Summer Road Trip: Central Coast

Even after all our 2018 travel so far, Luke and I knew we wanted to get out of town for the 4th of July. We originally had grand plans to finally check Montana off our list, but when our friends who live in Paso Robles – a small wine region just inland from San Luis Obispo – invited us up to their vineyard, we couldn’t resist!

Our friends Rich & Tracy own a gorgeous vineyard property in Paso, Terra Mia, with rows and rows of grapes (most of which are sold to nearby wineries), three homes and a gorgeous wedding and event venue (complete with a fresh water swimming pond!). It’s a stunning landscape from every angle and always such a treat when they invite us to stay! Depending on who else is around (Rich & Tracy are the ULTIMATE hosts and entertainers. I can’t remember a time we’ve visited where there hasn’t been at least one other friend, relative or couple also bunking at the vineyard!), we either stay with them in their home, or, as we did this past trip, in their adorable vacation rental down by the pond. They were kind enough to keep it off the booking site for us for the week of the 4th and it was soooo nice to have the little sanctuary all to ourselves. If you’re headed to Paso and looking for accommodations, I can’t recommend it enough.

DAY 1 // We drove up late Tuesday night so we could get a good sleep and wake up in wine country on the 4th! We left San Diego around 6:30 pm and made it to Paso by 11:30 pm, so easy. The Central Coast region of CA has so much to offer and if you time your drive right, it’s really not that bad. After a rest we woke up bright and early to experience the famous 4th of July parade in nearby Templeton. Armed with a cooler full of Bloody Marys and a veryyyy patriotic ride, we were off!

IMG_4157{ no better way to show up to an Independence Day Parade than in the bed of a red vintage Chevy }

As the parade wound down we made our way to our friends’ favorite wine bar in Templeton, 15 C, for some bubbles. After a few celebratory (‘Merica!) bottles of 15 C’s finest sparkling wines, we headed back to Terra Mia to freshen up and get ready for the barbecue Rich & Tracy had planned down by the pond.

IMG_6713{ we’re the kids in America :) }

I made a point to put my phone away at this point in the day, so no more photos, but it was so nice to just relax under the Willow trees, sample some incredible magnums of Justin Rosé, go to town on Santa Maria tri-tip and ribs, and swim in the pond amongst the Koi fish and ducks! A perfect afternoon if you ask me.

Once most of the BBQ guests trickled home, a shower and a refresh was in order. Then we made our way to the Pub! Not an actual Pub, mind you, but the one Rich has built into his home up the hill! It’s something of an honor to drink in Richie’s pub, and it’s usually where nights at Terra Mia end up! After a second feast on leftover ribs and one too many bottles of red (and a round or two of Sunday Gin & Ts of course!), we were down for a much needed snooze. 4th of July: Success.

DAY 2 // You might think we’d take it easy the day after the 4th but nope. Not when you’re in Paso. We grabbed a quick bite at one of favorite downtown Paso spots, La Cosecha. Little empanadas for an app, soup and a salad were just what we needed after a big 4th. Comfortably full and feeling mostly back to life, we headed straight to our happy place: Adelaida Vineyards! Adelaida is hands down one of our favorite vineyards in Paso. Their tasting room and property is gorgeous, and all their wines are estate grown. We lounged on their patio and took our sweet time tasting through their current line up. Once bottles were purchased for home it was off to our next adventure.

IMG_7735{ the views from Adelaida never get old! }

After a tasting at Adelaida we headed down the road to a new-to-us winery, McPrice Myers. We’d met the winemaker, McPrice (yes, his first name!) at the BBQ the day before and wanted to try his wines. After another lovely tasting we headed back into town for lunch.

IMG_9904{ ‘gramming at McPrice Myers }

We grabbed a quick sandwich at Red Scooter Deli, as we had a few sales appointments to get to (a little, work, a little play!). After successful meetings at a few more of our favorite spots: Third Base Market & Spirits (one of the most incredible selections of any gas station liquor store I’ve ever seen!), The Hatch and the. coolest. speakeasy, Eleven Twenty-Two, it was back to what we do best, lol.

IMG_1104{ working v v hard // sales appointment at The Hatch! }

Work done and dusted, we met up with Tracy and friends at Treana for some live music, paella and more vino of course! Every Thursday evening, Treana hosts these “Thirsty Thursdays,” with a different musician and food truck set up in their beautiful courtyard. Such a fun atmosphere! Definitely check this place out if you happen to be in Paso on a Thursday.

IMG_0189{ charming outdoor space at Treana }

As if we hadn’t imbibed enough (hah) on this 5th of July, we headed back to the Pub for a few too many You & Yours‘ cocktails (we always joke that we drink Rich & Tracy out of all the bottles we bring them before we’ve even left!) and a verrrrrrrry late but very delicious pasta dinner (because Paella is really just an appetizer, right?).

