Sip pretty with these refreshing local concoctions, from gut-healthy tonics to poolside libations Words by ANUSH J. BENLIYAN There's something undeniably satisfying about cracking open a cool can on a warm day, be it at home, on the go or at the beach.
Minnesota fernet? Pineapple amaro? The collective thirst for the Italian liqueur amaro is no bitter pill. So fully have drinkers embraced the low-alcohol, bark-and-botanical-based digestif that it was only a matter of time before American-made versions blossomed. Around 2010, companies like Root in Pennsylvania and Leopold Bros.
Amaro, the herbal digestif whose name translates to "bitter" in Italian, historically hails from Europe, where it is a key ingredient in spritzes and served as an after-dinner sipper. In recent years, the popularity of cocktails like Negronis, Black Manhattans, and the Aperol Spritz have breathed new life into the category stateside.
In the summertime, a steady fog rolls off the Pacific and blankets the terraced hills of California's Golden Coast, cooling grapevines, orange, and lemon trees. Set back just a few miles from the ocean, Ventura Spirits distills liquor and liqueur, like limoncello , with the harvested fruit.
The spirits industry is keen to position itself as sustainable. But a bottleof alcohol made via a solar-powered distillation process doesn't undo the fact that all the raw materials for that drink were grown, harvested, and trucked to the distillery, turned into liquor, and then, finally, hauled away to the store.
"The Plants Told Us They Were Ready" - The Land and the Liquid in Southern California - Good Beer Hunting
"We were hobbyists for a long time. Two of us were distilling in our parents' garage since probably high school." "What kind of stuff were you guys making?" "Nothing good." Much has changed since the days when Anthony Caspary and his brother, Andrew, were brewing up Nothing Good just for the fun of it.
Perhaps one of the biggest bummers of recent times in the temporary halt on enjoying a fine beverage inside a tent or around a campfire in your favorite forest or campground. Fear not, though. Even if you're stuck inside a minuscule, big-city apartment, there are a variety of spirits out there that can bring the taste and aroma of the great outdoors inside.
With its vibrant downtown, entrepreneurial grit, towering hills and gorgeous coastline, Ventura offers the outdoor-adventure traveler an array of activities including one of the best kiteboarding locations in California. Towns along the California coast are almost always considered charming and Ventura is no exception.
Maybe it's that plunking down a bottle of amaro in the center of the table after a meal makes us feel like we're in a Fellini film. Or the fact that bartenders are forever in search of the next thing they can use to add dimension to cocktails.
There's good news for people who hate gin-or at least people who think they hate gin. "When people say they hate gin, they hate juniper," says Yoni Rabino of New York Distillery Neversink Spirits.
If you're a fan of craft spirits, it's been hard to miss the industry's explosive growth in recent years. Much like the craft brewing scene two decades ago, small-batch distilleries have been popping up all over the country in unprecedented numbers.
Make vodka from strawberries? No one does that, says Anthony Caspary, co-founder of Ventura Spirits, a bootstrap distillery he started with his brother and two friends in the basement of an old industrial building on the western edge of Ventura. Other than the expense of the strawberries themselves, it's just too much work.
These days, it seems like there are craft brewers in every city in California, batching up hoppy IPAs, crisp lagers, and dark-chocolate stouts. But as the market for local beer becomes more saturated, and the novelty of the industry wears off, some are wondering: What's the next up-and-coming, trend-setting drink?