Introducing You & Yours Distilling Co.

Introducing-You-and-Yours-Distillerista

Happy spring lovely Distillerista readers!

As you may or may not know, I started Distillerista as both an industry resource and an outlet to keep friends, family and craft spirit enthusiasts informed on the progress of my upcoming distilling venture, You & Yours Distilling Co. Since then, Distillerista has grown into an insanely fun and ever-inspiring passion project where I share cocktail recipes, entertaining ideas, informative “beginner’s” guides to niche spirit categories and my personal favorite, interviews with fellow distillers. Working on Distillerista over the last twelve months has been a dream, so thank you most sincerely for coming along on the ride with me!

What I’ve yet to give you guys a real peek into is our progress on said distilling venture. The last year has been a major labor of love to make this distillery happen, so if there’s ever a week or two where Distillerista goes MIA, there’s a good chance it’s because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in Y&Y business. That said, it’s high time you guys got the scoop! Here’s what you need to know…

  • Name: You & Yours Distilling Co.
  • What we’re all about: Bringing friends and family together over elevated imbibing experiences. Fun, crowd-pleasing spirits created with backyard barbecues, first dates, dinner parties and Sunday brunch on the patio in mind.
  • What we’re going to make: A few different styles of gin, a vodka or two, Eau de Vies (un aged fruit brandies – a.k.a. what you should be splashing into your champagne) and eventually, the good stuff: whiskey!
  • Where: in the heart of downtown San Diego! Up and coming East Village to be exact, just a stone’s throw from the convention center, Petco Park and the historic Gaslamp quarter.
  • Will I able to visit? Hell. Yasss. We’ll have hours open to the public for you to enjoy tastings, tours and best of all, COCKTAILS in a swanky and intimate urban setting! That’s right people, Y&Y will be a bonafide destination distillery. We can’t wait to welcome you in.
  • When is this sh*t happening? Stay tuned – we’re hoping for a late summer opening.
  • How can I get involved? Like Y&Y on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and if you really want to be a badass, order some branded gear from our online shop! (These aren’t regular t-shirts, these are cool t-shirts) Oh! And share this post on social media!

To be clear, Distillerista and You & Yours will remain completely separate animals. You’ll continue to hear about Y&Y progress in upcoming posts, but as always Distillerista will continue to function first and foremost as a colorful, inspiration-filled and easy to digest online resource for all things craft spirits. On that note, please shoot me a message or comment on social media with things you’d like to see on Distillerista. Looking for a new whiskey cocktail to make at home? A boozy wedding gift idea? The best bar tools perhaps? Let me know, your wish is my command!

It’s going to be a hell of a summer y’all. Get excited and stay thirsty!

Holland, Form 15, San Diego, California,  Janis Miglavs^^ See that shiny street-level corner unit? That’s us! ^^

YY-White-full

P.S. Check us out on Eater San Diego!

After Midnight

Distillerista-After-Midnight-Thirty3Club

This warming late winter cocktail was first featured in cocktail subscription service Thirty3Club’s February Cocktail kit. If you’re not already familiar with Thirty3Club be sure to check out this previous post for everything you need to know!

Quick refresher: Thirty3Club is a monthly cocktail subscription service that delivers everything you need to make four delicious craft cocktails at home right to your door. (If Blue Apron and Birchbox got drunk and made a baby, Thirty3Club would be that oh so delicious baby!) 

Distillerista-Thirty3Club{ Thirty3Club’s February Box featuring Liberty Call Distilling }

After Midnight. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Whiskey
  • .25 oz Apple Cider Cordial (Applejack, apple brandy or apple liqueur would also work)
  • Dash of Black Walnut Bitters
  • Orange Peel

Bar Tools & Glassware:

  • Rocks Glass
  • 1.5/.75 oz jigger
  • Bar Spoon
  • Mixing Glass
  • Julep Strainer
  • Peeler

Directions:

  1. Using your jigger, measure and pour the whiskey, apple cordial and bitters into your mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir the cocktail using your bar spoon for 30 seconds or so. Keep the back of the spoon flush with the inside of the mixing glass the entire time.
  3. Strain into an ice-filled rocks or DOF glass.
  4. Procure your orange peel and rub the orange side around the rim of your glass. Gently drop peel into drink and enjoy!

*Be sure to check out the 2nd cocktail from Thirty3Club’s February box, The Bee’s Fuzz*

Bartender Know-How: When to Shake and When to Stir

WHY JAMES BOND WAS WRONG

Before you can find a cocktail menu, the bartender appears in front of you, drops a napkin on the bar top, and looks at you with eyebrows raised. You tell the bartender you want a cocktail, but you’re not sure what kind.  And if he or she is worth anything at all, they will respond with assistance instead of annoyance, guiding you Socratically toward the perfect drink for that moment, which inevitably begins with some form of the question: “shaken or stirred?”

