Beyond Juniper: A Guide to New California Gin

Californians are spoiled rotten. We've got sunshine, citrus trees, the best burritos, and right now, more distilleries than you can shake a stick at. There's plenty of gin to be had, much of it falling into the more traditional realm. Then there's the other stuff. The orange colored gin and the gin that tastes like pine trees. Here are seven gins you should try, and I guarantee that one of them might be your new favorite.

1. Botanica (Falcon Spirits)

This refreshing, cucumber laced gin is made in Richmond, CA in beautiful Holstein stills and is ridiculously sippable. Elegant and soft, this is the kind of gin that should have a permanent place in your homebar. Especially shines in a classic Martini, so stock up on a nice dry vermouth. 

What to expect: fresh cukes and citrus

2. Ventura

Using local botanicals from the Central Coast, the result is a dry, Western profile that is unique and yet still provides an end result that's cocktail friendly and approachable. Ventura uses savory, wild botanicals like sagebrush, purple sage, bay, and yerba santa, so you get the idea. 

What to expect:  dried summer herbs, citrus peel, juniper

3. St. George Terroir Gin

This is essentially the equivalent of hiking through Mt Tam and having some big ass bear walk up to you with a fir tree and smack you right in the face with it. It has a cult following and it's easy to see why. There's nothing else that comes close in terms of flavor profile. It's affordable. It's quality. It's a Christmas tree in a glass.

What to expect: aggressively friendly CA bear wielding a pine bough

4. Oakland Spirits Co. Sea Gin

As someone who hates seafood and seaweed and... well, you get the idea, I was surprised to enjoy the profile of this one. Infused with foraged nori, bay, lemongrass, and a few other undisclosed botanicals, the "sea" flavors are very balanced. There's just a hint of brine and umami, balanced out by the citrus. 

What to expect: a touch of salty sea air on a windy day by the beach

5. Tru Gin

First, let's acknowledge the obvious. It's orange AF. That's because they add the botanicals directly to the spirit in a style of production that pre-dates double distillation, so the color remains. Their reasoning: maximum flavor. This is a very unique gin, and you'd be wise to steer clear of making a traditional Martini with it. It's best suited to gin and tonic variations and citrus forward cocktails.

What to expect: coriander and grapefruit

6. Rusty Blade

Barrel aged gins are everywhere. A few years ago they seemed to be a novelty. Then they seemed to be a staple at every serious cocktail bar. Now it seems almost every new gin producer has a version of their juice resting in a barrel. This has long been one of my favorites.

What to expect: cinnamon and winter spice

7. Corbin Western

Made in the Central Valley, this sweet potato based gin is crafted by third generation farmers who added a still to their farmland. Big and herbaceous, this juniper forward gin is spicy and dry. Good in G&Ts, or chilled with a twist of lemon. Terroir gin drinkers might also find some similarities they just might like.

What to expect: rosemary, pine, juniper


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