Football Brunch | Entertaining With Craft Spirits

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For a die-hard Cowboys fan living in California, it’s really fun that several of the season’s games fall at 10:30 am here due to the time change. It gives me something to look forward to first thing in the morning (Mimosas! Cowboys!) and more importantly, is a perfect excuse to invite friends over for a boozy brunch! Here are some (amateur) iPhone snaps from a recent brunch Luke and I threw to kick off the season! Scroll down for how we put it all together.

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First thing’s first… I greeted friends with spiked almond milk lattes. Espresso, frothed almond milk, a little coconut sugar and some Leopold Bros. French Press Style Coffee Liqueur to taste.

After some unfortunate McGiver-ing with the whole NFL Redzone/Chromecast/Apple TV/Why-the-F-did-we-cancel-cable/streaming situation, we finally got the games on and moved on to some much deserved hard stuff… And by hard stuff I mean Ballast Point Bloody Marys with Hangar One Chipotle Vodka and my juicy Gin Punch, packed with tons of fresh citrus juice and some KROBĀR Gin I picked up last weekend in Paso Robles!

Football-Brunch-Distillerista-Craft-CocktailsUnfortunately Hangar One no longer produces the roasted chipotle flavor so I would substitute with St. George Green Chile Vodka }

For the food I went a little over board, I’ll admit. But brunch is my favorite and football is my favorite so whatever, I didn’t hear anyone complaining.

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I started out with a little platter of smoked salmon, super thinly shaved deli ham, red onion, cucumber and some cream cheese I softened and then mixed with fresh dill, chives and parsley. Add some toasted everything bagels and boom. Done.

Next I did two types of quiche. I loooooove quiche and we have vegetarian friends so I knew I wanted to make two versions. I made this Chicken Tortilla version from the Kitchy Kitchen (anyone else obsessed with her?) and a Mushroom Leek version. Both were amazing but I think the Mushroom Leek took the cake.

Speaking of cake, I made Blueberry Lavender muffins from my favorite paleo baking cookbook, Every Last Crumb, by Brittany Angell. I take her recipe for strawberry cream cheese muffins (page 134) and swap out freeze-dried blueberries for the strawberries, leave out the cream cheese filling and add a teaspoon of crushed dried culinary lavender for a fun twist. Thanks to Caroline for inspiring my love of Paleo baking!

Next up was the healthy addition to our spread. We chopped up one fresh pineapple, half a small watermelon and two mangos. Then we tossed them cocos frescos style with lime juice and Tajin! I’m never making fruit salad any other way again! Inspired by this

You can’t have a Sunday brunch without bacon and oh my god, we did it right. I preheated my oven to 450 degrees F and placed as many slices of bacon I could fit on a parchment lined baking sheet. I let them cook until our desired crispiness, brushing them halfway through – and then again when I took them out – with a mixture of equal parts pure grade B maple syrup and dijon mustard. Side note: I would up the mustard-to-maple syrup ratio next time, as I didn’t get that tangy dijon flavor as strongly as I’d hoped. 

Lastly, another Kitchy Kitchen dish: Roasted Tomato Tart with Paleo Cauliflower Crust. The execution of the crust was a bit touch-and-go, as paleo baking can often be, but the flavors were on point. One perk was that the recipe for the Pisto that goes on top of the crust before baking a second time made way too much and was subsequently amazing over a seared piece of fish last night!

Sadly not pictured is the incredible pumpkin stuffed pretzel french toast my friend Nusha made and brought! She totally outdid herself, this pretzel pumpkin magic was so so decadent and served as the perfect accompaniment to the otherwise savory spread we prepared.

As for decor I kept it simple: fresh flowers, Lilly Pulitzer for Target carafes & ice bucket, disposable “football” plates, napkins (Cowboys blue, obviously), cute little bamboo cutlery and chevron paper straws, duh!

That’s all, folks! I hope this inspires you to throw a football brunch of your own this season. Oh, and go Cowboys!