There are plenty of ways you can mix a drink: you can build it in the glass, roll it or carbonate it, you can throw it over your head and catch it behind your back if you’ve got a mind to. But the two most common ways, by far, are shaking and stirring. So what’s the difference? Why not just pour the ingredients on ice and be done with it, like a rum and coke?

Here’s why: there is a secret ingredient in every cocktail you’ve ever enjoyed, and it’s not salt or sugar or St. Germain, it’s water. When we’re talking about ice, there is no chilling without dilution, and vice versa. Ignore the bartender who tells you that his ice chills without diluting, because he’s wrong. Big ice cubes dilute slower, but also chill slower: use them to keep a low temperature rather than attaining one.

Cocktails are meant to be diluted. It’s implicitly built into the recipe. So when you stir or shake, you are melting the ice, lowering the temperature of your drink, and diluting it all at once. Additionally, when you shake, you’re aerating it, thinning the texture and making it feel lighter. This is an enormous difference, and there’s little to no wiggle room. If someone stirs my margarita, I know they don’t know what they’re doing. If they shake my Sazerac, I’m walking out.

And so, the difference: 

Stir when all the ingredients in the cocktail are alcohol, i.e. no mixers, no juice, no cream, no eggs. Manhattans, Old Fashioned’s, etc. Stirring is gentle and maintains the silky viscosity inherent in such drinks, which is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable parts about them. It renders a cocktail with roughly 30% water.

Shake when there’s juice, cream, eggs, or some kind of other mixer. Shaking aerates as well, thinning the texture and making it brighter and lighter, and makes the final drink roughly 40% water.

{ This article originally appeared on Thirty3Club’s Cocktail Education Blog // top image via }

The Bee’s Fuzz

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 9.56.11 AM

A classic gin sour with a stone fruit twist! This light and refreshing cocktail was first featured in cocktail subscription service Thirty3Club’s February Cocktail kit. If you’re not already familiar with Thirty3Club be sure to check out my previous post!

Quick refresher: Thirty3Club is a monthly cocktail subscription service that delivers everything you need to make 4 delicious craft cocktails at home right to your door. (If Blue Apron and Birchbox got drunk and had a child, Thirty3Club would be that kid) 

Distillerista-Thirty3Club{ Thirty3Club’s February Box featuring Liberty Call Distilling }

The Bee’s Fuzz. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .75 ox fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz honey simple syrup
  • .5 oz apricot syrup or apricot liqueur
  • lemon peel to garnish

Tools & Glassware:

IMG_9886 { Don’t forget to chill your glass! }

Directions:

  1. Using your jigger, measure and pour the gin, lemon, honey and apricot into mixing glass or cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill glass or shaker with ice and seal shut with Boston shaker tin or cocktail shaker strainer and top. If using a Boston Shaker give it a firm tap to ensure the seal.
  3. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  4. Unseal the Boston shaker and strain into chilled coupe.
  5. Procure your lemon peel, run the yellow side around the rim of the glass then gently place into the drink and enjoy!

Distillerista-BeesFuzz-Thirty3Club{ Wah-la! }

Thank you to Thirty3Club for sponsoring this post! You can find an instructional video showing how to make the drink and more information about the Bee’s Fuzz’ origins here.

Want your own box? Subscribe to Thirty3Club here!

Everything You Need to Know About Cocktail Subscription Service Thirty3Club

Distillerista-Thirty3Club

Ever since I started Distillerista, I’ve kept a Google Doc a mile long with names of like-minded companies and brands to reach out to for content ideas or partnerships. Cocktail Subscription Services (think Birchbox meets Blue Apron, but with booze!) and specifically Thirty3Club, were high on that list of contemporaries to get in touch with. Thanks to a busy schedule, that Google Doc doesn’t always get the love it deserves, but lucky for me the folks at Thirty3Club beat me to it! When their co-founder Lisa reached out to chat distilling and collaboration ideas I was over the moon. Thanks to our newfound friendship, there’s a ton of exciting Thirty3Club-sponsored content in the pipeline for you but before we jump in, let me introduce you!

  1. What is Thirty3Club?

Thirty3Club is bridging the gap between the bar and your home, bringing the craft cocktail experience to your kitchen. We are a purveyor of craft cocktails, aiming to elevate any drinker’s repertoire through education on spirits, recipes, and techniques steeped in tradition and being invented every day.

  1. Explain more about cocktail subscription services.

Each month we deliver two craft cocktail recipes with step-by-step directions, instructional videos, all of the ingredients required to mix four drinks at home, and the latest and greatest from the industry. To keep it fresh we continuously partner with top bars, bartenders, and distilleries – we don’t even know what’s coming next!

  1. How the idea for Thirty3Club came about?

Thirty3Club stemmed from two successful startups we admire – Blue Apron and Birchbox. We love the experience of discovering tasty recipes, learning new cooking techniques, and creating something ourselves from the Blue Apron meal kit boxes. Birchbox, on the other hand, offers sample sizes, an element of surprise, and an online store to complement the monthly subscription. Thirty3Club is the Blue Apron for craft cocktails combined with Birchbox’s forced exploration and comprehensive online store. We do not just want to offer education, but also house a repository of recipes, tools, glassware, and spirits online creating a single hub for all things cocktails.