IMG_9925{ Sunset over Terra Mia! }

DAY 3 // The morning of July 6th was no one’s friend… I’ll just say that. After forcing ourselves to eat breakfast and a subsequent snooze on the couch, we rallied and did the only appropriate thing to do in such a state: head to another winery! And I’m SO glad we did because we found a new favorite, Clos Solène. Be sure to book ahead as Clos Solène is appointment only, but so so worth it. The property is currently being brilliantly replanted by the owners (an adorable Frenchman from SERIOUS winemaker lineage and his wife, Solène) but the tasting room attendants are incredibly knowledgeable, not to mention the wines are delectable. So clean, elegant and well made, you could drink each one for days, especially the Viognier blend (my favorite white grape!).

IMG_2155{ hair of the dog: wine tasting at new fave Clos Solène }

Happily feeling the shampoo effect, we hit up one of our favorite areas in Paso, Tin City, a little micro-neighborhood of wineries, breweries and distilleries! BarrelHouse Brewing Co. is a favorite of ours and with the heat upwards of 100 degrees, not to mention a hangover for the books, a nice cold beer was just the ticket. Feeling a bit wine tasted-out, we headed back to Richie & Tracy’s for a casual, relaxing meal al fresco and a (somewhat) early night.

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{ cheeky kiwi waiting for the grill to heat up }

DAY 4 // Having most certainly overstayed our welcome at Terra Mia, lol, we made our way leisurely back down the coast, stopping for a final, romantic evening in our favorite place of all time: Santa Barbara!

About an hour and a half’s drive later, we pulled into one of our favorite hotels, The Belmond El Encanto. We booked through American Express travel and decided to wait an hour or so to get into an upgraded room, happy to spend the time enjoying lunch and a cocktail on their terrace, followed by a little pool time. After a series of unfortunate and out-of-character events for this hotel group, we were double upgraded to a fountain suite, lol. I’ll spare you the details, as I’d like to believe our experience was simply an off day for the property.

IMG_5245{ Au Bon Climat Chardonnay on the balcony before heading into town }

Wanting to soak up all the day light possible on our last full day of vacay, we showered, cleaned up and headed down to the harbour! After a good stroll along the boardwalk, cocktails were in order. We popped into a place I’ve been DYING to try ever since it opened, Loquita. Perhaps the most successful execution of a tapas bar I’ve ever experienced, we nibbled on croquetas and pan con tomate while sipping on gorgeous and deliciously crafted Spanish-style G&T’s.

IMG_9601{ the prettiest G&Ts at Loquita }

After our warm-up course, we made our way to the Funk Zone. Fun fact: we were thiiiissssssss close to signing a lease on a space for You & Yours in the Funk Zone originally! After a few unrelated things fell through, we reevaluated and decided to stay in San Diego. Having whiffed making a reservation, we put our name in at The Lark and killed time perusing the other shops and tasting rooms in the area. After a quick wine tasting (as if we hadn’t done enough of that already omg), it was time to sit down for dinner! The Lark is one of my favorite restaurants of all time and if you’re anywhere near Santa Barbara, it’s a must! We had some of our favorites: the Little Gem salad and the scallops; and some new things too: Sea Bass and the Texas Picnic (ham, bread, pickles + pimento cheese!) of course. Full & happy, we made our way back up to the Belmond for a good night’s sleep.

IMG_4722{ Stearn’s Wharf }

DAY 5 // Again, wanting to soak up every little bit of our time in SB, we grabbed an early breakfast at the hotel and made our way back to the harbour, taking a nice long stroll along Stearns Wharf (one of Luke’s favorite places in the world!), followed by a breakfast beer at Brophy’s because why not tack another one on. Originally having planned on walking along State Street for some shopping, the heat changed our course straight back to the pool! After a couple of hours (and lunch!) by the pool, it was time to pack up and head home.

IMG_0818{ one last Rosé :( }

For more of our favorite places to eat, stay and things to do in Santa Barbara, see my previous Santa Barbara recap!

Pink Peppercorn + Sparkling Rosé Martini

IMG_1896I first came up with this cocktail one evening (see my IG highlights under ‘Cocktails’) when I wanted to enjoy a nightcap with Luke but wasn’t in the mood for whiskey. Going off what I had around, plus a hankering for our recently released Winter Gin, the rosé martini was created! Although I didn’t have any Sparkling Rosé laying around at the time, it felt like the natural missing link when making this delectable combination of flavors feel more summer-appropriate.

If you know me, you know I loooooove me a sparkling rosé and Santa Margherita Sparkling Rosé is no exception. Long known for their quality, tradition and value, Santa Margherita wines are the perfect choice for mixing up a casual midweek cocktail (such as this), serving at a low key summer get together (see my most recent entertaining post!), or gifting your favorite hostess (isn’t the bottle beautiful?). But what I love most about this sparkling rosé are the delicate floral notes of jasmine and rose – they play so well with our similarly floral and subtly spicy Winter Gin.

IMG_2593Sparking Rosé Martini

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. You & Yours’ Sunday Winter Gin (our London Dry-style Gin)
  • .5 oz Lillet Rosé Aperitif
  • few cracks, pink peppercorns
  • 2 dashes, Peychaud’s bitters
  • Santa Margherita Sparkling Rosé, to top
  • lemon twist

Directions: Add first three ingredients, plus the lemon twist (express before dropping it in) to a mixing glass with ice and stir for at least 20 seconds. Strain into a martini glass or coupe and top with Santa Margherita Sparkling Rosé. Garnish with a crack or two of pink peppercorns. Recipe can be easily multiplied for batching the martinis – just stir in a larger pitcher.

