Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Wine tasting vs. spirits tasting

By Jessica Yadegaran
Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 11:03 am in Uncategorized.

Can a wine drinker successfully navigate flights of vodka, eau de vie and single malt whiskey — all straight up?

I found out this weekend, when I put my palate to the test at St. George Spirits in Alameda. Housed in the old Naval Air Station not from from Rosenblum Cellars and the grounds of the monthly Antiques by the Bay, it’s a fantastic space, a sort of hangar-meets-club warehouse where, even 10 minutes to closing time, the modern rock’s blasting and the clientele’s buzzing.

Joel and I made it there with 19 minutes to spare, and decided to split the $10 tasting of 10-12 spirits. Looking back, neither one of us could’ve imagined doing it alone (and he’s a strapping, 6’1” man!).

The 2-3 ounce pours come in a cute grappa glass that you get to keep, but think about it: while wine pours are the same size, these spirits are as high as 43 percent alcohol! Certainly gives new perspective to a “hot” California Zinfandel clocking in at 16 percent. I took the first sip and let him down the rest.

Here are our standouts from the tasting:

Straight Hangar One Vodka: Made with viognier grapes, this was smooth and silky with a pure, clean finish and suppleness I attribute to viognier. Like no other vodka I’ve tasted. You almost don’t want to add anything to it. This is the one Joel bought.

Single Malt Whiskey: Shudder-free and elegant, this is aged for eight years and has a cocoa finish that goes on and on. I bought this for friend who loves serious scotch.

Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka: This woke my mouth up with its kicky, true-to-source kaffir limes (they always use real local fruit in their vodkas). Joel wasn’t wild about it.

We were good and liquored up so we didn’t feel like springing the extra $10 to try the St. George absinthe (I assumed it would be included, what with all the hype). Unfortunately, they weren’t featuring their savory vodkas, like chipotle or wasabi, while we were there. Next time!

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  • T.Kilya

    One should use only taste 1/4oz. of each distilled spirit so as to prevent the higher alcohol from anestitizing ones taste buds. You can find out more about tasting fine Micro Tequilas at

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Indeed, thanks!

  • Megan

    Good luck finding the wasabi or chipotle vodkas — they’re from the Alchemist series and are long sold out. I was told Sea Salt in Berkeley still has some in its bar, though!

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Bummer, looks like I’m heading down to Sea Salt. Thanks for the tip Megan!