  1. Tell us about your team! Who’s behind Thirty3Club?

Humans are naturally curious creatures with a thirst for mastery. Bartending has been a craft reserved for those who dedicate their careers to it, but Thirty3Club is challenging this notion. We began as four friends who enjoyed fancy drinks, but as we started to ask questions, dig, research, and ask more questions, we quickly realized there was so much more than a cocktail sitting in front of us. Whether an industry professional looking to expand your palate, or a novice as we were, there is always something new to discover. And we have not stopped discovering. What’s really unique about Thirty3Club’s founding team, is none of us come from the industry, so we are constantly crafting the experience for likeminded subscribers. All of us come from corporate America (advertising, engineering, sales, and data science), so we are constantly networking and finding new talent to work with from the industry. This makes for a more diverse experience, that incorporates different perspectives and personalities into each cocktail.

  1. What does an average day look like for you and your team? Do you all still keep a “day job?”

The average day is hectic, but we have made enormous strides to streamline processes and are more organized each month. At the moment, all four of us work traditional 9-5 day jobs, and spend the majority of our mornings, evenings, and weekends working on Thirty3Club. Fortunately, our jobs do grant us the flexibility for calls, meetings, and other areas of the startup needing attention during the daylight. Before launching we were in research mode – experimenting with shipping, polishing packaging, and working with lawyers on the legal hurdles in the very heavily regulated space. Now we are focused on the backend, to set us up for success when we scale, and the front end to fill the pipeline for upcoming months. Our team tirelessly searches for the best partners to bring the highest quality product to market.

  1. How long did it take from idea inception to actually shipping your first box?

From the late evening laying in bed when the idea struck, to shipping our very first for-revenue box, it took roughly a year. The first few months were casual market research, but it quickly became obvious we were onto something. We then transitioned into legal mode, teaming with lawyers and domain experts to pick their brains on rebottling spirits, selling the alcohol, and shipping boxes. Once the idea was validated and proven legal, we had about three months of prototyping and beta testing. Then the first few glorious boxes were delivered in November 2015.

  1. Starting any alcoholic beverage-related business is tough. Restrictions, regulations, red tape, etc. are rampant. What was the most challenging speed bump on the road to launching Thirty3Club?

Thirty3Club targets to not just introduce subscribers to new craft cocktail recipes, but also new brands, because the final concoction is truly a sum of its parts. Therefore, we wanted to focus on the highest quality products, local companies, and all things craft. Before we started Thirty3Club, the only sample sized bottles of spirits we could get our hands on, were from the big name brands drinkers are familiar with. Our first two months we went the simple route of working with these spirits, but since have transitioned to working with smaller craft distilleries, who’s love and passion is poured into every bottle. This required navigating the regulations regarding bottle sizes, rectification, labeling, and procuring, but also working hand in hand with these craft brands that are entering unchartered territory as well. Fortunately, the alcoholic beverage-related industry is a unique community, and we have been welcomed and supported to date. Each company has their own objectives and priorities, but there is clearly a sense of camaraderie and known fact we will go further together.

  1. I love Thirty3Club’s focus on education and technique. What was the inspiration behind this aspect of your company culture?

As we began forming Thirty3Club, competitive research identified a clear gap in the marketplace. For example, recipes across the internet consist of 1 part this, 2 parts that, and do not compare to the food norm, where you will find detailed, step-by-step cooking instructions. How would beginner bartenders know to dry shake some ingredients, while muddling and stirring others? Does the order matter? How about a floral verse herbal gin? It always matters, and the best bartenders carefully curate their craft cocktails. Ultimately, it was essential to focus on education and technique, but it also creates a better experience. We like to say it’s like learning a new language, except you get a buzz.

  1. How involved are bars and bartenders/mixologists with the development of each box?

Our partners are integral to the development of each and every box. We contemplated having an in-house bartender formulate each box, but then realized the diverse cultures we would glance over, the local twists we would never discover, and the amazing stories that would never be told. Before we launched the company, we met a gentleman so bright and motivated, he could have excelled in any profession. We were interested to learn why he chose to dedicate his life behind the bar. This man was no bartender though, more of a magician, bringing to life old traditions and dreaming up new ones. Mixing foreign ingredients with funny tools, he concocted an elixir of amazing smells, textures, and tastes, served with an incredible tale of history and culture, worth the price alone. This is a craft cocktail, and these masters of the craft exist in every city. Thirty3Club is determined to share their wisdom, and we hope that brings an unparalleled experience to your home, each and every month.

  1. How important is the craft liquor industry to Thirty3Club’s mission? Do you try to feature craft spirits in your boxes? If so, why?

