Is it possible to channel a city into a glass? A number of Los Angeles gin producers think so. While many popular interpretations of “local” seem focused on regional produce, these urban distillers are incorporating flavors inspired by the city’s dynamic food scene and multinational culture.
“Gin has no hard-and-fast rules, except for [a neutral spirit base and the inclusion of] juniper,” says Melkon Khosrovian, cofounder of Greenbar Distillery. This flexibility means the spirit is a veritable blank canvas for flavors and concepts.
Greenbar’s City Bright Gin offers one of the best examples of this city-centric perspective. “Our version [of terroir] is culture versus agriculture,” says Khosrovian, who adds that the gin was made with LA’s “vibrant immigrant food scene” in mind.
“It’s about terroir being the people of a city and what that brings,” says Litty Mathew, another of Greenbar’s founders.
First released in 2017, City Bright’s recipe incorporates herbs, spices and other ingredients common in the cuisines of East and South Asia, Mexico and the Middle East. Lime and savory spices like fennel and cumin are particularly dominant and yield a bold, aromatic spirit.
More recently, Future Gin has brought a traditional approach. Owned and distilled in downtown LA by an all-female team of hospitality veterans, the London dry gin is made with characteristic California ingredients like Meyer lemon peel and honeysuckle. To make it hyperlocal, however, avocado leaf grown in the one of the founder’s yards is also used.
The Spirit Guild is another that uses urbangrown ingredients. Its Astral Pacific Gin is distilled from a base of Southern California clementines and receives a distinctive zing from pink peppercorns and grapefruit peel harvested within Los Angeles city limits.
Interestingly, its distillery also plays temporary home to Amass, a self-described “nomadic distiller” that works with and uses the facilities of independent producers around the world to craft small batches of unique, place-driven spirits. The company tapped Morgan McLachlan, cofounder of The Spirit Guild, to make Amass’s Dry Gin Los Angeles here.
A whopping 29 botanicals flavor the bottling, including LA grapefruit, pungent California bay leaf and earthy mushroom. Hibiscus, cacao and cardamom are also added to, like Greenbar, nod to the “multicultural fabric of Los Angeles.”