I work with a lot of cool, interesting people. On Fridays, the inevitable what-are-you-doing-this-weekend conversation arises and most of the time, I listen silently amid the I'm going to Burning Man/an underground Farmer's Market/trapeze class/to Miami types of activities. (Many of my weekend outings involve places like Costco, Target and the public library). But thanks to my friend Ms. Gorgongzola's creative planning and thoughtful invite, I finally had something cool to say. "I'm going to drink absinthe in the East Bay" I added.
We had plans to tour and do a tasting at Alameda distillery St. George Spirits/Hangar One Vodka. This place can also fall into the "wow, I never knew a place like this existed in the Bay Area" category. Located in an actual airplane hangar on an old navy base, driving to Hangar One feels special, very Top Gun. And here you can see some of the most spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline I have ever seen.
For $10 you can do a tasting of 10 different spirits made on the premises including seasonal eau de vie (distilled fruit brandy), various Hangar One vodkas (including one made from the unique citrusy Buddha's Hand fruit pictured in the jar), their St. George's single malt whisky, and an of array tea and fruit liquers. It sounds like a lot of booze, but they say it's the equilavent to only a cocktail and a half. For $5 more you can also taste their Absinthe Verte, which is signified by the special skull-and-crossbones glass (which you also get to take home with you).
You also get a great education by one of their bartenders who passionately take you through each sip. It doesn't feel sales pitchy at all, more like an invitation to a truly artisan experience.The first distillery in the US to legally make and sell the once-maligned absinthe, their creation is a mix of wormwood, star anise and fennel and is infused with herbs. It's served with a single ice cube, which activates the botanicals and produces a milky/cloudy appearance. The result? Herb-y. Licorice-y. And mouth-numbing. Cool, right?
After the tasting we planned to take their free distillery tour, which is offered on weekends only. But for me, this is when things start to get fuzzy (lightweight that I am) and I have to sit down and take a time out. However, both MFM and Ms. Gorgongzola assure me the hour-long tour, which takes you from distilling to aging to bottling, was both informative and engaging.
Standouts for me were a special edition Firelit coffee liqueur (made with Blue Bottle coffee) which our bartender included specially with our tasting, and their Framboise (raspberry) Perfecta Liqueur, both of which were purchased at the store on the premises. I can't wait to try the Firelit liqueur over ice cream, and the Framboise drizzled on pancakes or waffles. Just as I couldn't wait to get to work that Monday, and tell all my co-workers all about that cool thing I did over the weekend.
SAMIWICH'S TASTING / TOUR RATING