P.S. Here’s the cute e-vite we sent out a week or two before –>

Sunday Brunch Invite Distillerista

Five Favorites: Barrel Rested Gin

 

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I love dark liquor – especially rye and wheated bourbons and whiskies – but as you could probably guess from recent posts (here, here, and here), gin is my usual adult beverage of choice. The rise of craft distillers giving their gin some time in the barrel is the best of both worlds for me. I get those botanical juniper and spice notes that I’ve grown to love, plus a little bit of that sweet, smoky complexity I look for in an aged whiskey or tequila añejo.

Aged gin may seem like a weird concept but whether you’re a bourbon or a gin guy (or gal), this aged gin trend is something you can get behind. The majority of these barrel rested gins tend to be aged for a short amount of time, 3-6 months at the most, so the dark caramel, vanilla-y characteristics are subtle, yet do some really interesting things to those botanical flavors. If you haven’t already, give this craft distilling trend a try in your next G&T, martini or manhattan. These complex, oaky twists on the old London Dry are just the ticket for the upcoming cooler temps. Here are five of my favorites plus a few honorable mentions…

1. Barrel Gin | Spirit Works Distillery | Sebastapol, CA

The husband and wife team behind Spirit Works make delicious vodka, gins and whiskies in the heart of California winemaking country. Also in their lineup is a rare authentic sloe gin. Both their sloe and barrel aged gins are great in any cocktail in which you would use a traditional gin.

2. Barrel Aged Gin | Corsair Distillery | Nashville, TN & Bowling Green, KY

Corsair distillers are, like, the unofficial kings of experimental spirits. Their barrel gin is no joke with deep smoky notes and all the warm fuzzy feelings. Corsair experimental batches are elusive though so keep an eye out! They go fast.

3. Old Tom Gin | Ransom Spirits | Sheridan, OR

Ransom Spirits’ Old Tom gin has to be one of my favorite expressions of this aged gin trend. Old Tom-style gin, the original pre-prohibition gin for mixing cocktails, starts with a malted barley mash. This gives the gin a super sweet, grainy nose that I just love and insane complexity. A handful of months in  the barrel finishes this gorgeous spirit off perfectly. Try on the rocks with an orange peel.

4. Barrel Gin | Few Spirits | Evanston, IL

Few Spirits are pumping out some wonderful craft liquor and this barrel gin tops the list for me. This gin has so much complex spice and gourmet vanilla-type sweetness it could easily be mistaken for a genever. Try in your next classic martini.

5. Dry Rye Reposado Gin | St. George Spirits | Alameda, CA

St. George is the OG American craft distillery so you can pretty much bet your life on the fact that anything they release is going to be amazing. Their Dry Rye Reposado gin is no exception. A staggering twelve months in barrel makes this ideal for an Old Fashioned.

Also wonderful… Single Barrel Gin from Krobar Craft Distilling in Paso Robles, CA and Distillery 209’s Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Reserve Gins.

Have you tried an aged gin? What did you think?! Let me know in the comments below.

Also: A Beginner’s Guide to Western Gin

Indian Summer Cocktail + Shake Book Review

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You guys have seen The Mason Shaker, right? That Mason Jar – Cocktail Shaker hybrid every hipster and their mother seem to be using to craft delicious seasonal cocktail these days? Well, I’m a huge fan. The Mason Shaker is a huge improvement over my boring, seems-to-always-get-stuck basic silver shaker and is an aesthetically pleasing addition to my home bar. I was thrilled when I saw the designers and cocktail aficionados behind The Mason Shaker, Eric Prum and Josh Williams, were releasing a cocktail recipe book to accompany their wildly successful shaker, Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails. Much like the drinks you enjoy at your favorite neighborhood craft cocktail bar, the recipes in this book are broken up by season to reflect available produce and other seasonally appropriate liquors and liqueurs. I love that I can flip to a specific season and easily choose a drink, simultaneously skimming through recipes and cross referencing what I have in the fridge/bar. Southern California shows no signs of letting fall weather creep in so I thought this fall-inspired cocktail, aptly named The Indian Summer, was just the ticket for a particularly hot and sticky day.