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A Simple Summer Cocktail Party with Santa Margherita

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Those who know Luke & I, will tell you if there’s a get together at our place of any kind, there’s a good chance the festivities will kick off with a bottle of bubbles. While I do appreciate a good welcome cocktail moment, there’s just something about the elegance and simplicity (not to mention the celebratory vibes) of popping the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine when guests arrive. Plus, with summer finally here, it’s a safe bet we’re entertaining at least once a week, which calls for a welcome beverage we can get into friends’ hands with ease.

In addition to the serotonin-inducing effects of popping some bubbly, the effervescence of sparkling wine gets your palate excited for the meal to come and serves as the perfect foil to all my favorite appetizers, – a cheese board, homemade sausage rolls, spicy nuts, small fried bites or buttery little pastry cups with savory fillings – as it naturally cleanses the palate between those rich, irresistible bites.

IMG_2577Dry Sparkling Rosé is my favorite style of sparkling wine to serve in pretty much any setting – it’s what I served at my college graduation party and our engagement party! – so when Santa Margherita reached out about trying their brand new Sparkling Rosé, I jumped at the chance. At roughly $24 a bottle, it’s a great price point for a casual weeknight cocktail party or sweet hostess gift, and the bottle is just beautiful. But beyond all that, the wine is straight perfect for summer entertaining. Surprisingly full bodied with notes of jasmine and red berries, Santa Margherita Sparking Rosé is an ideal counterpart to grilled meats (did you know you can AND SHOULD enjoy sparkling wines with red meat?!) and seafood alike. Not to mention summertime just screams for pink wine, don’t you think? (Yes, yes you do.)

IMG_1686IMG_1772Back to my little summer cocktail party kick off: Like I mentioned above, the crisp Santa Margherita Sparkling perfectly complements my favorite category of cocktail party snacks – cheesy, savory, spicy morsels of delight, a.k.a. everything in this app spread! What I served, below:

  • Spicy Sambal-roasted cashews (somewhat adapted from this recipe, just swap the spices for a heaping table spoon of Sambal or your favorite Asian chili sauce)
  • Mini sausage rolls, topped with Everything Bagel seasoning! Not pictured, but I keep it fuss-free with my favorite store bought puff pastry and breakfast sausage, just adding a few spices and maybe a swipe of grainy mustard.
  • Simple cheese board – I kept it easy with my favorite aged cheddar and a triple cream.

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For a sweet treat, I kept the #millennialpink theme going with strawberry-laced chocolate chip cookies and assorted gummies. For the cookies, I added one package of freeze-dried strawberries (crushed up in the food processor) and dark chocolate chips to Sweet Laurel’s snickerdoodle recipe (sans outer cinnamon coating) and my grapefruit gummies from Sugarfina!

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For the drinks, simply keep the Rosé flowing, or be super impressive and make a batch of my Rosé Gin Martinis. And there you have it: the sweetest, simplest soiree to welcome summer!

IMG_2621Thank you to Santa Margherita for sponsoring this post!

Easy DIY Orgeat & My Favorite Army + Navy Recipe

View More: http://lindseymariephotography.pass.us/youandyours

Although I recently wrote a little essay on why I’m not a fan of tiki drinks, one Tiki-related ingredient I AM a fan of is orgeat (pronounced OR – jhhhaaat, or something to that effect). A nutty, almond-based syrup, orgeat is sweet and complex all at the same time, lending both balance and great depth of flavor.

One of the reasons I’m so drawn to orgeat recipes and cocktails containing them is there’s this certain romance that comes along with orgeat… You can bet almost every self respecting bar makes their own if they offer it, and as such, “house” orgeat recipes are handed from barkeep to barkeep under intense secrecy, if handed along at all.  The pride and seriousness that goes into creating a proprietary orgeat recipe makes them feel somewhat nostalgic as well, as if we were talking about a Mississippi gumbo recipe that my southern grandmother refuses to hand down until she’s on her death bed and not a cocktail syrup.

But what’s also lovely about orgeat is how simple it is to make! There are plenty of complicated recipes out there calling for soaking nuts and boiling barley and what not, but it’s really as basic as making a simple syrup, if you want a quick and painless version that is. In fact, it’s definitely up there with simple syrup on the list things you should never buy. Here’s my fool-proof starter recipe…

Easy Orgeat

  • 1 cup your favorite unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup super fine sugar
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water, rose water or both
  • spices of your choice, optional… this is where you can get as creative or as lazy as you want. I like to add some warming baking spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cardamom. Start with a 1/4 tsp at a time.

Combine all ingredients over low heat and VERY gently simmer until sugar is dissolved, 5 minutes or so. Adding one teaspoon or more of Angostura bitters is a popular move amongst bartenders, though this will make your orgeat darker, richer and considerably spicier. I prefer a lighter, more floral orgeat but that’s just me. Let cool to room temp, then strain through cheesecloth and store in the fridge for up to one week.

