A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg
I had the opportunity to sample some spirits with Aaron Bergh this week, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, a new California born and bred business specializing in regionally made liquor.
Bergh started his venture just a few years ago as a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who basically made hooch in his dorm room. Studying agriculture, he started fermenting the fallen fruit from Cal Poly’s orchards and initially made fruit brandy, followed by rum, whiskey and assorted liqueurs. He quickly realized he might have a legitimate business in the making, and got help from a campus group for budding entrepreneurs. He soon won a “Shark Tank” style business plan competition and started working with a craft distillery to produce spirits from his recipes, teaming up with two friends (Raleigh Nejame and Luke Beaton) to help send the resulting Calivore Spirits brand out into the world this year.
So far they’ve got three products—Blonde Rum, Spiced Rum and Big Sur Gin—I sampled all three and this is not just a great young entrepreneurial story, they’re quite tasty.
The Calivore Blonde Rum is fermented from US-grown raw sugar cane and rested in chardonnay barrels. The Calivore Spiced Rum is a delicious autumnal mix of orange peel, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, ginger and molasses, also mellowed in wine barrels. The Calivore Big Sur Gin is unusual in that it’s grape-based (a very California influence) with 12 different herbs including juniper, sage, yerba santa, bay, fennel, and elderberry—the idea is to bring you the experience of a Big Sur hike in a bottle.
Wine Cask and Intermezzo Bar & Cafe Beverage Director Matt Pickett whipped us up a wonderfully refreshing “Cali Mai Tai” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. It’s on the specialty cocktail menu and well worth a try, especially with these hot autumn days we’ve been having. Calivore Spirits are also on the menu at The Bobcat Room, Chase Bar & Grill, La Arcada Bistro, The Nugget Bar & Grill, Sama Sama Kitchen, Scarlett Begonia and Viva Santa Barbara, with more outlets soon to follow.
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When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on September 30, 2016.