Making craft cocktails with poor ingredients is analogous to putting an average car’s engine in a Ferrari. It appears fancy and worth the extra money, but is missing the heart and soul. Craft spirits are the heart and soul of cocktails. Each distillery has a unique twist and story that adds an essential layer to the Thirty3Club experience. For this reason, we go the extra mile to pair recipes with the best craft spirits, and make them accessible and convenient.

  1. Do you plan to continue featuring California-specific craft spirits?

Sunny San Diego will forever be Thirty3Club’s birthplace, and we will strive to support the community as it has done for us. Southern California is becoming the craft distillery Mecca as it already is for breweries, which makes it a no brainer for getting off the ground. While the craft spirit movement may be most heavily concentrated here, we would not be doing our subscribers justice if we neglected the rest of the great distilleries spanned across the nation. We are already branching out of Southern California, and will have many surprises down the road, so stay tuned!

  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 is today and how would you describe this phase we’re in? 

The craft cocktail boom is already here. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., beer has continued to loose shares of US alcohol revenue over the last six years. The Wall Street Journal writes, “The liquor industry – once the pariah of the alcohol world – has been steadily gaining popularity due to a major cocktail renaissance…because of fickle young drinkers.” And now supply is ramping up to meet this demand. In a Harvard Business Review Interview with Aviation Gin, founder Thomas Mooney lays it flat out; “there are probably around 300 craft distilleries today. Is that a lot? Well, there were 5,000 distilleries in the US at the end of the 19th century. So it took Prohibition to make that go away, and maybe we’re just starting to work our way back to historically normal numbers. There are over 2,300 craft breweries.” You cannot open a hip, trendy restaurant nowadays without a solid craft cocktail program. However, that’s just craft cocktails, not craft spirits, and excludes those who live outside the reach of urban trends. Therefore, we would put the American craft distilling industry at a 4. The industry is on the precipice of becoming more mainstream in large part due to the craft cocktail boom. This is where Thirty3Club has a unique opportunity, since we have the ability to introduce craft cocktails and distilleries to an audience who otherwise may not have access.

  1. What’s on the horizon for Thirty3Club? Where do you see the company in a year?

Thirty3Club is at an exciting point in the lifecycle of a company, as we are still constantly learning about our product and target demographic. Everyday new opportunities present themselves, and several major pivots may yet exist in the future. In a year we see Thirty3Club being a major player in the craft cocktail and spirit conversation, playing an important role in the expansion and mainstream adoption. We hope to reach this goal by continuing to produce an amazing product and experiences that highlight what this industry is all about.

  1. Why should someone subscribe to Thirty3Club?

If you enjoy drinking, discovering, and doing, then Thirty3Club is for you. You could order text books, spend hours chatting with your local bartender, or you could sign up for Thirty3Club. All of the knowledge to become your own bartender, find your favorite spirits, and order better drinks than James Bond is now accessible, delivered right to your doorstep.

  1. Who is the ideal person who should be subscribing?

Thirty3Club is targeting adventurous drinkers who are looking to elevate their repertoire through education on spirits, recipes, and techniques. We have all too often heard the New Years resolution of cutting back on alcohol, but we suggest making a goal to drink better instead, and Thirty3Club will show you the way.

  1. What can we look forward to in the next box(es)?!

As Thirty3Club becomes a household name in the industry, expect more unique brands and partnerships. Additionally, it is a priority to both expand our store with more premier products and craft spirits not available in your local liquor store, and of course, be a hub for education to become a knowledgeable drinker and bartender. If you think craft cocktails, recipes, products, etc., and Thirty3Club is not your first stop, then we have failed.

Thanks very much to Lisa and her team for this interview. Be sure not to miss this Friday’s post where I try my hand at one of Thirty3Club’s cocktails from their February box, The Bee’s Fuzz, featuring Liberty Call Gin!

 

Bloody Valentines with Vocabulary Boutique

Bloody-Valentines-Distillerista-1I’m not one to get all that hyped on Valentines Day but when Cecelia asked to collaborate on a V Day-themed cocktail and matching photo shoot, I just HAD to say YES! You guys remember Cecelia from Vocabulary Boutique, right? Well… thinking up fun and creative ideas for blog posts and impromptu photos shoots is pretty much her calling. Everything she creates is beautiful and inspiring, and her ideas always get my creative juices flowing.

When Cecelia suggested we collaborate on a Valentines Day cocktail we both agreed – it had to be pink! Peek-of-their-season blood oranges were the obvious choice to achieve the hue of our dreams. I mean… how festive and striking is that color!? From there my mind wandered to the theme of the shoot, the romanticism of the season, all the accoutrements that go along with the holiday and I knew then that I wanted the drink to have a floral element. I’ve been having fun playing around with rose water in drinks at home lately and figured it’d be just the thing for a Valentines cocktail. What’s V-day without roses after all?

