I have to admit I am not the fine alcohol and spirit connoisseur that The Brit is. He is the mixologist in our house, and I leave all of that to him. Having said that, I really enjoyed our recent trip to St. George Spirits in Alameda. What a fun and interesting experience.
The Brit had been on the St. George Spirits tour previously. I was out-of-town and he went with a group of friends. He raved about the experience so much I had to go and see it for myself.
When we pulled up to what is literally a hangar from an abandoned naval base, I started to have my doubts. If you turn around 180 degrees, the views of San Francisco from the building are gorgeous so bring your camera. (Of course the fog has to cooperate.)
Entering the building, you are greeted by a concierge who sorts you into a tour group. The building is far nicer than it seems from the outside. You get the impression of an industrial space and not some high-tech facility. When you go through the double doors on your tour, you can start to see where all the magic is made. It is very impressive.
I have to stop at this point and tell you about our tour guide. Her style was hilarious, quirky, and oh so enthusiastic. She probably has a second job as a stand up comic she was so good. Every single person in the tour was enthralled watching her and listening to her speak. We all enjoyed listening to her talk about all the different processes of distilling alcohol.
The Brit comments: The stills that St George Spirits use not only create delicious spirits, but are works of beautiful industrial art in their own right.
She took us step by step through the entire distilling process. We were shown all of the beautiful specialized tanks and explained how they all worked. We also had the opportunity to see some of the ingredients they use to make the alcohol and what gives it flavor. The tour lasted about 40 minutes.
After the tour, they let us try some of their products. As we had a friend with us, we chose different things to sample so we could all share. This was the part of the experience that was both great and a tad disappointing. That day the staff seemed to be having issues and our group was left half way through our tasting by our host for a good twenty minutes at the bar with nothing to taste. We felt a little weird and several people left. It was a bit uncomfortable. The guests at the other three bars were all receiving attention. When another staff member finally came to help us, then it was great. The alcohol tasting was as wonderful as the tour had been.
I would like to highlight their pear brandy and their spiced pear liquor. I don’t even normally like to sip straight spirits, but these could be a new favorite. I really liked the spiced pear liquor. It tasted to me like hot spiced cider that you drink during the winter (They sell it in a bottle at Trader Joes). I bought myself a bottle of that one!
Every once in a while I like to drink a Gin and Tonic and their Botanivore Gin is the perfect gin for that. Delicious! I would highly recommend that one.
The Brit comments: I use the Botanivore as the base for making Martinis; it is a Gin full of flavour and ideal for a drink in which the Gin is at the fore. It works well with Gin and Tonics, as long as you do not drown it with the Tonic Water. The Terroir Gin is also excellent, using herbs that grow on and around Mt Tamalpais. This too is a wonderful Gin, but its unique flavours, especially from the Douglas Fir, make it less well suited to a range of cocktails.
One of the other things St. George makes is vodka. In this tasting, we tasted their citrus flavored vodka but I prefer their mandarin blossom vodka which I have enjoyed on previous occassions. Both are good, but there is something about the mandarin that amps up the flavor of your cocktail. The Brit uses it in his cosmo recipe and it is amazing.
The coffee liquor was like drinking an alcoholic cup of coffee, the flavor was so spot on. I loved it! It would be so delicious to bake with, and pour over cakes and chocolate mousse. (Or just pour it into your morning cup of joe when family is staying with you – shh it will be our little secret…)
My least favorite was the green chile vodka. I could see it would be good in a spicy bloody mary or the like, but sipping it? It just wasn’t my thing. Maybe it would be good as a recipe addition to something savory sweet like jalapeno corn bread muffins. I will have to give that some thought.
Other than our little hiccup, we all had a great time. I would love to go back and buy more of the coffee liquor and the pear spiced liquor.
The Brit comments: I also use St George Spirits Absinthe for my cocktails. St George were one of the first distilleries in the US to release an Absinthe after the ban on its sale in the US was lifted in 2007. There will be a future post on this blog on the use of Absinthe in a range of cocktails.