Small-batch, artisan distilleries are growing in California
on 03/11/11 at 11:01 amSpirits
Mixologists are crafting cocktails from organic liquor, and GreenBar Collective’s products are leading the revolution.
The air outside GreenBar Collective craft distillery in Monrovia is getting warm, but it still crackles with the crispness of fall. Inside the bright, white warehouse, two employees bottle fresh apple bitters while Keith Taylor, the bar manager for sprawling Echo Park restaurant Mohawk Bend, chats with GreenBar’s founders and master distillers, Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew. They stand beside a silver tank of ruby red hibiscus liqueur that Taylor uses to make a limoncello-based drink called the Arturo Bandini. GreenBar is happy to make time for Taylor as he’s one of its most important customers: He has created a robust cocktail program using only California spirits.
At the moment, Taylor is contemplating the new apple bitters. “Got any ideas?” asks Mohawk Bend floor manager, Anthony Pecos. Taylor nods.
“Fall is about apples,” Khosrovian interjects. “I’m thinking gin, muddled celery, muddled or fresh-pressed apple juice and apple bitters.”
The conversation takes off from there. More booze and ingredient combinations are discussed, and a few winning ideas emerge that Taylor plans to experiment with later that week. Experimenting is a large part of his job, because Mohawk Bend stocks more than 100 different bottles of alcohol, all made by small-batch distilleries in California, many of which don’t lend themselves to traditional cocktail recipes. In L.A., it’s a one-of-a-kind cocktail program, and its success speaks to the growing richness of California’s craft distilleries, which, according to the American Distilling Institute, are the most numerous of any state in the nation, with a current total of 28, up from around 10 just seven years ago.