Urban living and craft cocktails go together like gin and tonic, but, for some reason — blame our Puritan forebears — most American cities don't make it easy to set up a booze-making operation downtown. (That's why so many local breweries are exiled to the industrial parks of Mira Mesa.)
Some cities are relaxing those restrictive zoning rules, as Laura Johnson was thrilled to discover when she started looking for a place to open her urban distillery, You & Yours.
"My vision is so tied to getting people through the door, the foot traffic, the built-in regulars," says the Texas native and recent University of San Diego grad. After much research, Johnson is set to open for business in March in a 2,300-square-foot space in East Village.
Johnson's focus, in the beginning, will be vodka and gin, which she'll make using a hybrid still of her own design.
"The best way to keep this venture authentic is to make what I like to drink," says Johnson, who prefers a gin gimlet. "Vodka is the black sheep of the craft-cocktail world, but everybody knows someone who's a vodka lover. Plus, you've got to make vodka if you want to make gin — gin is the original flavored vodka."
You & Yours will offer vodka and gin tastings as well as mini-cocktails. (California law limits on-site consumption to six quarter-ounce pours per customer per day.) Visitors will also be able to tour the distillery, for a fee, and pick up a bottle to take home.
"The opportunity to be in an area where we could be one of the pioneers was really exciting," says Johnson of the distillery's digs in East Village's Makers Quarter.
Though she toyed with the idea of opening her business back in Dallas, San Diego's creative community won her over, and she hopes to contribute to the ecosystem by locally sourcing fruits and herbs for her gin... with a few exceptions.
"Italian juniper has way better flavor" than its California cousin, she says. "There's certain aspects of the spirit I'm not willing to compromise on."
Still, she thinks patrons will be able to taste the California in her San Diego gins.
"It's not your typical dusty London dry," she says. "It's super bright and juicy and fresh, and that stems from living in California and wanting something refreshing and modern."
Johnson says her team deliberated a long time before settling on the distillery's name.
"We're all about bringing people together, getting back to that human, face-to-face connection, sharing an experience with people that you love," she says. "We're made by you and yours, for you and yours."
You & Yours Distilling Co. opens in March in the Form 15 building at 1495 G St., East Village. For more information, visit youandyours.com.
2 oz. You & Yours flagship gin
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. mint honey simple syrup*
*For mint honey syrup: Stir ¼-cup honey and ¼-cup water over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and add a large handful of fresh mint; let steep for one hour. Strain and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one month.
Shake gin, lime and syrup with ice for 10-15 seconds. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.