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Written by:
Kort Havens
Photographed by:
Kort Havens

Tags: Drink

Map It: 586 Mateo St.


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THE SPIRIT OF CALIFORNIA

California. You feel it as soon as you approach the heavy wooden door with a worn, three-dimensional sun bursting out of it. You walk in to see the walnut paneled wall with new and vintage California inspired artwork, and turn to the raw wood tasting station where someone stands warmly waiting to pour you a taste of gin or vodka. Each spirit housed in a beautifully designed bottle covered in a label that evokes wooden crates filled with citrus, rolling orchards in the central valley, and sunshine. Sunshine is everywhere, streaming through the orange, red, and green stain glass windows, through the skylights in the barrel ceiling above the distillery, and in the clear crystal glasses that hold a taste of the Astral Pacific Gin or Vapid Vodka that Morgan and Miller have crafted from California clementines. Everything about The Spirit Guild on Mateo in The Arts District is steeped in California heritage and terroir.

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And it makes perfect sense, The Spirit Guild sprouted up out of a question the founders had one afternoon while sipping cocktails. “Morgan and I were sitting at a bar after returning from my family’s farm in Bakersfield, and we wondered why California agriculture wasn’t represented behind the bar. It felt like something was missing there. It doesn’t speak to the incredible agricultural diversity we have here in California,” Miller says.

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There are very few liquors made in California that feature California agriculture as their base. The founders sourced fresh, local fruit and began experimenting with different recipes and distillation methods until they landed on their two flagship products, Astral Pacific Gin and Vapid Vodka, both distilled from a base of California clementines. “It wasn’t a business idea at first, it started out as a project, and then this all happened.”

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The Spirit Guild holds strong to its California roots. The fruit and juice used for fermentation come from within roughly two hundred miles, and all steps of the fermentation, distillation, and blending happen on site by Guild members. Not one step of the process is outsourced. The space itself was inspired by 1970s California design and features artwork and stained glass windows by Meagan Whitmarsh, a local artist. Sip the gin, and you’ll note pink peppercorn and Juniperus California, both native to California. The Spirit Guild released its gin and vodka about a year and a half ago, and you can already find the bottles throughout DTLA bars. Bar Mateo makes a delicious Clover Club with Astral Pacific Gin. Everson Royce Bar carries both Vapid Vodka and Astral Pacific Gin on its shelves too. Miller and Morgan love seeing their bottles at local watering holes. “The first few times I went to a bar and had a cocktail using our liquor, it was mind-blowing!”
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Next up, Morgan, the head distiller, is developing a limoncello and her twist on nocino using a base of walnuts harvested from the family farm. Whatever it is they make, it is California through and through.