Although Cecelia requested that we coin this drink the Love Potion No. 9 (nailed it!), I thought the My Bloody Valentine pun was just too good to pass up. C also requested the drink be easily made into a mocktail, a concept I uhhh… am not too familiar with. Nonetheless, when it comes to entertaining it’s important to be mindful of all guests, and the option to opt-out of imbibing should always be graciously provided. This lovely concoction makes it easy by combining all the non-alcoholic ingredients together and leaving the vodka a la carte. Just make sure to provide a 1.5 oz measure/shot glass/jigger so your guests don’t free-pour you out of house and home. 😉

Both the batched nature of this drink and the alcohol-on-the-side aspect make it the perfect signature drink for a baby shower, family barbecue, romantic picnic with bae or (my favorite!) a besties’ V-day brunch. Have fun with this one friends!

Bloody-Valentines-Distillerista{ Anthro tumblers | Kate Spade striped plate (s/o 4) | Bottega Louie Chocolates }

Bloody Valentines. Makes 8-10 cocktails or mocktails.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh blood orange juice (juice from bright pink Cara Cara oranges would also be gorgeous)
  • 1 750 mL bottle of your favorite sparkling water
  • rose water and/or orange blossom water  to taste, I’d recommend starting with 3 to 4 teaspoons total and going up from there, one dash at a time
  • your favorite orange or citrus Vodka – I like St. George California Citrus Vodka (1.5 oz per drink)
  • edible flowers frozen into ice cubes for garnish, optional of course 😉

Directions:

  1. In a large glass pitcher or drink dispenser combine blood orange juice, sparkling water and rose or orange blossom water
  2. Stir gently and taste – if the floral note is too subtle, add a dash or two more of rose water. Keep in mind a little goes a loooooooong way with rose water.
  3. When serving, fill glasses 2/3 full with ice. Add 1.5 oz. vodka if desired and top with the blood orange mix.
  4. Give a little stir with your festive paper straw and enjoy!

Don’t have a juicer? Your local Whole Foods will juice any produce for you for a flat $3 fee.

Bloody-Valentines-Distillerita-3{ Gold rimmed bowl & paper straws available at Vocabulary Boutique }

Bloody-Valentines-Distillerista-5 { This dainty diamond “X” necklace would make the sweetest V Day gift }

Bloody-Valentines-Distillerista-4 Bloody-Valentines-Distillerista-2Bloody-Valentines-Distillerista-6 To purchase any of the jewelry, blouses or denim featured in this post, email Cecelia at VocabularyBoutique@gmail.com or pop into Vocabulary Boutique on 414 West Cedar in Little Italy!

P.S. Check out my previous collaborations with Vocabulary Boutique here and here!

A VERY Happy Valentines Day to all my lovely readers! Xo

“Healthy” Weeknight Cocktail #3: the Buzzed Bunny

distillerista-buzzed-bunny-2

With the new year comes an inevitable wave of resolutions: exercise more, eat cleaner, give the drinking a rest… we’ve heard e’m all, right? While I’d love to think I can finally tackle ALL those cliché healthy lifestyle choices now that the holidays have past, it’s just not realistic to cut out drinking entirely. Besides the fact that enjoying a well made cocktail is one of my most beloved pleasures, I’m currently in the middle of R&D for my distillery‘s first two flagship products. One of which is a New Western-style Gin and requires endless tweaks to the botanical makeup. Simply put, my team and I’ve been tasting a looooot of gin lately. But what I can do is make healthier choices when I do choose to partake. And that, my friends, is the inspiration behind a new slew of cocktail posts this month. For the next few weeks I’ll be posting “healthy,” – even borderline nutritious! – cocktail recipes for when 5 o’clock hits and you don’t want to completely cancel out those hours you’ve been putting in at the gym.

Distillerista-Buzzed-Bunny-Healthy

This week’s healthy cocktail a garden-inspired twist on my favorite classic cocktail, the gin gimlet. In addition to the traditional gin, lime and simple syrup trifecta, I’ve added vitamin A-rich carrot juice and immune-boosting fresh ginger to spice things up. This drink would also be wonderful with a flavored simple syrup such as thyme, saffron or anise. Similarly, you could add 2-3 inches of roughly chopped ginger when making the honey syrup, in place of the grated ginger in step one. And the best part? Just one of these delicious cocktails contains roughly 200% of your daily recommended dose of skin brightening vitamin A. Get glowing, y’all!

Distillerista-Lime-Buzzed-Bunny

the Buzzed Bunny. Makes 1 cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 1 half inch piece of ginger root
  • .5-1 oz raw honey simple syrup (1:1), or to taste
  • 3 oz fresh carrot juice
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 oz good quality Gin

Directions:

  1. Grate ginger directly into mixing glass, add remaining ingredients
  2. Using a bar spoon stir for 10-15 seconds, keeping the back of the spoon flush against the inside of the glass
  3. Use a 4 prong strainer to pour liquid into a coupe, martini glass or other short glass of your choice.
  4. Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge and a thin ribbon of raw carrot.

