A mountain-inspired spring water cocktail recipe

Mountain Valley Spring Water comes together with craft distillery Ventura Spirits and their foraged Wilder Gin.

Who are Ventura Spirits, and how are they changing the face of foraging? Founded by Anthony Caspary, Andrew Caspary, Henry Tarmy and James Greenspun in 2011, Ventura Spirits is a California-based craft distillery. The foursome shares a love of discovering hyper-local ingredients and environmentally sustainable methods. With their unique outlook on foraging for unexplored and underutilized ingredients, they are quickly gaining fans and steam, especially for their foraged Wilder Gin.

The Ventura Spirits mission is to use the natural and agricultural bounty of California's central coast to handcraft spirits that take on the taste of the land. Their passion for capturing natural American goodness caught our eye, and their Wilder Foraged Gin Fizz made our mouths water. We talked with them about how they’re contributing to the great spirits tradition.

What inspired Ventura Spirit’s unique approach of bringing together some of America’s best ingredients from the land? Distilleries have traditionally relied on local inputs (both native flora and agricultural surplus) for their spirits. We are inspired by the beauty and diversity of our own native California landscape and felt like we could create entirely unique spirits by focusing on what was growing around us. While it’s no longer common practice, we feel like we’re fulfilling the intended role of a distillery by sourcing almost all of our inputs locally, contributing to the economy and helping make the agricultural system here more efficient and sustainable.

Can you tell us about your fabulous Wilder Gin foraging and distilling process? Wilder Gin is our attempt at capturing the essence of the Los Padres National Forest and its Chaparral shrubland plant community. Our hope and intention is that when you drink Wilder Gin, it transports you to our Central Coast hillsides and evokes images of sage, wildflowers and the Ventura/Santa Barbara coastline.

The process is relatively straightforward. We forage for most of the botanicals in the hills above the distillery. We collect California sagebrush, purple sage, Yerba Santa, and California bay, which we hang-dry in the distillery, and we peel and dehydrate Pixie Tangerines grown just up the 33 highway in Ojai. Once everything is dry, we add juniper (the berry for which gin is named, from the Dutch jeneverbes) and put all our botanicals into an organic wheat spirit to macerate overnight. Next, we strain out the solids and redistill the infused spirit with more botanicals in our hybrid column/pot still. The result is a boldly-flavored botanical gin perfectly balanced to elevate your favorite gin cocktail, or to sip straight!

What does Mountain Valley Spring Water bring to the table? In a really good cocktail, every element has to work in harmony to ensure that the overall flavor is well-balanced and enjoyable. You’ll find that very good bartenders often add saline solution to their cocktails to correct imbalances and tone down sweetness. Because Mountain Valley Spring Water has such a well-balanced, clean taste already, it takes care of that problem and acts as the perfect complement to any craft spirit. We, of course, also love the fact that Mountain Valley Spring Water is naturally sourced in the United States and uses sustainable glass bottles!

Do you serve Mountain Valley at your distillery or at home? We have always enjoyed Mountain Valley Spring Water at home because of its clean, crisp taste, but we are beginning to introduce it as the water we serve during spirit tastings at the distillery. Because our spirits have such wildly different flavor profiles, it’s essential that our visitors can cleanse their palates between tastings. Mountain Valley Spring Water is the perfect water for the job!

If you want to know more about serving premium Mountain Valley Spring Water in your restaurant click here.

What inspired the Wilder Mountain Gin Fizz recipe? With respect to the incredible mixologists and new cocktails we see in bars (and via our social channels) none of us at Ventura Spirits is a bartender by trade, and we recognize that most of our customers are not either. We always try to come up with simple cocktail recipes that anyone can make at home (or on the trail in this case) without needing rare ingredients or special equipment. Our Wilder Mountain Gin Fizz is based off the classic gin cocktail, the Gin Fizz.

Traditionally, a Gin Fizz uses a lot of sugar and the standard can of club soda. We’ve replaced those elements with wildflower honey syrup and Mountain Valley Sparkling Water, which, when paired with Wilder Gin, transform this classic into a refreshing, wilderness-inspired cocktail perfect for sipping outdoors on a beautiful summer day. And we’re definitely not judging if “outdoors” means your backyard!

To try the Wilder Mountain Gin Fizz:

Start by making honey syrup:

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup Mountain Valley Spring Water

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and stir until honey has dissolved. Remove from heat and completely cool to room temperature. This can be made ahead of time and stored in a jar in the fridge.

Next mix your Wilder Mountain Gin Fizz: 3 oz. Mountain Valley Sparkling Water

2 oz. Wilder Gin

3/4 – 1 oz. honey syrup - depending on your desired level of sweetness (recipe above)

3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

Wildflowers for garnish

Fill a camping mug or highball glass with a few ice cubes, then add Wilder Gin, 3/4 oz. of honey syrup and lime juice, stirring well. Pour in Mountain Valley Sparkling Water, stirring a bit more, then taste and determine if the drink has enough sweetness. If not, add a bit more honey syrup. Garnish with wildflowers and serve. Enjoy!

What’s new and next for Ventura Spirits? We’ve got many exciting projects in the works! We just released our brand new Limoncello, which we’re very excited about. It uses lemons grown about 1 mile from the distillery and is a well-balanced, less candy sweet version of the classic Italian liqueur.

Probably the most exciting spirit we’re working on is a local, single-estate Agave spirit made from Agave Tequilana grown in Santa Barbara. We are not allowed to call it Tequila (the law states that all “Tequila” must be produced in the designated Tequila region of Mexico) but suffice it to say that it will taste VERY MUCH like tequila… Definitely follow us on Instagram @venturaspirits and/or join our mailing list for news on that release. The first batch will be limited to around 150 bottles.

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