Rum, vodka, gin and moonshine are moving in on San Diego’s craft beer scene as local distilleries brew batches with a cosmopolitan twist. I attended a dinner at Solare Ristorante in Liberty Station with a variety of distillers for a Spirits of San Diego dinner. These local potions would give a new meaning to farm-to-table food and drink.
Mixologist Tommy carefully designed farm-to-bar cocktails with locally grown herbs, fruits and produce for each liquor while Chef Accursio Lota mastered a four course menu with the cocktail shaker in hand. Throughout the leisurely dinner, cocktails served with cured swordfish belly, cavatelli pasta, duck breast and three layer chocolate-pistachio mousse were a divine combination.
Old Harbor Distilling Company
The bay of San Diego was discovered by explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542 and he named the port, San Miguel. How fitting that Old Harbor Distilling Company created a gin named San Miguel Southwestern gin. While not made in a typical fashion with juniper berries, it’s a blend of local lime, cucumber, herbs and botanicals. Bars and restaurants try to keep up with the demands for the gin and there’s also a mixed drink named Skubic Driver after the owner, Mike Skubic. This ocean front city has a big US Navy presence and Barrel Flag Rum is commanding at 114 proof. Known as Navy Strength Rum, it’s a blend of black strap molasses that offers an aromatic flair of flavors. The distillery offers tours with information at www.oldharbordistilling.com
Kill Devil Spirit Company
Founder Ray Digilio began distilling unfiltered vodka, moonshine and gin in 2011 when he decided to make his dream a reality. The spirits are made by hand, self-sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Company ambassador, Daniel Baker, told me their brand of Ugly unfiltered vodka is fermented in house and the result is “hearts of the run”. It’s uncompromised in flavor and produces a better vodka than traditionally distilled vodka. Bestselling Valor gin made from a sugar cane wash, botanicals and fruit is referred to as a west coast style gin because of its layers of citrus and mint. And moonshine isn’t only in the south anymore, Ugly California moonshine is made from grain and malt barley at 90 proof. Check the site www.killdevilspiritco.com for tasting information.
Malahat Spirits Company
I was hooked on this rum when I tasted the spiced rum while eating a cake soaked in it at an exclusive restaurant. The owners of Malahat began experimenting with just the right combination of yeasts, molasses, spices and herbs in 2012 to make the white, spiced and ginger rums. The spiced rum won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. One of the owners, Ken Lee, told me a whiskey is being developed and sure to be as distinctive as the rums. During prohibition, rumrunners looked for the five masted Malahat schooner sailing down the Pacific coast loaded with cases of rum. Now it’s much easier to buy.
San Diego shines brighter with distilleries on the leading edge of cocktails.
Solare Ristorante 2820 Roosevelt St, San Diego, California.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Solare Ristorante for hosting me, as always, my opinions are my own.