Editor's note: This article was originally posted in September, but has been updated to reflect a change in opening date for distillery.
Most people squander their best college drinking years on cheap beer, wine coolers and bottom-shelf mystery booze, but Laura Johnson is not most people. By the time she turned 21, the Dallas native had already inherited her father's predilection for fine craft spirits (he's a vodka-soda guy). Now she's making a career of it, opening San Diego's newest urban distillery, You & Yours, in the East Village .
"It's a no-brainer that it's easier to start a small business in Texas than in California, but I wanted to give back to the city that's given me so much," said Johnson, who studied economics and international business at the University of San Diego with a minor in Italian. "I love the vibe in San Diego, and I love that the culture is so tied to 'local.' "
So she decided to stick around. While visiting distilleries during a road trip down the West Coast, she grew determined to get in the game herself, and she spent a few years amassing even more training: a Level 2 award from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust sommelier program, a workshop at the Dry Fly Distilling School in Spokane, Wash., and the Master Distiller course at "Moonshine University" in Louisville, Ky.
At You & Yours, she'll focus mostly on gin, a spirit she finds "endlessly fascinating," as well as vodka, both made using a process still that she designed herself.
"If my chemistry teacher knew what I was doing now, he wouldn't believe it," she said.
When You & Yours opens in March, it'll be one of the only distilleries in the state with a woman at the helm. The male-dominated distilling world doesn't intimidate Johnson, although she acknowledges that male peers often overlook her at industry events. Still, she's looking forward to educating women and men alike on the pleasures of craft spirits, and there's no shortage of volunteers willing to help out.
"I have relatives coming out of the woodwork offering to do quality control," she said. But there's one person whose opinion she still hasn't gotten.
"My dad hasn't tried my vodka -- not yet," Johnson said. Once she has passed that test, the student will have become the master.
You & Yours Distilling Co. opens on March 9 in the Form 15 building at 1495 G St., East Village.
Laura Johnson vital stats
Title: Owner/distiller, You & Yours Distilling Co., and blogger, distillerista.com.
Industry role models: David Chang, Christina Tosi, Giada. "They created these amazing empires of making people feel known and loved with their craft."
Most underrated spirit: Sweet vermouth, Italian-style. "I'm having a big moment with it recently. I love it on the rocks; I love it in a Boulevardier; I like it on its own as a nightcap."
Most overrated cocktail trend: Spicy tequila drinks. "It can be delicious but some people take it way too far."
Favorite cocktail: Gimlet (fresh lime juice, gin, sugar). "Instead of simple syrup, I'll melt some honey on the stove and add mint or basil. It really compliments the botanicals in the gin."
Source: Discover SD