4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

First Light adds coffee whiskey to San Diego spirits

Local cousins launch brand in one of the world's only recession-proof industries: alcohol

Ryan Espinoza and David Elizondo are the family members behind First Light Coffee Whiskey.
Ryan Espinoza and David Elizondo are the family members behind First Light Coffee Whiskey.

Coffee and bourbon fans take note: a new flavored whiskey brand hit the shelves in San Diego in August. First Light Coffee Whiskey debuted in local shops with two bottled flavors of coffee whiskey: original and dark roast.

Cousins David Elizondo and Ryan Espinoza are the dudes behind First Light — a name inspired by daily surf reports, where first light time has more relevance to dawn patrollers than when the sun actually creeps over the horizon.

San Diego native Elizondo has some background in making booze, having spent time as an intern at former San Marcos distillery, Cal Spirits. Though Cal Spirits now operates in Poway as a beverage co-packing facility, during its three years actively producing booze in San Marcos, it became the birthplace of a slew of San Diego spirit brands. Pier View Gin and Misadventure Vodka got their starts there, as did Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, which is now sold nationwide and reports exponential growth since launching locally two years ago.

SDSU alum Espinoza has a background in marketing and bartending and says when the cousins joined forces in late 2018 to develop the First Light concept, his experience in making cocktails was a guiding factor. “One thing I noticed in the category was that it was lacking in consistent quality, and things were too sweet,” Espinoza says. “They were flavored with things I don’t like in my diet, like artificial sweeteners.”

With this in mind, the cousins developed flavor profiles using organic agave syrup and natural coffee extracts. It was important to him and Elizondo that their flavored whiskey would mix well into classic cocktails, such as Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs. So they spent a year and a half sampling their way through dozens of combinations of whiskies and natural flavors before settling on their flagship coffee whiskies, which are made using a new make corn-based distillate — sort of an un-aged bourbon.

“We found that the charred oaky flavors you get with aged spirits was competing too much with the coffee,” says Elizondo. The results of their experimentation received a top, platinum rating at this year’s SIP Awards, a consumer-judged tasting competition.

Though their ambitions include growing into a national brand, the cousins behind First Light are off to a modest start, producing their product on a contract basis with small batch whiskey and craft spirit producer, San Diego Distillery, out in Spring Valley. Bottles began appearing in eleven local liquor stores on August 10, and (for those isolating during the pandemic) via delivery from SipWhiskey.com.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

El Cajon Oktoberfest, Glorious, Kiss and David Lee Roth

Events September 24-September 25, 2021
Next Article

Tsai Ming-liang bathes Days in pink moments

There’s nothing left inside him to justify an enthusiastic awakening.
Ryan Espinoza and David Elizondo are the family members behind First Light Coffee Whiskey.
Ryan Espinoza and David Elizondo are the family members behind First Light Coffee Whiskey.

Coffee and bourbon fans take note: a new flavored whiskey brand hit the shelves in San Diego in August. First Light Coffee Whiskey debuted in local shops with two bottled flavors of coffee whiskey: original and dark roast.

Cousins David Elizondo and Ryan Espinoza are the dudes behind First Light — a name inspired by daily surf reports, where first light time has more relevance to dawn patrollers than when the sun actually creeps over the horizon.

San Diego native Elizondo has some background in making booze, having spent time as an intern at former San Marcos distillery, Cal Spirits. Though Cal Spirits now operates in Poway as a beverage co-packing facility, during its three years actively producing booze in San Marcos, it became the birthplace of a slew of San Diego spirit brands. Pier View Gin and Misadventure Vodka got their starts there, as did Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, which is now sold nationwide and reports exponential growth since launching locally two years ago.

SDSU alum Espinoza has a background in marketing and bartending and says when the cousins joined forces in late 2018 to develop the First Light concept, his experience in making cocktails was a guiding factor. “One thing I noticed in the category was that it was lacking in consistent quality, and things were too sweet,” Espinoza says. “They were flavored with things I don’t like in my diet, like artificial sweeteners.”

With this in mind, the cousins developed flavor profiles using organic agave syrup and natural coffee extracts. It was important to him and Elizondo that their flavored whiskey would mix well into classic cocktails, such as Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs. So they spent a year and a half sampling their way through dozens of combinations of whiskies and natural flavors before settling on their flagship coffee whiskies, which are made using a new make corn-based distillate — sort of an un-aged bourbon.

“We found that the charred oaky flavors you get with aged spirits was competing too much with the coffee,” says Elizondo. The results of their experimentation received a top, platinum rating at this year’s SIP Awards, a consumer-judged tasting competition.

Though their ambitions include growing into a national brand, the cousins behind First Light are off to a modest start, producing their product on a contract basis with small batch whiskey and craft spirit producer, San Diego Distillery, out in Spring Valley. Bottles began appearing in eleven local liquor stores on August 10, and (for those isolating during the pandemic) via delivery from SipWhiskey.com.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Tsai Ming-liang bathes Days in pink moments

There’s nothing left inside him to justify an enthusiastic awakening.
Next Article

Motherhood unvarnished: Andrea Yates, Prozac, Pine Valley

Crown Point, barf city, miscarriage, Legoland, how big I am, emptied breasts
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close