Indian-Summer-Grape-Cocktail

The Indian Summer (adapted from Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails by Eric Prum & Josh Williams)

Makes two drinks.

Ingredients:

  • 3 shots gin
  • 1 shot St. Germain
  • 1 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 8 fresh Concord grapes (plus 2 to garnish; or in my case, a mini-cluster!)

Indian-Summer-Grapes-Distillerista

Directions:

  1. Muddle 8 grapes in the bottom of your Mason Shaker until thoroughly crushed
  2. Add gin, St. Germain, lemon juice and ice to the shaker and shake vigorously for 15 seconds
  3. Strain into chilled coupes and garnish with remaining 2 grapes

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 { P.S. Great minds think alike! }

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{ All Photos: Megan Burgess of Shortography }

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Also a huge fan of Josh & Eric’s new design project (in collaboration with Punch, an online mag I’m obsessed with), the Carry on Cocktail Kit! Now available in Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule and Gin & Tonic.

Late Summer Sangria

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I love the concept of Sangria. Use up some leftover or not-so-good wine, add some fruit, maybe drizzle in some liqueur if you really want to spice things up and boom! – a batched drink for a crowd that’s easy and cheap as hell. (Hello0o00 Labor Day weekend!) I used a combination of red wine, cranberry juice and citrus for this casual get together at a friend‘s new backyard, but feel free to mix up your wine-and-fruit pairing to suit both your tastes and seasonal produce availability.

Sangria-Recipe-Distillerista-Cocktail

(Recipe somewhat adapted from the infusion & cocktail recipe book, Infused. See my review and a sneak-peek here.)

Ingredients:

  • one 1.5L or two 750 mL bottles red wine. I used Barefoot Pinot Noir.
  • one 1L bottle good quality, no-sugar-added cranberry juice. I like Trader Joe’s brand.
  • 1 cup orange liqueur. I’m a big fan of Leopold Brothers’ American Orange Liqueur. It’s not too sweet and gives a great kick of true orange flavor but Cointreau or Grand Marnier would of course do the trick as well.
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 1 grapefruit, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bottle sparkling water, optional

Directions:

  1.  Combine wine, juice, fruit and liqueur in a large pitcher or drink dispenser
  2.  Stir gently and let sit in the fridge for 2 hours or up to overnight
  3. Add sparkling water, if desired, right before serving

Craft-Cocktail-Sangria-Recipe-Distillerista{ BB&B Mason Jars (similar) & Drink Dispenser }

Extras:

  • If left sitting over night, I would recommend replacing soaked fruit with fresh for aesthetic purposes. Plus, the best part of drinking Sangria is eating the fruit and let’s be honest, no one wants a mushy slice of apple!
  • On the (exceptionally) rare occasion I actually have left over wine, I like to freeze it in ice cube trays and use it in place of ice when serving to guests. This prevents watered-down sangria and helps keep the drink colder longer. Win-win!

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P.S. A few other Sangria combinations I’m into for late summer or fall gatherings…

  • Pinot Grigio + Peaches + Basil
  • Rosé + Melon + Mint
  • Grenache + Red Berries + Concord Grapes

What’s your favorite Sangria recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks to Megan Burgess for both the photos and your gorgeous new outdoor entertaining space!

Simple Gin Punch

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It’s no secret we’re partial to the original flavored Vodka – a.k.a. Gin – here at Distillerista, so it should also come as no surprise that it’s one of my favorite spirits to create drink recipes with. When strolling through the Farmer’s Market a few months ago, deciding what to bring to a friend’s house for the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight that night (side note: I know I need to get over it, but what a waste of a perfectly good Saturday night), I picked up some citrus, trusted my old faithful spirit and came up with the idea for this delicious, honey-spiked juicy Gin punch. It has since become a summer entertaining favorite (even the guys loved it!) and I can’t help but think how perfect it’d be to sip poolside at flash Vegas day party. I’m betting (pun fully intended) Floyd and Manny wouldn’t have minded a cool glass of this post-fight. However Mayweather apparently only likes honey in tea, sooooo maybe not.

