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Thursday, October 06, 2011


Yes, it helps that I live in San Francisco and the St. George Distillery is right across the Bay in Alameda. It's sinfully easy for me to hop on over to try new spirits. St. George Spirits is best known for their vodkas under the label HANGAR ONE. They've also been making wonderful liqueurs and Eau de Vie under the label Aqua Perfecta. I had the absolute pleasure of attending and reviewing their 2006 Open House followed by their 2007 Open House as a follow up. (If you click the links above to access my Open House reviews, just click the titles to stream that audio episode.)

So my good friend, Stefan from Cocktail Podcast in Germany was taking a vacation in the United States and started his trip by visiting me here in San Francisco. Of course, I had to take him to St. George Spirits. If you're ever in the Bay Area, you must go there! Take the tour and enjoy the tastings. The employees there are a lot of fun and you'll be entertained by the tour and learn lots of information about making spirits of all kinds.

During this visit we were pleased to taste their three new gins. This is my attempt to write a review of all three as well as a BONUS liqueur.

All three gins are 45% ABV. It really lets the aromatics shine through and can stand up to any cocktail recipe.

The bottles are beautiful and the labels have the look of currency. As far as I am concerned, you can pay me in gin any day! The label designs were inspired by Lance Winters (distiller) using the wonderful talents of Juli Shore Design as the label artist and Steve Noble as the designer for the etchings on the label.

It's hard to say this is a standard gin because the aroma and taste is bursting with herbal notes while still being silky smooth and elegant enough to make an incredible Martini Cocktail. When was the last time you were tempted to sip a Dry Gin neat? That's how I'm enjoying it right now while working on this review. Really. It's that good! Their website explains the name, Botanivore, because it's the "botanical eater." There are 19 aromatics used to make this gin: Juniper berries, coriander, cardamom, citra hops, caraway, dill, fennel, orris root, angelica root, ginger, star anise, Malabar black peppercorn, bay leaf, cilantro, lime peel, bergamot, lemon peel, Seville orange peel and cinnamon. If you're looking for a top quality gin for your gin cocktails, this is the one! It's perfect for making Martinis or Gin & Tonics.


This gin is like no other. Distiller Lance Winters was inspired to start making gin by the aromas of the coastal forests on California's Mount Tamalpais. Terroir Gin perfectly captures the coastal forests of California in spirit form. The botanicals used are Douglas fir tips, coastal sage, fresh bay laurel, juniper berries, angelica root, cinnamon, coriander, orris root, cardamom, fennel seed, lemon peel and Seville orange peel. Dave Smith, Lance Winters and Ellie Winters went out to Mt. Tam and foraged Douglas Fir tips with Hall Newbegin, owner of Juniper Ridge.

How's the best way to describe the taste? For me it makes me think of Christmas tree shopping. Flavors and tastes can easily summon memories of your past and I'm sure Terroir Gin will do just that. If you've ever been hiking through the Californian coastal forests, this will transport you back there.

Need a cocktail idea? Try making an Aviation using Terroir Gin. It's incredible! I show how to make an Aviation in my video episode: Strainers.

Genever is a wonderful, malty spirit that was once bigger than gin. Many of the gin cocktails we make today that were created back in the early 19th century were originally made with genever. It was only later that gin like the London Dry style we use today became popular. Genever style gin was made from what the Dutch would call maltwine, which started more like a mash for whisky. It would then be distilled and the aromatics would be introduced. St. George Dry Rye Gin follows this style. They pot distill Canadian rye for a nice, malty flavor and then add their aromatics like juniper berries, Malabar black pepper, caraway, grapefruit peel, lime peel and coriander. I'm told they actually use twice as much juniper in the Dry Rye Gin from what's used in the other gins. This spirit easily rivals the best genevers out there. You could easily say it is the best out there. Even if you have a friends that says they hate gin, and we all know someone like that it seems, I'd still recommend getting them to try Dry Rye Gin. It's a completely different animal. You can easily sip this straight due to the silky smooth, warm, sweet, malty flavors. Do you have a favorite whiskey cocktail? Use Dry Rye Gin in place of whiskey. I find this works much better in whiskey cocktail recipes than gin recipes.


Oh my! I am not really a coffee drinker but this liqueur is CRAZY good! There are a lot of coffee liqueurs out there but most are just too sweet for my taste. Firelit Coffee Liqueur is perfect. The level of sweetness is just enough to balance the flavors. They stayed true to fresh, real ingredients. The coffee used didn't start as powder. They use hand-roasted beans cold brewed. My bottle is Batch #4, which shows the coffee comes from Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, CA. This particular batch is Costa Rican La Garita from Verve. Unaged brandy helps add the kick and for the sweetness, natural cane sugar, not corn syrup. The nose carries with it not only coffee but dark chocolate and raisins. The taste also gives off chocolate, deep roasted coffee (of course) and caramel. Mix it with milk, drink it neat or make a coffee cocktail using it! Just last night I mixed 2 oz ST. GEORGE DRY RYE GIN, 1/2 oz FIRELIT COFFEE LIQUEUR and three dashes of Mozart Chocolate Bitters, which is an Austrian bitter I have not been able to find in the States. (My good friend, Stefan, was kind enough to bring me a bottle from Germany.)

So what's next for my St. George Spirits adventure? They just released their first Bourbon! Of course, they sold out almost instantly. Anyway, you know I'll have a bottle as soon as I can and when I do, I'll be sure to post my thoughts.

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