Local craft distillers’ gins garner acclaim on the national stage, but we’re lucky enough to appreciate them not just as fine spirits but also as the flavorful glimpses of home. These ten Bay Area gins embody the flora and flavor of the region.
You can’t go wrong with any of St. George’s gins, but this one is the distillery’s “ode to the wild beauty of the Golden State” and to the forage-rich wilderness of Mount Tam, in particular. St. George Master Distiller Lance Winters recently told PUNCH “Six years after its release, the fact that it functions so well as an olfactory snapshot of the Northern California coastal landscape still moves me.”Locally sourced bay laurel, fir, coastal sage, and juniper reflect our local mountain terroir while a little toasted coriander evokes the dry, scented chaparral of the southern part of the state. Terroir is California in a bottle.
If St. George Terroir is the mountain, this is the sea. Miles of California coastline harbor flavorful seaweed, but only Oakland Spirits Company (OSCO for short) seized upon the idea of adding it to gin. Sustainably foraged nori adds distinct brine to a spirit also flavored with bay leaf, sage, lemongrass, and juniper.
You might have tasted it in the Bigfoot, part of Trick Dog’s recent Mural Project menu. But don’t order it with tonic! Distiller Mike Pierce claims it’s better suited to still cocktails rather than bubbles.
Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing
-Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”
Yeats was not talking about bug-based food dyes but let us stretch the metaphor, loving Yeats as we do.
After a teenage stint at veganism (a fine diet, if you have the time and money to spend pursuing it) I came of legal drinking age with a mind unruffled by ethical concerns where my alcohol was concerned.
But the world (and the Bay Area in particular) is full of cocktail enthusiasts with varying dietary and ethical requirements. Early in my California residency I bellied up to a bar where I was warned that my milk stout had lactic acid in it and I should choose another tap if I had lactose issues. That sort of statement made in Wisconsin would get you kicked over the border into Illinois.
It’s a week of announcements! Hard on the heels of Tales of the Cocktail’s agenda reveal comes the list of 2017 James Beard Award finalists, which includes these notable local cocktail bars and bartenders:
Outstanding Bar Program
(Bar Agricole helped drive ethical cocktail sourcing. You can’t get a Campari drink at the bar, but you can get an amaro made from known ingredients that could be tracked from harvest to bottle.)
Book Award: Beverage Category
Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate
(I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t take the award. It’s a beautiful tome, a friendly look at a niche category, and the photography of over-the-top decorated tiki drinks grabs the attention more than your average cocktail book. My copy is, of course, signed by Martin and Rebecca.)
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA
(St. George is a font of local excellence and sass. Their Terroir is my ne plus ultra of gin.)
Nestled in my checked luggage, a bottle of Sacred’s London Dry survived the return voyage to California where it now holds a place of honor among my bottles. American markets don’t offer the London Dry so cocktails made from it are few and far between in my home.
Therefore, Sacred’s event at renowned gin palace Whitechapel required a pilgrimage.