As the craft-everything movement continues to take root across the country, producers are drawing inspiration from their surroundings to create beverages that stand apart. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to focus on ingredients that reflect what’s unique about where you are. Gin, with its loose formulaic requirements, offers distillers a perfect opportunity to add local flair.
In California, where “garden to glass” and “seed to sip” are hardwired mantras, this means traveling the state’s unique terrain, seeking out native spices and indigenous flora, and drawing inspiration from regional flavors. It also includes tapping into what Wine Country offers. We’ve canvassed the state to find gins that capture its diversity of cultures, climates, and cuisines.
Now we challenge you to look around: What defines your home region—and how can that be reflected in what you’re making?
St. George Spirits; Alameda, Calif.
With a name like “Terroir,” you’re honor-bound to capture the essence of place. Mission accomplished, thanks to bold aromatics of fresh spring flowers mixed with wild sage, pine needles, California bay laurel, lemon lime, white pepper, and Buddha’s hand fruit recalling California’s myriad landscapes. Sam is true on the palate, which is layered with quaffable notes of dried lavender, juniper, tangy key lime pie and sandstone minerality leading to a long, dry finish. Elegant, sophisticated, and very stylish—a botanical sensation in every sip.
Original Gin (O.G.)
Krobar Craft Distillery; Paso Robles, Calif.
This gin, made from 100 percent wine distillate, is reminiscent of sake. A nose of dried white flowers evolves into a lemon pastry tart—crust included. Flavors of green peppercorn, coriander, Chanterelle, and baked quince blend with the traditional juniper berries to create an exotic and esoteric blend.
Krobar also produces pink gin and barrel-rested gin, both of which are reduced to 110 proof before further manipulation. The former rests in red wine barrels sur lie for one month, resulting delectable flavors of dried berries topped with spicky layers of pink peppercorn, cardamom, cinnamon, and fresh-baked ginger snaps. The latter is placed in once-used rye whiskey barrels for six to eight months, then cut to 90 proof; wild and woody, we get serious notes of carrot cake and pumpernickel (seriously!), as well as clove, allspice, blood orange peel, green olive, and a hint of hickory smoke.
City Bright Gin
Greenbar Distillery; Los Angeles, Calif.
Drawing inspiration from the multicultural food scene in Los Angeles, there’s fragrant notes of green tea, chamomile, fresh citrus, and wet hay on the nose, with lively flavors of exotic jackfruit, lemongrass, anise, fresh-squeezed lime, and hints of cola and lingering spice on the palate. A soft, almost plush mouthfeel cushions a sweet core and generous finish. Lively, spicy, and complex, it’s a great gin to serve ice cold, on the rocks, or to add a little extra pop to a Negroni.
Speaking of which, Greenbar also produces a Grand Poppy Amaro that combines the requisite bitter flavor elements with more Cali-centric ingredients, including the state flower Golden Poppy, bay leaf, and bearberry, for a unique spin on this traditional liqueur.
Ada Lovelace Gin
Great Women Spirits; Geyserville, Calif.
Named for a 19th century English mathematician and writer, this refined entry is perfectly balanced between juniper berry classicism and New World sassiness. From the very first sniff, delicate aromas of wild anise, rose petals, fresh citrus, celery root, green peppercorn, and fresh herbs immediately enlighten the senses. On the palate, vibrant flavors of tart Meyer lemon, tangerine rind, lavender, and juniper meld together to create a sexy, silky standout. The end result is a graceful, complex, and well-balanced gin that can rival any London-style offering from the New World. Seamless and captivating—a true thinker’s gin from start to finish.
Old World Spirits; Belmont, Calif.
Clean, crisp, and very herbaceous; the Blade Gin from Old World Spirits opens up with lofty aromas of ripe tree fruits, dried lavender, and scents of celery root, spearmint, and fresh basil. With distinctive notes of candied lemon, grapefruit rind, juniper, mineral, and subtle spices, this gin cries out for an ice-cold glass and an olive garnish.
In contrast, the Rusty Blade Gin, aged in French oak for an average 18 months, is smoky, spicy, and savory, with an intriguing copper-toned hue. Think sassafras, fresh cracked black pepper, clove, nutmeg, and even mincemeat on the nose; a rich, creamy texture; and the perfect balance of power, finesse, and vibrant acidity to complement lively notes of Meyer lemon, quince, vanillin, and roasted nuts, all leading to a snappy, spicy, and persistent finish. In addition to being a luxurious sipper, the stylish, hedonistic character of this barrel-aged wonder make it an admirable candidate to create a fancy Gin Rickey or pair with cigars later in the evening.