Juicy-gin-Punch-Recipe-Distillerista{ Target drink dispenser with spigot | Similar here }

Makes roughly 10-12 cocktails.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups citrusy Western-style Gin (I like Tanqueray No. 10 or a Homemade Infused Gin)
  • 4 Cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 Cups fresh lemonade
  • 1-2 Cups honey simple syrup (recipe to follow), depending on desired sweetness
  • 1 bottle sparkling water
  • Several lemon, lime and/or grapefruit wheels for garnish (1 of each should do it)

Directions:

  1. Make the honey simple syrup: combine 2 cups each, water and raw local honey, in a sauce pan over medium heat and simmer until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool completely.
  2. In a large drink dispenser or punch bowl carefully combine Gin, grapefruit juice and honey syrup. Stir gently and store in fridge if making ahead.
  3. Slice citrus into wheels and store in fridge if making ahead
  4. 10 minutes before guests arrive – or when you get to the party – add lots of ice, the sparkling water and float citrus wheels on top.
  5. Pour over fresh ice. Enjoy!

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{ Crate & Barrel Bar Tool Set }

Extras:

  • Freeze citrus wheels with water or juice in a muffin pan for pretty – and effective! – ice cubes
  • Sub fresh orange juice and sparkling wine for the grapefruit and sparkling water and you’ve got a brunch-perfect riff on a classic Mimosa!
  • Steep 1 tbsp of culinary lavender in the simple syrup for 10 minutes for a fun floral twist.

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Big-Batch-gin-Punch-Distillerista

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Thank you, once again, to Megan of Shortography for the shoot location and photos! How throwback-chic is her new kitchen?!

Guide to Drinking (& Eating) in Santa Barbara, CA Vol. 1

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Drink:

  • First thing’s first… The Lark | Stellar craft cocktail program that is not to be missed. If you can, you should definitely enjoy a full meal here but if a full sit-down dinner isn’t the cards, grab a drink and some of their orange zest & rosemary popcorn at the bar!
  • For a near perfect pre-prohibition/speakeasy-style cocktail experience… The Good Lion | Decor, atmosphere, location, authenticity, aaaaand amazing drinks?! This State St. establishment is a always a good idea.
  • Intimate setting for a glass of wine… Les Marchands | A quaint and charming wine bar in the Funk Zone. Buy a bottle to take home or enjoy amidst their adorable bistro-style setting. P.S. They also sell local craft spirits!

Good-Lion-Distillerista{ The Good Lion }

Eat:

  • For the Perfect Date Night… The Lark | If you’re familiar with the Central Coast, chances are you’ve heard of this place and I’m here to tell you: Yes, it is worth the hype. Dishes rotate but I’m always a fan of their scallops and pork belly.
  • Casual but blow-your-mind pizza… Olio Pizzeria | The Umbra, with robiola cheese, criminis and black truffles is a favorite.
  • Coffee Break… Lucky Penny | The Lark isn’t open for lunch so if you’re wandering the Funk Zone during the day, stop here for a cappuccino (or a slice of wood-fired pizza!). They also have scrumptious baked egg dishes in the morning to go with that almond milk latte.
  • Picnic Provisions… C’est Cheese |  A sweet husband and wife team run this cheese shop, bakery and cafe. Pick up a basket of goodies on your way out to Santa Ynez. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a bottle of wine! My favorite picnic spots in the valley (i.e. picnic tables, live music, gorgeous vineyard views, etc.) are the Dierberg, Foxen, or Melville tasting rooms.

Distillerista-Guide-Santa-Barbara-Cest-Cheese

{ Wine tasting essentials from C’est Cheese }

Sleep:

  • Boutique… The Canary Hotel | This adorable Kimpton property has complimentary bikes (check out the urban wine trail on lower state street upon arrival), a charging station for electric vehicles and (most importantly) a wine & cheese happy hour!
  • Charming… The Upham Hotel & Country House |  A darling historic hotel and B&B. I like to stay across the street at the “Country House,” where the innkeeper makes the fluffiest scrambled eggs and fresh bakes pastries and breads each morning. A perk worth mentioning is being woken up from your inevitable wine-induced slumber by the smell of coffee and baking spice!
  • Luxe… The Belmond El Encanto | This property is such a treat. Cruise up the hill to an upscale residential neighborhood and boom! – a luxury resort and spa surprises you, nestled right into the trees. A huge outdoor patio boasts incredible ocean views and the lobby bar will make you never want to leave property. Plus a stunning pool deck, killer restaurant and award-winning spa. This is that splurge weekend you’ve been dreaming of, trust me.

