Published on May 17th, 2013 | by Dipsology0
Spirit Spotlight: St. George Spirits Pear Eau de Vie
A few weeks ago, I pulled up to the former airplane hangar in Alameda, California, right across the bay from San Francisco that houses St. George Spirits. One of the first craft distillers in the country (founded back in 1982, before it was cool), if you aren’t familiar with their products, high thee to the nearest bar or liquor store and become so. Their gins (they make three, and I am particularly partial to the Dry Rye Gin), bourbon, single malt & absinthe are fairly widely available, including at Astor Spirits. We’ll also be tasting through them at Middle Branch at our sold out event on May 18th.
The focus of my recent visit, however, was in fact St. George’s original flagship product, Aqua Perfecta Pear Eau de Vie. Andie Ferman, who directs St. George’s Tasting Room and will be leading our upcoming NYC event, gave me the skinny on this awesome product (which is what I’ll write about here), as well as a sneak-peak of what we’ll be doing at our seminar where we’ll discuss the role of water in smelling & tasting spirits (which you can read about over here).
I’m sorry, pear what?
Eau de Vie (oh-de-vee). Which is French for “water of life”, and is the same as the German “schnapps”, both of which are unaged fruit brandies, in this case made from pears. This means the pears – a mixture of green & red Bartletts – are fermented like you would ferment grain to make a gin or whiskey, resulting in a clear spirit that comes in at 40% ABV.
A native of Alsace, founder Jörg Rupf’s family had been making schnapps at home for years. When he moved to California, he was so inspired by the abundance & quality of the local produce, he decided to continue the tradition. He started with pears, and later with his partners Lance Winters and Dave Smith, expanded & experimented with other fruits and non-fruits, including kiwis, basil and one that involved oysters (and, sadly for us, never reached the public).
So, what does it taste like?
It tastes like essence of pear. Seriously – when you put your nose in it, it’s as though you are smelling a pear. Which clearly you want to taste immediately, so you take a sip, and you taste pear. Sure, there’s some heat from the alcohol, but the rich, clear fruit scent carries through. (Read more about my tasting & the effects of water here.)
One thing that is very cool – and unique – about St. George Spirits is their focus on terroir. Terroir is a French word that means, literally, “where something is from.” It is used extensively in the wine industry to describe the different tastes that come from soil types & climate, but it isn’t a term you hear often in relation to hard liquor. Typically, the flavor profile of spirits is discussed in terms of what kind of grain (or other ingredient) was used and the fermentation, distillation & aging processes; but rarely do we stop to consider where that wheat, corn, barley, sugar beet, potato, etc was grown.
By contrast, St. George takes great care sourcing their produce (the pears are even organic) and much attention is paid to using only the highest quality ingredients. That means in years with smaller or inferior crops, less product gets made.
This might seem more obvious for a fruit eau de vie, but it is also the guiding principle behind St. George’s second product, their single malt whiskey, which Andie described as “an eau de vie of barley.” It’s also front and center for their 30th Anniversary Single Malt, which was aged in used pear eau de vie barrels, bringing the history of the company full circle.
What do I do with it?
Well, you can drink it straight — traditionally done as an after-dinner (or large lunch) digestif. Or you can sub it in to any variety of cocktails to add a punch of fruit without the sweetness of juice. Andie recommends using it in a “Pear Martini”:
1 oz Aqua Perfecta Pear Eau de Vie
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail coupe & garnish with a slice of pear.
Or you can use it to make a version of a Pisco Sour, which we think sounds pretty awesome.
Coming up next
St. George is about to relaunch their line of eaux de vies with fancy new bottles & expanded distribution, so stay tuned for more info & updates!
Adrienne is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dipsology. When she’s not drinking, sleeping & breathing cocktails, she can probably be found in Napa, drinking wine instead. You can read about her non-cocktail adventures on her blog “à la gourmande” and follow her @alstillman.