View More: http://lindseymariephotography.pass.us/youandyours

Perhaps the most famous classic cocktail to enlist orgeat is the Army & Navy. A simple gin cocktail, made anything but by the addition of nutty, intriguing orgeat.

Army + Navy

  • 2 oz Old Tom Gin (I like using richer, maltier Old Tom for this cocktail, though your favorite style of gin will certainly do the trick)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz orgeat
  • 3 dashes black walnut bitters
  • lemon twist, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 10-15 seconds. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass or straight into a coupe if you prefer your Army & Navy up. Garnish with a lemon twist. 

Photos by Lindsey.

Why I’m Just Not a Fan of Tiki.

_MGL8349{ Photo by Lindsey }

Well, here goes nothing! I’m sure I’m going to get a ton of side eye for this but the truth is…  I’m just not into Tiki. Like, at all. I’ve been to my fair share of tiki bars across the country, some incredible, some not so incredible. I’ve done my research on the history and origins. I’ve sipped numerous tiki drinks, some reasonably complex, some down right awful. And I have to say, I have a really hard time getting behind this trend. Trend? Fad? Culture? Lost Era? Cult? I don’t even know exactly what to call it. I’m sure it’s in some way all of those things, but for me, Tiki just doesn’t have the allure the general (bartender?) public seems to think it does.

Let’s first address the origins of Tiki so we’re all on the same page. Inspired by the Polynesian travels of one Donn Beach, a.k.a. Ernest Gantt, what would eventually morph into Tiki culture originated at Donn’s Hollywood establishment Don The Beachcomber circa December 1933. (As if I didn’t find Tiki frustrating enough, even this opening statement is not quite true. If you have an imagination, you can somewhat trace Tiki’s earliest origins back to pre-prohibition “bamboo bars,” where island kitsch and escapism were the name of the game).

Now I’m all for a good island-themed bar, an oasis that can transport you to a simpler, more relaxed vibe simply by walking through a palm frond-lined threshold. I think it’s important to note here (if you’re still reading this blasphemy) I’m not necessarily bashing the tropical, vaguely Hawaiian aesthetic. I mean, palm print accessories all day. It’s more the *braces for backlash* drinks I have a problem with…

As a Distiller, the backbone of any cocktail is the spirit it’s built upon. Cocktails should be created to highlight, enhance, punctuate, elevate, and SHOWCASE thoughtfully made spirits. Additional ingredients like syrups, cordials, fresh juices, citrus, modifiers, liqueurs, etc. are welcome and necessary of course but the spirit should always be treated with a certain dose of dignity and I just don’t see how Tiki does that. Even the simplest, most paired-down versions of ALL classic Tiki Canon cocktail recipes boast upwards of six ingredients. Once you layer beautiful high proof rums, gorgeously funky Rhum Agricoles and even gins and brandies with that many flavors, what are you really tasting? I feel myself making enemies as I type this, lol, but it’s kind of just a glorified jungle juice at that point, is it not? And even worse, as Tiki culture has ebbed and flowed over the years, it’s become less and less of a guarantee those ingredients are fresh (not to be a dick, but the jungle juice call is pretty accurate when you’re sipping a concoction of coco lopez, canned pineapple and/or blue curaçao, am I right?).

Additionally, I take slight issue with the recent explosion of tiki-themed “craft” cocktail bars or newly released Tiki-themed cocktail menus at formerly respectable cocktail establishments. We all know (or maybe we don’t) you’re just using the fleeting popularity of Tiki as an excuse to pad margins with your “proprietary,”  or “house” blends of extremely low cost rums. If I am going to enjoy a tiki drink, that rum better be good and it better come through loud and clear over those seven other ingredients your shaking it with. Side note: I’m also just now realizing that some of my indifference towards Tiki could be due to my extreme aversion to crushed ice. But I digress…

The escapism of Tiki, however, I can get behind. Who doesn’t want to walk into a bar and be immediately transported to a warm weather vacation? Just as dingy dive bars have their well-earned place in the world, so should a good island themed watering hole. And as with any bold, polarizing statement, there are always exceptions. I faintly remember having an exceptionally good time at Three Dots and A Dash on a girls trip to Chicago, getting down to the tropical house DJ between Rangoon Gimlets. This is all to say that all categories of drinks deserve respect, but at least now you know why you won’t find Tiki drinks on the menu at Y&Y anytime soon. 😉

What about you? What are your thoughts on Tiki? Love it? Hate it? If you’ve miraculously made it this far through the post, please leave me a comment below and let me know what you think of Tiki culture!

Podcast Episode: How Starting My Blog Led to Opening You & Yours Distilling Co.

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I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on my friend and fellow blogger, Nihan‘s podcast: The Secret Life of Bloggers. We chat all things You & Yours, Distillerista, and specifically how starting this blog (when I had ZERO idea how to break into the spirits industry) really helped clear a path to where I am today.