El-Encanto-Santa-Barbara-Distillerista{ Pool at El Encanto }

Play:

Cutlers-Artisan-Spirits-Distillerista{ Tasting Room @ Cutler’s Artisan }

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{ Custom Vendome situation @ Ascendant Spirits }

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{ The Lark Restaurant + Bar }

{ The Umbra at Olio Pizzeria! }

What are your favorite Santa Barbara + Central Coast spots? I’d love to know!

Infused Book Review + Lavender Provençal Lemonade

Infused-Book-Review-Lavender-Lemonade-1{ Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails | Susan Ella MacNeal, Leigh Beisch }

You know your parents have you pegged when your Mom and Dad – unbeknownst to each other I might add – gift you a spirit infuser contraption and Infused, a coffee table book full of different at-home infusion ideas, respectfully, for Christmas. As was the case this past holiday season, and I have to say, both gifts have come in very handy. I tend to come up with random ideas on a whim and not surprisingly, they don’t always work out well. (Candy Cane Vodka, Lime-cello *cough*, *cough*) Thankfully I can now just consult Infused and quickly reference the book’s tips on how long to infuse different ingredients in different spirits. It’d make a great gift for any budding mixologist (21 and over, of course) or even a bride and groom putting together their first home bar. In addition to pages and pages of infusion ideas, Infused also includes several chapters of customizable cocktail recipes in which to use your newly made flavored spirits. Get the book here, then whip up one of my favorite recipes, Lavender Provençal Lemonade, made with some Lavender-infused London Dry Gin. The perfect end-of-summer treat.

Lavender-Gin-Distillerista{ Sempli Spirit Incanter | Anthropologie Tumblers }

Lavender Infused Gin or Vodka (page 21)

Ingredients:

  • 1 750 mL Bottle Gin or Vodka
  • 3 Tbsp Dried lavender buds
  • 1/4-1 C Simple syrup, optional (I most often choose not to add sugar to my infusions, as it tends to mask the flavor(s) I’m trying to procure)

Directions: In a clean glass bottle or a spirit infuser such as the Sempli Spirit Incanter shown here, combine spirits and lavender. Seal tightly and let infuse, away from heat or direct sunlight, for 2-3 weeks, tasting every few days or so for preferred intensity. *I only left mine for 3-4 days and the lavender flavor was delicate but definitely there, so be sure to taste regularly!* Once the right flavor is achieved, strain out lavender and add simple syrup if desired. (Keep in mind the longer you let the lavender infuse, the more simple syrup you might want to add to balance the flavor) Using a funnel, store liquid in original or other glass bottle. Keep away from heat and direct sunlight and enjoy for up to 1 month!

Infused-Review-Lavender-Gin-Lemon

Lavender Provençal Lemonade (page 77)

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

  • 2 Oz Lavender-infused Gin or Vodka
  • 1/2 C Fresh lemonade
  • Ice
  • Dried lavender buds and/or lemon wheel to garnish

Directions:

  1. Pour Gin or Vodka into a chilled collins glass
  2. Add ice and top with lemonade
  3. Give it a few stirs and garnish with lavender and/or lemon
  4. Cheers & enjoy!

Infused-Review-Lavender-Gin-Lemon-Craft-Spirits

Lavender-Lemonade-Gin-Cocktail

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Thanks to Megan of Shortography for the photos!

Distiller Interview: Michael Skubic, Old Harbor Distilling Co.

