Thirsty? Get a Taste of SoCal’s Artisanal Spirits

West Coast aquavit, bartender.

California, though world-renowned for grape vineyards and wineries, is also home to a surprising number of privately owned spirit distilleries. Southern California alone hosts a fair share of enterprising alcohol creators, and Discover LA was kind enough to point out some of the standouts from Orange to Ventura County.

Greenbar Distillery

“Though it’s not really a “new” operation, Greenbar Distillery still deserves mention for being the first distillery in Los Angeles County since the Repeal of Prohibition when they opened in 2012. Owners Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Matthew had to slog through a swamp of red tape left over from the Prohibition era to start distilling at their Downtown facility, but doing so paved the way for everyone that came after. This is a multifaceted operation, offering distillery tours, spirits tastings, and cocktail classes multiple times a week to show off the organic vodka, liqueur, tequila, rum, and bitters made there. Tastings are by appointment; you can sign up for tours and classes on their website. Pro-tip: the tasting room is open for walk-ins on Friday afternoons between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.”

Blinking Owl

“Santa Ana residents Brian and Robin Christenson—self-described ‘locavores, grain nerds, and control freaks’—founded the operation in 2014 with a vision to make quality spirits with 100% California ingredients, using their award-winning Santa Ana water. As of February 2018, they succeeded in sourcing all of their grains from certified organic California farms to make Blinking Owl vodka, orange-flavored vodka, gin, whiskey, aquavit, and ‘barrel-vacationed’ Old Tom Gin. Along with Stark Distillery, they make up Southern California’s contribution to a burgeoning wave of West Coast aquavit produced in the past few years. The tasting room is open Thursday-Sunday evenings, with $30 distillery tours offered that include a spirits flight and a cocktail. Reservations are strongly recommended, as is the Old Tom.”

Ventura Spirits

“Ventura Spirits has been making quality spirits with California ingredients since 2011, but their public tasting room opened up just within the past year. Located in the basement of an unassuming office park building off Highway 33, the ‘California Distilled’ mural marks the entrance to the birthplace of Wilder gin (made with in-state botanicals), California vodka, barrel-aged strawberry brandy, and Opuntia—a unique spirit made from prickly pear. A $10 tasting gets each person a flight of spirits and some ‘mini-cocktails.’ They are open to the public Friday-Sunday afternoons, and provide facility tours upon request. Pro tip: the distillery sits directly on the Ventura River Trail bike path, and makes a fantastic stop off during your Ojai day trip.”

Check out Discover LA’s full list here.

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