Listen to the episode here! Episode 11: Creating An Instagrammable Business, and be sure to follow Nihan over here!

Sealed With An X

CUPCAKES-CASHMERE-YOU-YOURS-DRINK { gorgeous iridescent coupes accented our cocktail perfectly! photo cred }

One of the most exciting opportunities we’ve had this year was to create and serve a specialty cocktail at Cupcakes + Cashmere‘s Ten Year Anniversary Party! As a longtime Cupcakes + Cashmere reader, it was such a treat and honor to be involved in the milestone celebration. I started reading Emily’s blog when I was a freshman in college after immediately being drawn to her easy breezy entertaining ideas, approachable style, and love for great food & cocktails. When they reached out about providing a cocktail for the evening, I jumped at the chance!

As a long time reader, I knew the founder of Cupcakes + Cashmere, Emily Schuman, was both a gin and a martini fan, so we started there. The C+C team had featured our Sunday Gin in a previous post so we tapped our flagship gin for the job. From there, I wanted to stay as on brand for the blog as possible (soft pinks, floral elements, feminine style) so we did a bit of a riff on a martini-style cocktail while incorporating some additional elements (rose petal tea cordial for flavor and color), lemon oil (to balance the sweetness of the rose yet still remain a stirred and direct cocktail), Peychaud’s Bitters (for color and depth) and festive floral garnishes. See the full cocktail recipe below!

CUPCAKES { Y&Y Tasting Room Manager, April, who helped develop the recipe!photo cred }

CUPCAKES-CASHMERE-EMILY-COCKTAIL { C+C Blogger, Emily, and a friend enjoying their first drinks :) photo cred }

Sealed with an X

Stir with ice in a mixing glass & ​s​train into a coupe-style glass. Garnish: micro flowers floated on top

Lemon Oleo*
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Peel lemons and combine peel and sugar in a container with a tight fitting lid. Let rest 4+ hours or overnight. Occasionally shake container. Drain off lemon oil and keep in a sealed container.
Rose Petal Cordial**
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 24g Rose Petal Tea
Bring water to a boil, add sugar. After sugar dissolves, add tea and turn off heat. Let sit for 15 minutes, occasionally stir and finely strain. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

A Day in the Life of a Distillery Owner

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A sample day in a life of a distillery owner! If you’re not already familiar, in addition to writing this blog, I own and operate California’s first urban destination distillery, You & Yours Distilling Co., in San Diego. 

I wrote down everything I did on a random Monday to give you a peek into what a typical day is like… since I know you’re just dying to know. 😉 Although I’m sure no one cares about the contents of this post apart from perhaps my mom, I always love reading posts like this from bloggers I love, so I thought I’d do one too!

7 am On Mondays I try to kick start the week off right so I have fewer excuses to make bad decisions later in the week… the first thing I do to set the tone for the week is work out with my trainer every Monday morning at 7:15 am. We meet at the gym in my building, which is pretty convenient, i.e. minimizing the potential for excuses not to fit it in. It’s not always fun waking up early right after the weekend but I always feel better for it and thanks to Kim, have a ton of fun getting in some exercise!

8:30 am Once I’m back at home, I dive into my morning routine, which you can read more about here but the gist is this: make & eat breakfast (usually a scramble of some sort) then have a coffee while I schedule out my day into segmented blocks of time for meetings, emails and calls. If I’m not working out in the morning, I do this right when I wake up. Then it’s straight into emails before I shower and get ready for the day.

10 am I head to the distillery for our weekly 10 am Production Meeting. My distillery manager and I go over project updates, any logistical issues or pending needs and today we happen to be doing a bit of R&D for Old Tom Gin! I taste 6 un-proofed versions of our new gin, each based on a recipe I put together. Based on my notes from these 6 recipes, I create two more, narrowing it down to my target of between 6-8 botanicals.

11 am After my production meeting, I meet our Tasting Room Manager and Events Manager for our weekly catch up. We go over the previous week’s numbers and events, and discuss the upcoming week’s events, as well as any upcoming partnerships, speaking engagements or other special off-site events You & Yours has committed to having a presence at.

12 pm After we’ve gone over upcoming events, I have my weekly call with our PR firm. I like to schedule it directly after the Events meeting, so any outreach or social media needs are fresh in my mind. Our PR team handles all media and influencer outreach, as well as all of our social media.

1 pm I typically try to squeeze in lunch while I’m on the PR call… If I’m on top of it, I’ll pack some leftovers, and if not, I’ll PostMates something healthy like Tender Greens to scarf after I get off the phone. My go-to is their salmon plate with butter lettuce salad and veggies.

2 pm Every other Monday, I have a call with our CPA, who provides CFO-like services. We go over the previous month’s financials, payroll, etc. and chat about any adjustments that need to be made. If I don’t have this call, I usually take a mental break and scroll through Instagram, read my favorite blogs or watch a couple of Youtube videos.

