Drinking local in L.A. is no longer a fleeting dream. Over the last few years, Los Angeles has been increasing its number of everything from homegrown breweries to coffee roasters, making imbibing locally produced liquids easier than ever.
And 2016 marks the year that our city’s distilling scene finally made some gains, with three new spirits makers opening, effectively doubling the number of distilleries in L.A. County. Two of these new distilleries join 11-year-old Greenbar and 4-year-old Loft & Bear in the Arts District, making the neighborhood, for the first time, ripe for a distillery crawl. The last new distillery is actually a working brewery, too (we’ve been calling it a “brewstillery”), and could signal the inevitable collaborative future of L.A. drinking.
With the California Small Spirits Bill in effect since Jan. 1, boutique distillers now can operate public tasting rooms where you can go to sip some samples, order a cocktail and, when you're done, buy a few bottles to go. With these three new spots, there’s never been a better time to drink local in L.A.
Say what you will about its high-profile funding sources (Pernod Ricard, producers of Absolut, Jameson, Beefeater and more), Our/Vodka has leveraged global experience to create locally operated, small-batch vodka distilleries in major cities around the world – now including Los Angeles. Founded by a former innovation director at Absolut, Our/Vodka (and its L.A. outpost, Our/Los Angeles) finds local investors to build a distillery in their hometown, where they partially distill a premium vodka according to a recipe created with native flair. Our/Los Angeles partners Steven Ocheltree and Tyler Simmons, co-founders of creative agency Sew, concocted a wheated vodka that's made in an Arts District warehouse, which doubles as a tasting room. But because Pernod Ricard is on the license, the otherwise boutique-qualifying Our/Los Angeles can’t sell bottles to the public. Take a tour and get a taste for $10, then go to Barkeeper, Wally’s or the iconic Circus Liquor for one of its shareable 375-ml bottles.
915 S. Santa Fe St., downtown. ourvodka.com/ourlosangeles. Mon.-Fri., 1-5 p.m.
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Rob Ruben’s Brewing and Distilling
L.A.’s first brewstillery has landed in Rob Ruben’s Brewing and Distilling, a speakeasy-themed combo booze-maker near downtown El Segundo, which brings both handcrafted tipples under one roof. Since opening at the end of this summer, the intimate tasting room – draped in red cloth and without TVs or Wi-Fi – has been rolling out its beer and spirits program slowly. In October, house beers such as the grapefruit cream ale and coffee-infused saison were joined by the first batches of owner-distiller-brewer Rob Ruben’s slightly sweet blue corn vodka and a white whiskey. 18th Amendment Gin, a creative display of juniper, cardamom, coriander, lavender and hops, was released in November and a barrel-aged bourbon-style whiskey is slated for next year. The taproom might be trying too hard with its Prohibition-era theme (all the bartenders go by numbers, not names), but the spirits are great, especially in a cocktail. And with a beer on the side, it’s almost hard to go wrong.
909 E. El Segundo Blvd., El Segundo. (424) 277-1134, rubensspirit.com. Mon.-Wed., 4:30-9 p.m.; Thu., 4:30-10 p.m.; Fri., 4:30-11 p.m.; Sat., noon-11p.m.; Sun., noon-8 p.m.
The Spirit Guild
Miller Duvall comes from a long line of California farmers, some of whom still grow clementine oranges on what’s left of the family land near Bakersfield. So when Duvall and his wife, Morgan McLachlan, decided to leave their jobs in L.A.’s film industry, they knew they wanted to create something new by going back to their roots. With McLachlan as master distiller, the Spirit Guild has released two liquors since its opening in May: the smooth Vapid Vodka and the herbaceous Astral Gin, both owing their hint of citrus to their base — fermented, then distilled to high-proof, clementines (more unique spirits, including an amaro, are in the works). The Arts District tasting room for this distinctly California distillery is just a few doors down from Blue Bottle Coffee and features mesmerizing stained glass windows and an art installation by Megan Whitmarsh. Tastings are offered and bottles are available to go.
586 Mateo St., downtown. (213) 613-1498, thespiritguild.com. Wed.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.