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{ Michael Skubic, Founder + Distiller, Old Harbor Distilling Co. | San Diego, CA }

If you consider yourself “in-the-know” re: San Diego’s craft cocktail scene, chances are you’re familiar with Old Harbor Distilling Co.’s proprietor, Michael Skubic – a true local San Diegan to the core,  first made his mark in the early days of SD’s craft beer boom (as one of the founding partners of Hess Brewing) and has now taken his time and talents to the world of craft spirits. He’s currently pumping out some of what I would consider to be the most intriguing and meticulously crafted spirits in southern California. Want proof? The “Skubic Driver” at Ironside Fish & Oyster just won Best Cocktail by San Diego Magazine. Keep reading to meet one of San Diego’s true craft pioneers!

  1. Explain a little bit about your background and how you came to have an interest in distilling?

I will try to make this quick… I started out as someone who drank exclusively whiskey, but in college my roommate was into homebrewing, spurred on by his dad’s love of the art, we got pretty into it. While I was attending PLNU, I was also interning for Mike Hess who had plans to eventually open up a brewpub in Colorado. I helped write the first draft of a business plan for that with my best friend who was also interning for Mike working on that project.

I graduated in 2009, the job market was non-existent, Instead of going back to school for an MBA, I went back to Mike Hess with an idea to perhaps start a craft brewery in my head… only because I knew that was potentially on his horizon as well.

Mike’s business partner, Ben Hodge, had read about “Nanobreweries” taking off up in the PNW and suggested we try that model. So we did. Hess Brewing was born out of necessity. Not a lot of capital but lots of love and hard work. It worked out great. They got so popular they had to expand to a second larger location in North Park.

Somewhere in between that point and when Old Harbor opened, we had collaborated with URBN Pizza in North Park on a (b)URBN Barrel Age Imperial Rye Stout because they had purchased an entire cask of Elmer T. Lee Bourbon and got to keep the barrel. At the release of that beer we also released a fresh batch of “Ex Umbris Rye Imperial Sout” and paired it with the aged stout and the bourbon that came out of the barrel. I decided (or perhaps, remembered) that night I preferred whiskey to beer…

That lead me down a path of drinking lots of whiskey and doing lots of research into the science / business of distilling. Two years and one month later I was having the soft opening of Old Harbor Distilling Co. Thankfully it was not my first rodeo in the alcohol business… without the prior experience at Hess, starting Old Harbor would have been nearly impossible.

  1. How did you come to the decision to actually pursue distilling?

Whiskey was my end goal. I happen to love all forms alcohol, so this seemed like a good idea.

  1. Opening a distillery is a lengthy, difficult and expensive process. What was the most challenging speed bump on the road to opening Old Harbor?

Fire Code… but, there are many bumps in the road. One thing I wish (and I should have known better) is that I would have asked other distillers for more help. The industry is open and willing to help newcomers. Just ask.

{ Image courtesy Caava Design, who also deserve major cred for Old Harbor’s gorgeous branding }

  1. Why did you choose San Diego, and in what ways do you feel the culture here aligns with Old Harbor’s vibe or unique selling point?

I was born and raised in Southern California. I am not moving anywhere else. Sunshine tax be damned. Old Harbor is based off of the history of San Diego. San Miguel (our flagship Southwestern Gin) is named after the original title bestowed upon this city by Juan Rodriguez Cabrilllo. We try to keep all our branding / products grounded in some aspect of our history. Our rum, for example, is Navy Strength—a nod to our history as a navy town.

  1. In terms of a hypothetical anonymity – to – mainstream spectrum (On a scale of 1-10, 1 being “completely unknown” and 10 “house hold notion”), where do you feel the American “craft” Distilling industry/movement is today? Also, how quickly do you see it moving towards that mainstream anchor point?

Five & Five years. Maybe 1 and 1 year. Hard to say. I am in the business so my perception is skewed… I feel like EVERYONE knows about craft spirits, when in reality, NOBODY does.

  1. Where or who do you feel is the driving, innovative force behind our craft distilling industry right now? 

Places like Portland. Seattle. NYC. Colorado. Texas… but mind you, California is home to two of the most OG distillers: St. George Spirits & Anchor Distilling Co.