3 pm Quick walk to get some fresh air and meet my partner, Luke for coffee. It’s important that Luke and I stay on the page with everything we have going on… We both tend to run a mile a minute and as such, feel that stopping mid-momentum to update the other on random shit is counter-productive, so we commit to one meeting a week where we talk through all of our current projects and goals for the year. It’s basically a big picture meeting where we lay out and cross off action steps for the week ahead. Quite often our Sales Manager will join us too to recap the previous week’s distribution sales and progress.

4:30ish I like to go grocery shopping on Mondays instead of Sundays… Sundays are my favorite day of the week and since we’re so non-stop during the work week, I like to soak up every last minute of the weekend doing whatever it is we feel like, not fitting in errands. It’s also a nice treat to save for a Monday, seeing as I loooooove grocery shopping! When I get home I put the groceries away, which oddly I also love doing, then take a few minutes to catch up on emails since I basically spent the whole day in meetings or on calls.

6:30 pm Luke gets home around this time and we catch up on anything that materialized since we left the coffee shop, then pop down to the the Jacuzzi in our building for a bit to relax before we cook dinner and settle in for a movie or a couple episodes.

10 – 10:30 pm… I don’t have much of a nighttime routine, although I know I need/would probably benefit from one. Since the day was so jam-packed, I’m pretty exhausted by this time and fall asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow.

Side note: I like to schedule my Mondays like this because I then start the week off feeling ULTRA productive, which in turn, sets the tone for the days ahead. Although it’s A LOT to fit in, I feel so much more confident rolling into the days following, knowing that I’ve laid the foundation for a productive and progress-making week.

…It also allows me to keep a practice I’m obsessed with – never scheduling ANYTHING on Wednesdays. Hump day is my day to catch up on whatever I want: running personal errands, work on blog posts, do random shit around the house, or anything else I WANT to do. It’s my day to relax and be creative and in turn,  almooooost feels like a mini-weekend in itself. It’s been a game changer for me.

What about you? How do you schedule your workdays and weeks? I’d love to know any tricks or best practices you swear by!

How We Make Our Flagship Spirits

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I often get asked about our flagship spirits, specifically the fact that they’re grape-based. “Isn’t that technically Grappa, then?” Nope. While I’d highly suggest stopping in for a full distillery tour, the information below is a somewhat abridged version of what I call “Act Three,” of our typical tour program. 

To make our flagship Y&Y Vodka and Sunday Gin, we start with a 172 proof 100% grape-based neutral spirit, i.e. fermented grape “wine” that has been distilled to 190 proof. Side note: Grappa is typically going to be distilled to a lower proof, therefore maintaining more grape flavor and heat, and proofed down very little, if at all. The grape-based neutral spirit makes it’s way to us in 500 gallon totes from a production facility in in Central California, purchased and shipped via a third party wholesaler, UltraPure.

There are a handful reasons we start with grape neutral spirit (more easily referred to as GNS) for these two core spirits…

  1. Vodka and Gin must both be distilled from neutral spirits… Vodka is typically – err, should be – a simple mixture of high proof distillate (another name for GNS) and enough water to achieve the desired alcohol content for bottling. Gin is simply high proof distillate that’s undergone a flavoring process (most commonly a gin basket distillation) and enough water to achieve the desired alcohol content, essentially making Gin a – wait for it! – juniper-flavored vodka. Yep, Gin is really just the OG flavored vodka! Although, if we’re getting picky here, Gin pre-dates Vodka in the history of spirit-making but I digress…
  2. The large production facility where the GNS is made is far more efficient at making GNS than we at You & Yours ever will be. And that’s just a fact. We don’t want to be a factory distillery, which means we’ll never want or need to invest in the type of high volume, continuous distilling equipment or large scale production warehouses that they have. Because of this, they have far larger economies of scale and therefore, increased efficiency when it comes to yield and production than we ever hope to boast. These facts allow them to produce GNS cheaper more efficiently and cheaper than we ever will. Which leads me to #3…
  3. It’s soooooooooo much cheaper than trying to make it ourselves. In effort to extend a reasonable price tag to the consumer, purchasing ready-made GNS is a huge help. The time (labor costs) and resources (raw material costs) it would take me to make the same volume of GNS in house would cost me minimum 2-3 weeks in my production schedule more than TEN times what I pay for it.
  4. These two products are un-aged, meaning they do not spend any time in oak or other barrels before bottling. Therefore, I’m not particularly interested in putting any type of proprietary spin or character mark on the GNS itself. When it comes to vodka, I put my mark on the spirit in a couple of other ways, which we’ll talk about later, and for Gin, the personal touches I’m concerned with come with the gin basket distillation and botanical recipe.
  5. I’m not trying to make headlines for how good I am at making GNS. I want to be known for our gins, specifically, my ability to create flavor profiles and complexity within a spirit using ingredients and various distillation methods. I’m not trying to win any awards for the GNS itself. Not to mention, when 99% of the gin distillers I love and respect are using purchased GNS for their base, I don’t really feel a need to reinvent the wheel.

