St. George Spirits, the pioneering Alameda craft distillery, makes pretty much every liquor under the sun, but they're arguably best-known for creating the Hangar One line of premium vodkas. They sold the brand to Proximo Spirits in 2010, but continued to produce it for a few more years. Hangar One finally left the nest last year, opening its own Alameda distillery right down the way. After undergoing a noncompete period, distillers Lance Winters and Dave Smith got back to work, and the distillery is now releasing three new vodkas, all of them under the St. George Spirits banner.
In keeping with St. George's emphasis on experimentation, even the plain old "all-purpose" vodka is a bit quirky—it's partially based on the flagship pear brandy that founder Jorg Rupf used to launch the distillery all the way back in 1982, though it doesn't actually taste like pears (they apparently add a "gently floral top note"). The California citrus vodka is distilled with Valencia and Seville oranges and bergamot from Lindcove Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, while the most unusual of the trio, the green chile vodka, is made with jalapeno, Serrano, habanero, and red and yellow bell peppers, as well as lime peel and cilantro. Winters got the idea from working at a brewpub in the early '90s, when he'd drink the leftover liquid from the housemade salsa fresca; the result is savory and fresh-tasting.
The vodkas have already begun proliferating around the local dining scene: drinkers can find all three at The Progress, Ramen Shop, Flora, Churchill, Pizzaiolo, and Hopscotch (the latter of which has already introduced two new cocktails featuring the chile and citrus vodkas). They're also sold at Cask, K&L, Swirl on Castro, and Alchemy Bottle Shop; the MSRP is $30. And if the reputation St. George earned with Hangar One continues to follow them, you're likely to see them in a lot more places very shortly.