweet nose and subtle oak and caramel on the palate. Like all Central Standard bourbons, this one was aged at least four years.
“The Zizzo Group staff had a blast creating the Zizzo Group White House Club Prohibition Style Bourbon Whiskey brand and label,” says Zizzo.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.