As the modern movement to eat produce and other foods locally continues to pick up steam, it makes perfect sense that eventually, we’d want to include the ingredients in our cocktails in the “eat local” edict as well. To that end, craft distilleries around the country have flourished, at first supplying local mixologists with an interesting slate of vodkas and gins for their backbars. Then they slipped into brown-liquor territory, possibly stealing a little thunder from the great traditions in Kentucky and Tennessee. On that last front, some smoke and mirrors were initially in play, as new distilleries sourced their base whiskies from older producers in the south and finished them off in their own style. (As programs have matured, more and more of these brown spirits are authentically the craft distillers’ own, from first to last.)
The latest talent in the show is a group skilled in another kind of alcohol altogether: winemakers. More and more West Coast wineries have found space for a still, or partnered with an existing distiller, to produce a rich—and sometimes playful—range of spirits, well worth seeking out. From brandies distilled with grapes to hyper-local botanicals in gin to wine-barrel-finished whiskey, they’re adding a new layer of interest to savvy cocktail hours.