I’ve met many distillery owners over the years and they all have one thing in common: an infectious love for life. It didn’t take more than a few minutes at Blinking Owl’s bar to come to this realization, after meeting proprietors Robin and Brian Christenson, both beaming with pride as if they just birthed a giant copper baby that makes booze.
House distiller Ryan Friesen opts to use organic durum wheat and a bit of barley in the grist for the vodka, which imparts a subtle floral nose to the base spirit. Being a commonly-used pasta grain, durum imparts a nice body to the neutral spirit, having a high level of protein which passes down to the end product. I suggest simply sipping their vodka on the rocks to pick apart the nuance, but it should also beautifully beef up any cocktail.
OC Orange, the flavored vodka, is a refreshing take on this overdone genre. I’m a firm believer that a fruited vodka should taste like a preservation of the base fruit’s aroma, and the local Santa Ana Heritage Museum oranges used for batch one come through in the best way possible; like that one part of Disneyland’s Soarin’ Over California ride when you fly over the orange groves. My sweet vodka martini recipe for two: 4 parts vodka, 1/2 part sweet vermouth, and lemon zest. Chill your glassware, stir ingredients with ice until your hand cramps, strain, then garnish with lemon or orange peel.
Blinking Owl’s Aquavit is also a fun experience. I noted layers of herbs on the nose; dill and caraway being front and center. On the sip, cinnamon makes its presence known, followed by freshly baked rye bread and a kick of green olive. Hibiscus, which happens to be the Santa Ana city flower, imparts some color to the liquid. Cocktail recommendation: an aquavit bloody mary! With a lightly spiced mix, the herbs in this spirit would really pop, making brunch at home a tasty experience.
Blinking Owl opens September 24th from noon-7pm and the 25th from noon-5pm. Prices and tour reservations available on their website. blinkingowldistillery.com