THIS IS ALL TO SAY, if I do decide in the future to produce a premium or higher-end vodka, a vodka that aims to showcase terroir or a vodka that aims to showcase a single varietal grape distillate, I would then absolutely invest in distilling my own GNS. The same goes for our Old Tom Gin. We recently milled and mashed two batches of 100% two-row malted barley, open-top fermented in house to encourage proprietary yeast, bacteria and funk, then stripped, distilled and now have them snoozing in two used red wine barrels. When it came to our Old Tom, which gets a little hibernation period in oak and relies on the delicious, malty character of it’s base, it was super important for me to start from grain.

Wheeew. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the distillation process shall we!?

VODKA… pretty simple. We take our 172% Grape GNS, put it in our still and run it through our ten-inch, eight-plate column at a happy medium rate. Not too slow, not too fast. We get rid of the little bit of heads that remain (alcohols or congeners that come off before ethanol), collect the hearts and then – here’s where I start to make some proprietary decisions as distiller – make a pretty late tails cut. This means I wait until we collect roughly 5 – 10 % of the tails (alcohols or congeners that come off after ethanol) before I finish collecting what I’m going to eventually bottle.

The reason I keep a bit of the tails in the allotment for bottling, is that the early tails on this grape GNS have a lovely, creamy vanilla note that has become the hallmark of our Y&Y vodka. This creaminess and luxurious texture add to the spirit’s overall drinkability and perceived quality.

We then run the tails off until they get to about ~40 % and store them separately for a few reasons…

  1. Just incase the batch ends up needing a bit more tails after proofing/sitting, before bottling, to maintain consistency with previous batches.
  2. To add to the next vodka run for consistency in flavor.
  3. To save money! Tails still contain a fair amount of alcohol and ABV = $$.

GIN… same. exact. process. EXCEPT for two differences:

  1. I make an early tails cut so I have a base of straight neutral hearts (I don’t want those creamy, heavier vanilla flavors competing with the botanicals).
  2. The hearts make their way through a gin basket packed with botanicals before re-condensing and being collected. When we’re making gin, we layer our gin basket (a cylindrical perforated-metal tea bag of sorts) first with a thin later cheese cloth, then with our dry botanicals (for Sunday, that’s gently cracked juniper, ground coriander seed and dried rose hips), then fresh botanicals (grapefruit peel, orange peel and mint) then more of the dry (as we want to protect the fresh ingredients as much as possible so they don’t “cook” too quickly). We run the GNS very slowly so as to maximize the flavor extraction from every single little bit of botanicals! Gotta get your money’s worth when working expensive ingredients, but we also want to maximize flavor so we get the very best out of every run.

After that, both spirits will sit in their stainless steel collection tanks, un-proofed, for at least a day or two to settle and off-gas (release any ill-tasting gasses they may be holding on to), before being proofed (reverse osmosis water is added to bring the high proof spirit down the the desired alcohol content for bottling and sale, both of which are a standard 40% or 80 proof). Once a batch is proofed, we’ll let that sit for another day or so to marry and settle again. After that it’s into the bottle! We don’t filter any of our spirits beyond a simple coffee filter-like mesh strainer situation just to make sure no solids, dust or distillery dog hair make it into the final product.

After getting their respective labels and neck tags, they get a quick visual check to make sure everything’s gone on correctly, packed up in cases and either head to the bar for front of house bottle sales or off to our distributor for account delivery! 

My Three Best Career Decisions of 2017

2017 was a big year. We finally opened the business and I proceeded to get a crash course in running a small business, ready or not! What ensued was sheer joy and a looooot of learning experiences. Speaking of, below are the three most impactful career-minded decisions I made last year…

1. Working with a Business Coach… I’d met with a business coach a couple of times during a particularly rough patch of the Y&Y build out, not having had a particularly wonderful experience. And although I knew they could be game changing for business owners, I never pursued one again after that early less-than-stellar experience. It wasn’t until I attended a small meet up of like-minded business owners and met Megan that I opened up to the idea again. I immediately felt a connection with Megan, an ease. I felt instantly, almost too-good-to-be-true, comfortable with her. I decided to do a free consult session to talk about what types of things I wanted to work on and was hooked right away. I’ve just finished my first six-month stint with her and cannot say enough good things.

My main reason for wanting to work with her was, on a high level, wanting to be the best possible boss/leader/manager/business owner I could be. I know in every fiber of my being that I know what’s best for the direction of You & Yours …but all the other stuff that comes along with running a customer-facing business, I’m still learning. Managing a team of eight employees, all of which are older than you, several of which have far more industry experience than you, is hyperrrrrrr intimidating and challenging. At the time Megan and I met, this is what I was struggling with the most, and now, six months later, I feel so much more confident and capable in managing and leading my team.

I also found it incredibly beneficial just to have someone to vent to. Now most of us probably vent about work to our spouse or roommate or significant other, but when all three of those people happen to be your business partner too, it doesn’t always work out so well! #Lollll. And on a related note, I don’t always want to go to my partner with every little thing that’s bothering me. He runs his own business too, on top of being involved with me on Y&Y, and taking his time away from those two things to bitch about some random annoyance just doesn’t always feel right. SO, spoiler alert, I found myself occasionally venting to or unloading on the wrong people… namely my employees, and that’s just never a good idea.