  1. Name a few other distillers or distilleries who inspire you.
  •             Dry Fly
  •             Tate & Co.
  •             Lost Spirits
  •             FEW Spirits
  •             Clear Creek
  •             Leopold Bros.
  •             Germain Robin
  •             Corsair Distilling
  •             Garrison Brothers.
  •             New York Distilling Co.
  •             Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

Old-Harbor-SanDiegoVilla-Distillerista{ Old Harbor’s Product Lineup | Image courtesy SanDiegoVille.com }

  1. Where do you see Old Harbor in 10 years? What do you want to be known for?

Sitting on a beach with lots of Diageo’s money. . . Just kidding. Releasing our first 10 year old Single Malt Whisky? That is a long ways away, but ideally being respected by the bar community and home enthusiasts a-like. I have plans to release products in MANY categories, so if I can manage to make all of our releases pleasing to people who like spirits in that category, but also get them excited and passionate about what we are doing… then I am doing my job right.

I am a huge nerd when it come to most things in life: movies, TV, books, music, beer, wine, art… so if I don’t think what I am making is top notch I won’t release it. It took me 18 months to develop San Miguel Southwestern Gin and we still slightly tweak each recipe for good measure to “perfect” the recipe. It took about 2/3 that time for Barrelflag Navy Strength Rum. The coffee liqueur, which we have not released yet, has been in the works for over a year. We do not rush things here at Old Harbor Distilling Co. I plan on being in the business for a lifetime.

If you get into this business to make money quick, then you are in for a rude awakening. Expect to make almost no money for a long, long time.

  1. Your favorite thing about coming to work each day?

Being my own boss… but really, I absolutely love creating a product from scratch that I get to see out in the world. Going to a bar that is making some badass cocktail with my spirit is more rewarding than anything I can imagine. Probably up there with having a child… but I don’t have one of those, so maybe not?

  1. I’m sure you’re familiar with the tradition of distillery cats… does your operation have a feline mascot? 

We do… his name is Richard and he is the cutest, yet ferocious! He came on the recommendation of a close friend Greg.

IMG_1539{ Meet Richard! the “Cat” }

  1. Your location in East Village could be seen as either (or both) an investment and a gamble. What was the driving factor behind your decision to be downtown?
              I don’t like commutes & the building was exactly what I wanted. The East Village is a rough place to have a business currently. Lots of issues with zoning, homeless, etc… but it is my neighborhood and I love it. I think that in the future it will be one of the most exciting ‘hoods in all of San Diego, if it’s not already.

{ Old Harbor Tasting Room | Book your tour here! | Image Courtest SanDiego.Eater.com}

Thanks again Michael! Make sure to pick up Old Harbor’s Barrelflag Navy Strength Rum & San Miguel Southwestern Gin at a San Diego liquor store near you. The latter makes a bomb Gimlet! And keep an eye out for the release of Ampersand Coffee Liqueur. Cheers!

*Top Image courtesy SanDiegoHomeGarden.com

José Andrés’ Mexican Gin & Tonic

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I have a somewhat mandatory tradition upon landing in Las Vegas of heading immediately to Chef José Andrés’ epic Chinese & Mexican food mecca China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan. A big boozy lunch with friends before hitting the pools is my idea of a perfect start to the weekend. On one recent trip, I was introduced to the cocktail perfection that is José Andrés’ Mexican Gin & Tonic. It seems simple enough on paper: Bombay Sapphire, some tonic water, a few garnishes and a splash of St. Germain. But don’t be fooled by the seemingly basic ingredient list… this is without a doubt the best G & T I’ve ever had. Not only is the drink impossibly beautiful and delicate, it has an intoxicating aroma – thanks to those gorgeous botanical garnishes – that grabs you as soon as the drink hits the table. Served in a gorgeous stemless wine tumbler, each sip is perfectly cool and effervescent, with just the right amount of sweet floral kick from the elderflower liqueur. Next time you’re in Vegas, it’s an absolute must. Until then, here’s my take on recreating the drink at home.

