Farm to Glass
The abundance of uber-healthy California produce is reflected in a rich, distinctly flavorful bounty of new spirits.
- Written byBarbara Barrielle
Cocktailing, it seems, has never been more popular. The mixology culture is booming, craft distilleries are popping up and tasting rooms are opening. Now you can add spirits, in the form of aperitifs and liqueurs, to that growing list. Here are a few of the more interesting production houses focusing on fresh and sometimes organic ingredients that now mark the map.
In 2007 James and Manuela Carling discovered that the verdant crop of lemons in Ventura County were perfect for Manuela’s Italian nonna’s limoncello recipe. The couple started sourcing, hand-peeling and crushing local crops for their liqueur, and based on positive reception they began producing farm-fresh versions. Ventura Limoncello (venturalimoncello.com) now also sells Orangecello from blood oranges and a unique Limoncello Crema.
Order it: Firenze Osteria in NoHo
Buy it: Vendome Wine & Spirits, BevMo and Whole Foods
Greenbar Craft Distillery
With Greenbar Craft Distillery (greenbar.biz), Downtown LA’s hip scene now has its own distillery and soon will have a tasting room. It’s all about organic for spirits-makers Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew, who use only local, hand-processed produce and organic grains. TRU vodka and gin, Crusoe rum, Slow Hand whiskey, IXÁ tequila and FruitLab liqueurs are the base of this growing distillery, boasting the largest portfolio of organic spirits in the U.S. The environmentalist owners plant a tree in South America for every bottle sold.
Order it: Girasol in Studio City and The Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills
Buy it: Vendome Wines & Spirits in Studio City and Toluca Lake
Jardesca California Aperitiva
Aperitifs, an opener to an evening, are a staple in Europe. Here in the U.S. they’re not as popular, which makes what some Sonoma County winemakers are doing pretty bold. Marcus Seiden, formerly of River Road Winery, and spirits expert Marshall Dawson are combining local wines with eau-de-vie (grain alcohol), white wines and California herbs for an aperitif called Jardesca (jardesca.com). The result is a unique departure from the norm. Served over ice with fresh herbs like mint, basil or thyme, Jardesca is aimed at folks who frequent farmers markets.
Order it: Firefly in Studio City
Buy it: Vendome Wines & Spirits in Studio City
Founded in 2011, Santa Barbara’s Ascendant Spirits (ascendantspirits.com) has won doz-ens of awards for their bourbon, vodka and even moonshine. Producers use local, organic produce and grain to distill distinct, small batches. Master distiller Stephen Gertman makes spirits like Semper Fi corn whiskey in a 500-gallon, U.S.-made copper still. Known for ultra-hot American Star Ghost Chile vodka, Ascendant also crafts strawberry and caviar-lime versions for less adventurous palates.
Order it: Take A Bao and Black Market, both in Studio City
Buy it: Whole Foods
Mirabelle Wine Bar offers a three-course, prix fixe dinner on Sunday nights in Valley Village, which is especially ambitious given their limited kitchen.