Distillerista-Carrot-Step-by-StepDistillerista-Buzzed-Bunny

Distillerista-uzzed-bunny-3

{ P.S. Don’t miss “Healthy” Weeknight Cocktails #1  & #2! }

{ P.P.S. You might also like: Paleo-friendly Peach Margaritas | Classic Gimlet: 3 Ways }

Distiller Interview: Trent Tilton of San Diego Distillery

Distillerista-Trent-Tilton-Distiller-Interview

If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m working my way through San Diego’s craft distilling scene via these Distiller Interview posts. This week it’s Trent Tilton – and his wife Maria! – of San Diego Distillery

Trent and his wife Maria were the first people I introduced myself to at my very first San Diego Distillers Guild meeting over a year ago. They were warm and sweet, and Trent and I quickly bonded over our mutual love of Dry Fly. At the time, Trent and I were much in the same boat, working on our respective distilleries in planning, though Trent was a bit further along in the process than I was. Chatting over sculpin and duck nachos at the new Ballast Point, I got to know Trent and Maria and little better before the meeting started. As the meeting got underway I remember thinking to myself, “If everyone is this nice, I’m definitely in the right place!” They’ve since become great friends and although Trent is a leeeeeetle busy these days (read on!), I always look forward to catching up at the guild meetings for old times’ sake. 

1. Explain a little about your background and how and when you came to have an interest in distilling.
I have been a home brewer for over 15 years, starting with a standard extract kit then working my way up over the years to all-grain. When we moved into our first house, I was able to construct a small home brew system in the garage. Now that we are in a larger house, the brew system grew larger also. I currently have a 15-gallon brewery as well as five taps in a dedicated space in our kitchen. I have also worked on a 7-barrel system at a local brew pub, and was involved in recipe formulation for two of their core beers that are currently still a part of their rotating lineup.
I began to take an interest in distilling around 2011-2012. The first time I ever tried Lagavulin 16, it was a real eye-opener for me. I began to research how whiskey is made, and to my surprise and excitement, I realized that essentially making a “beer” is the first step in making whiskey.

2. How did you come to the decision to actually pursue distilling?
I came to the decision to actually pursue distilling and opening a distillery about 6 months after that life-changing sip of Lagavulin. I began to realize that the brewing world and the distilling world overlap to a point, so I decided to run with it and try a few test batches of spirits. It was during these test batches that I came to the conclusion that I would be happy doing this for a living, taking pride in a quality product that I made, and being able to share that product with others.

3. What does an average day look like for you? Do you still keep a “day job?”
I do still have a “day job” in the medical field. I work at my day job until 3:30pm on most weekdays and every other weekend. After the work day ends, that’s when my distilling day begins. I usually arrive at the distillery by 4pm where my still should be close to producing spirit at the correct temperature, after allowing the still to warm up on a timer throughout the day. I oversee the entire distillation run from heads to tails, testing for quality and the proper location of the cuts throughout. In any spare time, I routinely work on various tasks around the distillery, such as construction of our tasting room space, updating distillation logs for our monthly reports, swelling and filling barrels from previous runs, as well as general maintenance and cleaning. I usually do not leave the distillery until 10-10:30pm, making for a 16-hour work day!

image2

4. Opening a distillery is a lengthy, difficult and expensive process. What was the most challenging speed bump on the road to opening San Diego Distillery?
For us, the most challenging task was navigating through the maze of paperwork that is required. The application process was very extensive, but fortunately we were able to turn to friends and fellow distillery owners who helped us immensely in the process!

5. Why did you choose San Diego, and in what ways do you feel the culture here aligns with your distillery’s vibe or unique selling point?
San Diego in general is a city that is the living embodiment of what San Diego Distillery is trying to accomplish. San Diegans embrace the local movement that the craft distilling industry represents. San Diego’s craft beer culture was an especially inspiring story for us. After seeing the heights to which the craft beer industry has grown over the years, we saw no reason why the craft distilling industry couldn’t do the same. San Diegans want to buy local and support their local businesses, but it’s more than that. San Diegans want to know where the products they are buying came from, what type of ingredients were used, what is the name of the person who made it, who is the owner of the company and does he/she represent the ideals that I believe in? Because of this unique consumer mindset in our local market, we are given the confidence that we couldn’t have started San Diego Distillery in a better city!

6. In terms of a hypothetical anonymity – to – mainstream spectrum, where do you feel the American “Craft” Distilling industry/movement is today and how would you describe this phase we’re in? Also, how quickly do you see it moving towards that mainstream anchor point?
I feel that the American craft distilling industry is only at about a 3, with San Diego’s micro-economy at only about a 1 or 2. The reason for this is because the small distilleries across the country are still competing with the large distilleries that can produce large amounts of quality product sold at a very competitive price. And it seems as though this movement is even lesser-known here in San Diego because a lot of the alcoholic beverage marketplace is still “preoccupied” with craft beers at the moment. However, I feel that once it gains some momentum, the craft distilling industry will move toward a mainstream anchor point at a much faster pace than the craft beer industry has. In a way, craft brewers have paved the way for craft distillers, especially here in San Diego.

image3

7. Where or who do you feel is the driving, innovative force behind our craft distilling industry right now?
The two distilleries that come first to mind are Westland in Seattle, Washington, and Corsair in Tennessee. Personally, I admire Westland for their innovation and the broad range of single malt whiskeys that they make and the unique ways that they finish their whiskeys. Corsair is another distillery that is on the cutting edge with their unique lineup of spirits and incorporating unique ingredients and grains into their products. Corsair has also recently planted vineyards, presumably to be used for brandy distillation, which I believe shows great forethought and insight as to the direction the market is heading.