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Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin  – Although any citrusy Western-style Gin would be wonderful as well
  • 1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 4 oz Fever Tree Tonic Water
  • fresh Orange Peel
  • small Sprig of Cilantro
  • 1 whole Coriander Seed
  • 1 fresh marigold (Calendula) edible flower – special thanks to Specialty Produce for these beauties!
  • 1 large whiskey cube – or sphere-shaped ice mold – I like keep a couple of these in my freezer for such occasions.

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Directions:

  1. Place ice cube/sphere in a large stemless wine glass or DOF
  2. Gently pour in Gin, St. Germain and top with tonic water
  3. Quickly and carefully arrange botanicals – orange twist, cilantro, coriander seed, and marigold – in the drink, giving the orange twist and cilantro a little smack in your hands beforehand to release the oils.
  4. Give it a gentle swirl and enjoy!

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P.S. The ‘When Pigs Fly’ steamed buns, Cochinita Taco and Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice are also not to be missed! 😉

P.P.S. Photos by Megan of Shortography!

Peach Rosé-a-ritas

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{ Glass Pitcher purchased on the side of the road in Baja }

My dear friend Caroline’s recipe blog, Colorful Eats, is a source of constant inspiration and eye-candy. Her easy to make and gorgeously captured grain- and refined sugar-free recipes are what prompted me to go Paleo Monday through Friday. Since switching to an 80% grain- and sugar-free lifestyle about a year ago, I have more energy and am naturally more focused at work. And incase you hadn’t noticed, thanks to Caroline, most of the drink recipes you’ll see here on Distillerista use only natural, unrefined sugars and as many fresh fruit and vegetable juices and purées as possible.

Needless to say, ever since I launched Distillerista I’ve been dying to collaborate with Caroline. I took full advantage of her extended summer stay here in San Diego last month and invited her over to help me come up with something new and paleo-friendly. (She lives in Hawaii most of the time where her husband – my cousin and bff! – is stationed in the Navy.) We got together on a particularly hot July day and mixed up these scrumptious sparkling peach margaritas in honor of prime peach season. While alcohol in general isn’t exactly paleo-approved, Tequila is a relatively low-sugar spirit and also happens to be Caroline’s go-to. As for the sparkling wine… well, what can I say… any opportunity to spend a little time with friends is something to celebrate!

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Makes 8 Drinks

Ingredients:

  • 4 C Peach purée (see recipe below)
  • 3 C Good quality Tequila; Casamigos is a current favorite
  • 2 C Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 Bottle good quality sparkling rosé; I like Lucien Albrecht (I get it here for just $15 a bottle!)

Directions:

  1. Make & chill the peach purée
  2. Combine peach purée, tequila and lime juice in a large pitcher or drink dispenser. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, up to overnight
  3. As guests arrive, or when ready to serve, pour Tequila mixture into chilled margarita glasses and top with a splash of sparkling rosé
  4. Garnish with a fresh peach slice and wedge of lime
  5. Cheers & enjoy!

Peach Puree: Pit and dice 6 large or 8 small peaches and combine in a medium sauce pan with a splash of water. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool, then blend well in a high-speed blender or food processor and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Chill for at least two hours, up to overnight. Makes roughly 4 cups.

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Extras:

  • As I mentioned before, Caroline avoids sugar so these margaritas are on the not-so-sweet side. If a sweeter drink is desired, add up to a half cup of raw honey when blending your peach purée.
  • These margaritas are a bit thick thanks to the fresh peach purée, so feel free to thin the purée out with a bit more water to achieve your desired consistency.
  • If you don’t have access to fresh peaches or want to make these Margaritas during another part of the year, feel free to use frozen peaches for an icier, frozen-style margarita

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{ Matching glasses stumbled upon excitedly at HomeGoods }

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P.S. Check out a few of Caroline’s paleo cocktail recipes: Blackberry Mojitos, Pink Grapefruit Sparklers & Sunrise Squeeze!

P.P.S. Since I can’t work a camera to save my life, Caroline thankfully snapped these drool-worthy photos for us. Download her food photography and styling guide, Scrumptious & Styled, here!