I attended the Craft Spirits Carnival again this year, held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. It was hot around the Bay, which means it was absolutely beautiful in SF. But I get plenty of the city; let me tell you why I go to this carnival. In this world of buy-everything-on-amazon, it’s a real pleasure to meet the passionate people behind the products. This event allows you to rub shoulders with the “creators.” The craft spirits movement in general reinforces individual ingenuity. I love seeing so much tenacious creativity in one place.
Following is a brief description of my tasting highlights. Keep in mind that I am a graphic designer. I am a connoisseur of fine design, but not of liquor, so my impressions of the day are closer to what the average person would experience. One reason the following products have lingered in my mind is because I visited with their makers, as previously implied. Also keep in mind that I’m only one person—this list represents a small percentage of what the carnival holds. Still, it gives you a taste…
I mention the “World’s best tequila” with its countless gold medals first because where else can you sample a flight of the highest quality tequila? The mother/daughter team generously served their tequilas while sharing their commitment to organic everything. I had a really nice feeling about these two people, aside from the effects of the tequila. I wish them continued success.
Tasting St. George Absinthe Verte is one of those incredible experiences where the world keeps turning but you know something has changed. I can’t say that I bought I bottle, but I’m warming up to it.
I have to mention Ficks because it’s the answer to so many headaches, literally. Ficks provides a vitamin boost, similar to what you might add to your Jamba Juice. Its goal is to restore the nutrients that alcohol diminishes, thereby diminishing the chance of a hangover, while adding complexity to your cocktail. A brilliant idea. I bought a bottle and feel healthier already. It’s available online but can also be purchased at a few unexpected places like Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters.
Speaking of cocktails, while most of the exhibitors offered appropriately small tastes, some served actual cocktails. Quady handed out a cocktail of equal parts Vya Extra Dry and Vya Sweet Vermouth on the rocks with a twist of orange. Nice! You can find more Quady cocktails here.
I only mention the 3 Mile Rum from Do Good’s product line because I was winding down and it’s all I tasted from their table. I’m a 3-mile runner so the name appealed to me, although the 3 miles is actually a historic reference to the distance off the coast of California where the international waters became a staging area for bootlegging ships carrying rum during prohibition. But now everything Do Good does is on the up and up and their rum is mighty good indeed.
I’ve blogged about great chocolates before but Cocotutti Chocolates are my new favorite. Each piece is a work of art as well as taste. It hurt me to see people at the carnival casually pop samples in their mouths without stopping to savor them. I suggest eating these with eyes closed. Looking at Cocotutti’s website, the “Everything” box would make an amazing gift. Also consider buying a box of Florentines which are “caramel infused with citrus and topped with roasted almonds.” Seriously delicious.
Three more distinctive products that I loved:
Cannella Spirits Cinnamon Cordial: Cannella is the owner’s family name and means “cinnamon” in Italian. The fun background story is told on the website, where you can also find cocktail recipes, but I like the idea of sipping Cannella after a special meal all by itself.
Ventura Limoncello, a gold medal citrus liquor handcrafted from a 3-generation old Italian family recipe. This is such a delightful taste. I tell you, Italians really seem to know what they’re doing in this industry.
Barrow’s INTENSE Ginger Liqueur, which is perfectly named, so intense. If you like ginger, this is something to pursue. It’s comprised of 200 lbs of ginger per batch, 1/4 lb per bottle!
Two tips for next year’s carnival
Without wanting to state the obvious, don’t go to the carnival hungry. You can buy lunch there, but there’s so much to taste and such little time, you may not want to stop :) If you go on Sunday, you can buy food ahead of time at the farmers market at Fort Mason. Secondly, bring cash. It’s just easier with some of the purchases you can make at the tables.
Oh, one more thing. If you want to buy something that tends to sell out like Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey, you have to go on Saturday and be there when the doors open. My husband wanted Angel’s Envy for his birthday but I didn’t realize how hot it was and now he’ll have to wait until next year. See you there!