8. Name a few other distillers or distilleries who inspire you.
Some of my favorites include the aforementioned Westland and Corsair, Dry Fly, Balcones, and Wigle which is a regionally-distributed distillery out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

9. Where do you see San Diego Distillery in 10 years? What do you want to be known for?
In 10 years, I hope to make San Diego Distillery a locally- and regionally-recognized brand that represents excellence and quality. I hope to be able to expand my operation, including buying a larger still, opening an off-site tasting room, and possibly opening a rick house for barrel storage. I hope to be known for my whiskeys, not only for being flavorful and high-quality, but also for being inventive and unique. I also hope to be known for my brandy.

image4

10. Your favorite thing about going into the distillery each day?
After working a “day job” all day, the most exciting thing for me when walking into the distillery every day is the realization that what I accomplish that day is completely up to me. It is a great feeling to be working for yourself, even if it means working for no money! It is so rewarding to see my work and efforts come to fruition when I try a spirit as it is coming off of the still and it is exactly as good as I was expecting, if not better. It is a great feeling to know that I am in control of the direction that San Diego Distillery takes, and this is my motivation to keep working harder and harder to get it where I want it to be.

11. I’m sure you’re familiar with the tradition of distillery cats…does your operation have a feline mascot? If so, name and story please!
Unfortunately we do not have any distillery cats…but you can usually find our two little chihuahuas, Trema and Mara, cozying up on their blanket at the distillery. And we do have a little squirrel who seems to visit us a lot. We’ve named him Bung Hole!

12. Tell us a little about your operation, seeing as you’re in no rush to bring products to market at the moment. What’s your current philosophy and when do you think we could potentially see some product launches from San Diego Distillery?
My philosophy is and always has been “It’s ready when it’s ready.” I would love to always have a constant high volume stream of product hitting the market, but I know this is not realistic. I can’t try to rush the process and risk producing a different product than what was originally intended. I have learned that even if I have to wait on product to age, it’s better in the long run. But with that being said, I was able to pull some of my first barrels after they’ve matured, so keep an eye out for San Diego Distillery whiskey launching as soon as March 2016!

Distillerista-Trent-Distiller-Interview

Special thanks to Trent & Maria for these photos! Be sure to follow San Diego Distillery on Instagram.

Incase you missed it, my interviews with other San Diego Distillers:

 

“Healthy” Weeknight Cocktail #2: Beet Daiquiri

Distillerista-Beet-Daquiri

With the new year comes an inevitable wave of resolutions: exercise more, eat cleaner, give the drinking a rest… we’ve heard e’m all, right? While I’d love to think I can finally tackle ALL those cliché healthy lifestyle choices now that the holidays have past, it’s just not realistic to cut out drinking entirely. Besides the fact that enjoying a well made cocktail is one of my most beloved pleasures, I’m currently in the middle of R&D for my distillery‘s first two flagship products. One of which is a New Western-style Gin and requires endless tweaks to the botanical makeup. Simply put, my team and I’ve been tasting a looooot of gin lately. But what I can do is make healthier choices when I do choose to partake. And that, my friends, is the inspiration behind a new slew of cocktail posts this month. For the next few weeks I’ll be posting “healthy,” – even borderline nutritious! – cocktail recipes for when 5 o’clock hits and you don’t want to completely cancel out those hours you’ve been putting in at the gym.

This week it’s a healthful version of a tiki classic! No rocket science here – I just added fresh beet juice to your classic daiquiri recipe and the result is stunning! I chose this style of cocktail to compliment the beet juice for a few reasons. For starters, rum distilled from sugar beet molasses was pretty popular for a short time back when rum making first began. Unlike England, France already had infrastructure in place to refine sugar cane and sugar beet molasses into sugar, so raw cane juice from the French Caribbean colonies was free to be used as the colonists saw fit, instead of exported back to the motherland. Rum was the obvious choice for the cane juice and as rum and rhum agricole (rum distilled from sugar cane juice in the French colonies) increased in popularity, folks back in France wanted to make their own spirit instead of having to bring it back from the colonies. The French started using their sugar beet products to do so and sugar beet “rum” was born. It’s not remotely as common as it was in those days, but beet spirits are starting to pop up again if you’re interested in giving them a try! Also, beets’ earthy sweetness is an obvious compliment to rum’s natural sweetness and the lime juice is great at brightening up the fresh beet juice’s otherwise one note flavor profile. And lastly, you don’t need me to tell you that beets are a powerful super food. Drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure, provides your body with tons of detoxifying nutrients and fiber and can help boost stamina during your next workout.

