From carrot liqueur to the best in absinthe, a tour of the city's new tipples
Old World uses custom-made German stills and local fruits like the Indian blood peach, which Davorin calls the "heirloom tomato" of stone fruit. As with the best natural fruits, the Indian blood has cracks and flaws, its lower sugar content imparting a lush understatement of taste. Though he grew the peaches himself in Croatia, in California Davorin orders in from Placerville's Goldbud Farms. The clear blood peach eau de vie impresses with notes of ripe, juicy fruit flesh and spicy skin. I found Old World's eaux de vies well-balanced, both the pear-inflected Poire Williams and the three- to seven-months oak-aged O'Henry Peach. I sipped a raspberry eau di vie it has yet to release: clear and lightly floral, free of the cloying sugar common in raspberry liqueurs.
Watch for Old World's sold out dark black walnut liqueur — another batch is out in two years. Kuchan's Blade Gin stocks the shelves of many a Bay Area bar, journeying down a nontraditional, California-inspired gin route with whispers of ginger, citrus, cilantro, lemon verbena, and black cardamom. Two kinds of absinthe, a green (verte) and clear blanche/white (referred to as Bleue, as in Switzerland), take cues from classic absinthes but resound with Davorin's interpretation of 20 percent more herbs than what enlivens a traditional absinthe. Old World's next release: a Cognac-style double barrel brandy aged in French and American oak and finished in Kentucky bourbon casks, which they hope to release soon. My early taste straight from the barrel yielded an already rich, spicy brandy.
Thirsty yet? Visit Davorin and Joseph during their monthly Friday Flight nights. Davorin will turn on some fine French pop tunes as both pour spirits, transforming the distillery into a warm familial party.
121 Industrial, Belmont. (650) 622-9222. www.oldworldspirits.com
You can also find these spirits at Cask (17 Third St., SF), John Walker & Co. (175 Sutter, SF), and K&L Wine Merchants (638 Fourth St., SF).