A new spirits company debuted in East Village with the March 9th opening of the You & Yours Distilling Co. tasting room (1495 G Street).
You & Yours is the brainchild of founder and distiller Laura Johnson, who for the past several years has made a name for herself among liquor aficionados with the craft spirits and cocktails blog Distillerista. But Johnson's interest in distilling goes back further than that. "I went on a distillery tour on a whim when I was 17 or 18," she recalls. "I remember doing that and being incredibly enthralled."
Upon graduating from the University of San Diego, the Texas native immediately enrolled in her first distilling course and spent nine months traveling the country, shadowing distillers and, she says, "really immersing myself in the craft." Upon return, she began looking for work in the nascent craft-spirits industry.
"I reached out to every distillery in Southern California at the time," she says, but there was only front-of-house work, as a server or hostess; nothing in production. "It was a little disheartening," she confesses, but she ultimately looked at it as an opportunity to get an early start on her long-term dream: to start her own spirits company. "I'll just write a business plan, raise capital," the business major remembers thinking. "These are things I know how to do."
At that time, there were only three liquor producers in the county. Three years later, the number's approaching fifteen. However, most of them are scattered around industrial areas and in the outskirts of the county. Johnson has navigated the strict state and local regulations governing distilleries to open an urban distillery in a rapidly developing section of downtown.
She says opening far from San Diego's urban center was never an option. "So much of what I wanted this to be relied on this downtown urban vibe," she explains, "I said from the beginning, ‘If we can't find a way to make it work in an urban area, then let's wait a few years and hopefully the laws change.’”
While regulations have eased, the state still places a limit on how much distillery tasting rooms can serve guests in one day: 1.5 ounces. At You & Yours, that means guests may taste a sample of whichever spirits are available, or a single cocktail.
For her cocktail program, Johnson has enlisted the help of mixologists Chris Frierson and Trevor Bowles, both veterans of Consortium Holdings cocktail bars. They've developed a menu of 11 cocktails featuring You & Yours' first two spirit brands: Sunday Gin, which features the additions of rose hips, coriander, and mint in addition to the traditional juniper; and Y&Y Vodka, a corn-and-potato-based neutral spirit finished with clear, un-aged brandy.
Bottles of these spirits are available in the tasting room only to start, and Johnson says she'll pursue distribution in a few months, as the brand evolves. While most spirit companies in San Diego have their long-term sights firmly fixed on producing whiskey, Johnson and partner Luke Mahoney have different priorities. With Johnson operating a 250-gallon custom still located behind the tasting-room bar, You & Yours aims to produce vermouth, Italian-style aperitivos, and different varieties of eu de vie — distilled from fruits such as cherries, stone fruit, apples, or pears.