Working with Megan allowed to funnel all of those annoyances, all of those fears and struggles and random little chips on my shoulder into one neutral, safe space where not only was I being heard, but actively coached on how to deal with them AND recognize them next time so they don’t keep being a thing. This, my friends, is HUGE. Imagine zero workplace drama, silky smooth employee-manager-boss relationships, and a massive uptick in energy and motivation. That is what working with Megan has created for me and I guarantee you can also have all those things too! And if you need help getting there, I suggest you give her a call!

2. Hiring an Admin… There was a time last year when I was spending, no joke, 60-70% of my time fielding event and partnership inquires. What felt like ALL of my free time was spent on correspondence/logistical back and forth with clients, event planners and potential brands or organizations that wanted to partner up. While I’m incredibly grateful for every email and inquiry that comes our way, managing this side of the business was not and is not my strong suit. I was doing work that I was not really that qualified to do, nor was I particularly passionate about. Working with a business coach helped me realize that if I found the right person to take over this area of our business, I would be free to direct my time towards A. work that is more productive given my strengths, and B. work that actually lit me up instead of drained me.

The main thing that kept me from hiring an administrative role (besides our payroll budget) was the fact that it it felt too self-important. I felt guilty for wanting to pass off these (what felt to me like the. most. soul-crushing) tasks and not just putting in the work myself. Not to sound like a broken record here, but Megan (see decision #1) helped me nip that dumb thought train in the bud real quick. 

Not only did I end up hiring an ‘Events & Admin Manager’, but I hit the actual jackpot with who filled the position. She’s a rock solid, organized gem of an event planner who just so happens to live close to the distillery AND has a very fitting design and marketing background. Does is get any better?! And since adding her to our team, I feel like the freakin’ Queen of strategic delegating. I’m almost too good at it now, seriously. Not only am I free to work on what I want to work on, but the other stuff is getting executed to a WHOLE other level I would have never been able to provide myself. Game. Changer. 

3. Working with a Stylist… This might sound a bit over the top but hands down one of the best career-minded decisions I made last year was working with a stylist, specifically local wardrobe stylist Conni Jespersen.

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{ Conni, helping me pick out an outfit for an upcoming panel! }

A while ago, before I fell in love with distilling, there was a time where I thought a career in fashion might be fun! I’ve always loved to sew and modify patterns and even took a special career-focussed track in high school to study fashion design and merchandising. This is all to say that I looooove getting dressed. I LOVE putting looks together, styling things and perhaps most of all – dressing my friends. Ask anyone who knew me in high school – half my closet was perpetually “out on loan” amongst my besties. Putting the perfect outfit together for an outing or celebration makes me giddy. But once I started the business, time to leisurely put looks together and get dressed at my own pace were things of the past.

Along with this sharp degradation of my free time came a rapid uptick in mandated professional “appearances,” let’s call them. Important meetings where I needed to impress, speaking engagements, photoshoots, on-camera interviews, sales appointments, meeting with other industry professionals, attending industry functions, and so on and so forth. Where my closet used to only have two jobs: “probably working from my dining room table” and “date night,” my wardrobe as a whole now had seemingly endless functions it needed to satisfy.

After attending a few of these aforementioned work things feeling less than dressed-to-impress, I decided to bite the bullet and reach out to Conni. I’d met Connie through my old boss, Cecelia (owner and proprietress of my favorite SD shopping spot – Vocabulary Boutique!) and had been following her journey on Instagram for years. What ensued was such. a. cool. experience.

First we went through my ENTIRE closet and got rid of anything that didn’t fit, flatter, make me happy to wear, or appear to be in good condition. Through that process, we identified pieces or staples I lacked, pieces I wanted to replace with higher quality or updated versions, and pieces I may not naturally gravitate towards but could probably benefit from having.

Then Conni started doing what – in my opinion – Conni does best… STYLING STUFF I ALREADY HAD IN NEW, TOTALLY F-ING COOL WAYS I WOULD NEVER THINK OF BUT STILL FELT LIKE ME! Seriously, it was like I threw out half my stuff but suddenly had an entirely new wardrobe. WTF. MAGIC! Then she’d photograph those looks and put them in a BINDER for me to reference later! I’m blissfully unaware of the severe airplane turbulence I’m experiencing right now drafting this post just thinking about that blessed binder.

But perhaps my favorite perk of all you get with working with Conni was – speaking of airplanes – her help PACKING FOR TRIPS!. Y’all. I legit went to New Zealand for 9 days with nothing but a f’ing CARRY ON thanks to her. She also put together every single look I wore on the vacation I ended up getting engaged on and for that I will always be especially grateful, lol. Packing is now so soooo easy and best of all, I NEVER overpack. It’s such an underrated game changer for someone like me who looooooves to travel, often plans trips last minute, and wants to look put together no matter what, whether the trip be mostly work or mostly play.

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{ ^^ another perk: Conni helping Luke & I coordinate our engagement shoot looks! }

Phewww! Now that this post is officially a mile long, what about you!? What are the best career decisions you’ve made in the last year? I’d love to know!