For this cocktail I used a local white rum from Liberty Call Distilling Co. I’m not a huge rum drinker but their’s is super smooth, has a nice tropical fruit thing going on and an interesting funk to it that I love. Plus it’s made right here in San Diego! If you’re not local, Ballast Point Three Sheets or Dancing Pines are both great “craft” options for quality white rum. Bacardi will also do the trick 😉

Beet Daiquiri. Makes 1 drink, can easily be multiplied.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz White Rum – San Diegans can find Liberty Call White Rum at High Tide bottle shop on Coronado
  • 2 oz fresh beet juice
  • 1 oz raw honey simple syrup (1:1), or to taste
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • lime wheel to garnish

Directions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker combine rum, juices and simple syrup
  2. Shake for 10-15 seconds and strain into chilled martini glass or coupe
  3. Garnish with lime wheel and enjoy!

Distillerista-Beet-Daiquiri-4

{ Love the tangy tropical fruit notes in local distiller Bill’s White Rum }

Distillerista-Beet-Daiquiri-6

Distillerista-Beet-Daiquiri-2

Distillerista-Beet-Daquiri-5

Distillerista-Beet-Daiquiri-3

{ All photos above by Krisnoff }

Distillerista-Beet-Juice{ P.S. Don’t have a juicer at home? This 100% beet juice from TJ’s works great! }

P.P.S. Liberty Call has a great Groupon going on right now for discounted tours & tastings! Check it out if you’re in the San Diego area.

You might also like: Classic Gimlet 3 Ways | Cucumber Kale Vodka Spritz

 

Distiller Interview: Jeanne Runkle

JK__9718

For my next Distiller Interview I have the one and only Jeanne Runkle! Jeanne and I were first introduced by fellow San Diego distiller Ray Digilio after we both contacted him about distilling experience. Jeanne, like me, was keen to get into distilling but at a bit of a loss as to how exactly to jump into the industry. Our first coffee date turned into an hours-long chat and surprise, surprise, Jeanne and I became fast friends. Little did I know when we first met, Jeanne was years deep into a well-orchestrated plan to leave the corporate world behind and pursue distilling! Following that passion for liquor-making ultimately led her to take up a distilling position in North Carolina and she’s since enjoyed stints at several distilleries across the country. Writer, blogger, distiller, jet engine mechanic, whiskey aficionado, Jeanne’s accolades go on and on – it’s my honor to feature her here (and to return the favor in doing so)! 

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

I’ve always been a bit of a “jack of all trades” – my background ranges from being a jet engine mechanic in the Marines, to biotech, to the energy industry. And now liquor! My tastiest career choice to date, that’s for sure.

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

My brother-in-law is a financial advisor, and he watches trends in various industries. About 3 years ago, he asked me if I’d heard about craft liquor. After doing my own research, I launched LikeYourLiquor.com less than a year later, a site dedicated to craft distillers and their delicious spirits. The more I interviewed distillers, the more I wanted to trade in my corporate cube for a still!

3. Tell us about your current post.

Right now, I’m working at Quincy Street Distillery in Chicago as their assistant distiller/marketing manager, as well as shaking up a few cocktails in our tasting room bar. Illinois marks my fifth state that I’ve lived in, in 2015!

4. What are some of the pros to being a “nomad” distiller of sorts, a.k.a. working at several operations, not having to go through the process of opening up your own shop, etc.

I’ve learned things from each place I’ve been and I like to think I share that knowledge with the people I meet. I’ll also say that boredom at work is a thing of the past – who has time for that?! Every day is a new challenge. Plus, if I’d decide to open my own distillery, I’m learning all the do’s and don’ts from the best – things like, “floor drains are a must”, or, “tanks that are flat on the bottom are a b*tch to clean”.

5. Your favorite thing about going to work each day?

I love the variety each day brings. I’m not just making the hooch – I’m slinging it at our bar, I’m marketing it. Plus, the people make every day fantastic – both my coworkers, and our customers.

6. I love how you fearlessly gave the corporate world the middle finger and jumped into pursuing a passion. Do you ever have regrets leaving a safe 9-5? Is there anything about your transition you’d do differently looking back?

Out of everything that’s happened this year, not once have I looked fondly back at my old cube and wished I’d done it differently. It took me about a year and a half to jump off the corporate ladder, so I like to think I planned as well as I could. The road’s not always been smooth – but when is anything puppies and rainbows all the time? I wouldn’t change a thing.

7. What’s on your bar cart right now?

I always try to pick up local bottles in a new town – which means my bar “cart” is more like a covered wagon! Right now, I’ve got [Quincy Street] barrel reserve gin and straight single malt (yum!) along with Letherbee’s traditional gin, and Starlight Distillery‘s apple brandy.

Early Years_final

{ Jeanne, slinging hooch since day 1. :) }

All photos courtesy Jeanne Runkle.