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8 Great Distilleries for Tasting Craft Spirits

8 Great Distilleries for Tasting Craft Spirits

Changing state laws mean California will be an even bigger destination for small-batch distilleries

California has long been known for its exceptional wine regions (Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz, et al) and innovative beer scenes (San Diego alone has the highest brewery per capita rate of any city in the country). But a recent article from The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the state will soon capture the boozy hat-trick: wine, beer, and spirits, too. The title reads: “In 2019, expect to see more distilleries in California.”

The Golden State’s artisan roots and agricultural bounty provide the perfect foundation for a burgeoning craft spirits culture. However, The Chronicle reports, the real tipping point (tippling point?) came in the form of a 2016 state law, allowing distilleries with tasting rooms to sell bottles directly to consumers. This created an uptick in both distilleries—there are now 89 registered in California—as well as tasting rooms.

The sip-and-shop model is not only good business; it’s great fun. Enjoy hand-crafted potent potables at these distilleries with tasting rooms all across the state, listed north to south.




1. Jewell Distillery, Blue Lake




Head to Humboldt County to sip on slightly sordid history: Jewell’s gin, fruit brandies, and aptly named moonshine are all crafted in a still once used by the Calabrese mob family during prohibition.



2. Gold River Distillery, Rancho Cordova




Head 20 minutes west of Sacramento to find the county’s first legal distillery since prohibition, and one of the only in the state to sell absinthe by the bottle.



3. Spirit Works Distillery, Sebastopol




The husband-and-wife team, based in Sonoma County, creates its signature sloe gin and other spirits from a base of California-grown organic red winter wheat.



4. Hangar One, Alameda




Known for their Fog Point Vodka (made from actual San Francisco fog!), this female-owned distillery has a stunningly beautiful bar, built inside an airplane hangar, overlooking San Francisco Bay.  



5. Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, Santa Barbara




The tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone serves a step beyond the expected spirits with (vodka, gin, bourbon) treats such as Apple Pie and Cold Brew Coffee liqueurs.



6. Desert Distilling, Palm Desert




Specializing in small-batch vodka, gin, white rum, and limoncello, this Coachella Valley distillery offers an informative tour as part of the tasting experience.



7. Surf City Still Works, Huntington Beach




Surf City stays on-brand with beautiful bottles featuring the work of local artists, and cheeky names like Pierside Bourbon and Shorebreak Vodka.



8. You & Yours, San Diego




Dotted with potted plants and indigo furnishings, this tasting room offers world-class cocktails created with spirits crafted by 26-year-old wunderkind Laura Johnson.




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