A couple of Saturdays ago, I decided to head on over to St. George Spirits, home of Hangar 1 vodka and other delights, for their annual Holiday Open House. For those of you who don’t know, St. George Spirits is housed in the old Alameda Naval Air Station, in, well, Hangar number 1. The best part of the trip over there, other than the delicious libations, is the unobstructed view over the old airfield, to the cityscape beyond.
When I RSVP’ed for this event, I decided to go for the whole shebang – tasting the traditional offerings of vodka and Eau de Vies, but also included the special bottlings of brandies as well as the mescal and absinthe. I’m not sure how much I can tell you about the latter, but I have plenty to say about the amazing vodkas and other clear liquors! It started out with 3 inventive cocktails, made from the offerings we were going to taste. But first, you should hear the story.
St George Spirits began over twenty years ago, by a German emigrant that found a new home in San Francsico. Jörg Rupf began educating the American palate as to the virtues and beauty of finely crafted eau de vie., or the Water of Life. The story of St. George Spirits really starts with the Eu de Vie, which in many cultures is th eonly way to make the fruits of summer last forever. It all starts with the source fruits, which have to be the best examples. The examples I tasted at the open house truely were the cream of the crop, and were luscious libations of the first class.
Aqua Perfecta is the name of the fruit brandies that St. George produces. The word brandy here really does not bear any relationship to the sticky sweet concoctions that many American’s associate iwth the drink. These are the essence of the fruit, suspende din fire water, which will warm you even on the coldest of days.
The Pear Eau de Vie tastes of deep buttery pears, with just a touch of spice. It is made with over 15 pounds of pears in each bottle and it really shows! The fruit itself comes from local sources in Northern California, and the essense tastes of pears that have been poaches and pureed.
The Framboise tastes exactly like the essense of raspberries you would expect it too. One sniff, and you are transported to the fields of the Northwest, with powerful berry aromas and intense berry flavors. You would never mistake this for another liquor. This would be amazing over ice cream, with some fresh berries sprinkled on top.
This is probably the most traditional of the spirits offered, other than the plain vodka. This Kirsch is one of the most difficult to perfect, since it is a spirit loved the world over. The cherry flavor is tinged with an almond essense, which is developed from the fermenting pits. The cherries used to make this spirit are not hte sweet reds that we eat, because they do not ferment well. Rather, they are Montmorencies, a sour variety grown in Michigan. This Kirch would be wonderful with Marzipan treats, as well as the traditional uses in fondue both cheese & chocolate.
Grappa is an aquired taste. It is an intense flavor that can be brutal goign down. Anyone who has seen My Big Fat Greek Weddign can understand! Traditional Grappa is distilled from pomace, the remains of grapes after they’ve been pressed for wine, making this a very green beverage as we are using what would normally be put to compost to continue the fermentation process. I have tasted many a grappa in my travels, but St. George makes it differently. this grappa is actually used from another urban beverage supplier down the road – Rosenblum’s Rockpile Road Zinfandel. This grappa is very smooth and I can really pull out the intensity of the zinfandel flavors sipping on it.
The same amazing source fruit that is used ot make the Eau de Vie is used to make the Aqua Perfecta Liquors. These are fortiified liqueurs, which are terriffic on their own or poured over a big bowl of ice cream. The brilliant red of the Raspberry Aqua Perfecta is stunning to look at, and even better to taste. It is like drinking raspberry puree with a kick! While not sweet, it has all of the fruity goodness of eating a basket of the best raspbreries during the height of summer.
The Kaffir Lime is a funny looking creature from Indonesia. The leaves often are used in Thai dishes, and provide an intense aromatic to this vodka. This has a refreshing fresh lime flavor.
The Buddha’s Hand Lemon is a spikey strange object, which doesn’t really look like a lemon at all, but rather some creature from the black lagoon. It has an intense aroma of lemons that really swoops out of the glass, This is a terrific sipping vodka, but also would make an unbelievable Lemon Drop or Martini.
Mandarin Blosson – Smells like you have an orange in your glass. The aromatics of this vodka are like the essential oils used in room fresheners, but in a good way! This is a truely deliciosu sipper, and I went back for several samples, poured through a giant ice sculpture luge to chill the vodka. Mmmm it would make a delicious cosmo, but it’s really wonderful on it’s own.
One of the special offerings was the Spiced Pear Vodka. This was a clear vodka, but had the essence of pears, with an added spice flavor that was perfect for the holidays. I really enjoyed this vodka, and can see it over ice in front of the Christmas tree.
My notes are lacking for the further offerings, as you can imagine, but I look forward to tasting at Hangar 1 again soon!