There’s a wise saying when it comes to holiday gifting: “When in doubt, bring booze.” To that adage we would add that, with the wave of craft distilling afoot in L.A. right now, bring local booze. We asked some experts to pick their favorite Southern California-made alcohols so you can support the heroes handcrafting liquor in our own hometown.
“It’s an amazing spiced rum that, remarkably, doesn’t taste like suntan lotion like all the other big-brand spiced rums. That’s because it’s infused with all natural real ingredients and not just flavors,” says David Kupchinsky, Freehand L.A.’s beverage director. “It’s made in San Diego by a couple of UCLA graduates who are responsible for founding Ballast Point Brewery, which is universally heralded as one of the best breweries in the world. They made a killing when they sold Ballast point to Constellation and built one of the largest most state-of-the-art distilleries in the world.”
“We support and really love Loft and Bear vodka. It’s distilled in the Arts District of downtown L.A.,” says Brack Shop Tavern bar manager Sean Brown. “We use it in our Vesper cocktail. With its rich aroma and silky mouth feel we think it’s the perfect vodka. In addition to being a well-made local product, they are donating five percent of all profits to organizations supporting distressed families, veterans’ affairs and human services.”
“Grand Poppy is a California poppy liquor. It contains the sweet-slash-bitter component that allows for it to be not quite an amaro and not quite a liquor,” says Joe Keeper, owner of Bar Keeper in Silver Lake. “There’s nothing else like it, mainstream or elsewhere.”
“I love that Blinking Owl distillery in Santa Ana uses all locally sourced organic products and control the distilling process from milling to barrel aging,” says Gabriella Mlynarczyk, author of Clean + Dirty Drinking. “I really like the aquavit. It’s super delicate and nuanced, with all ten botanicals really shining through in the spirit. While they recommend it as either a sipper or in cocktails, my preference is for mixing it—specifically it really shines for me with carrot juice, which I use together in one of the signature drinks at Vacation Bar.”
“Mulholland has a real tasty gluten-free vodka made from 100 percent non-GMO corn. Gluten-free and corn vodkas are extremely popular right now,” says Kupchinsky. “What I like about this one is that not only is it made with carefully-sourced, sustainable products, but it is also made by some friends of ours right down the street. Walton Goggins and Matthew Alper started Mulholland distilling in the Arts District, so they are our neighbors and we get to see them every week hanging out in our bars.”
“Amaro Angeleno is an amaro made in southern California that complements the hot days and cool nights of southern California,” says Everson Royce Bar’s Othón Nolasco. “You can drink it neat after a large, family-style meal. I like to swap Angeleno for the sugar cube in my old fashioned to highlight the single-barrel bourbon I’m into right now.”
Here’s an Amaro Angeleno cocktail Nolasco whipped up for your holiday boozing.
By Othón Nolasco, Everson Royce Bar
3 dashes Forbidden Bitters from Miracle Mile
0.5.oz Amaro Angeleno
2 oz Maker’s Market Select (Joe C. Edition, available at E.R. Pasadena)
Penny Pound Big Rock
Combine ingredients and stir slightly. Garnish with an orange peel.
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