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Craft Spirits of Paso Wine

December 4, 2018

Whether these Paso Makers & Mixers are creating fine handcrafted spirits or formulating new inventive cocktails they all have one thing in common – the love of place and availability of seasonal sustainable ingredients.

Aaron Bergh


Tell us a bit about what you do: I make spirits inspired by the terroir of the central coast. Our flagship spirit is our Big Sur Gin distilled from wine grapes and native plants. We also craft rums and liqueurs and have some other projects in the works. Our tasting room opened in June and features a craft cocktail bar and restaurant.

What drew you into the spirits biz? The glory and fame… ha. Joking aside, I’ve always been a scientist and an artist. Distilling is a happy marriage between these two very different focuses. I’m able to express my creative side while geeking out on the physics and chemistry behind making good booze.

What do you do that’s is unusual than other distillers? All of us distillers are making great spirits but mine are unique because I put a strong effort into making flavor profiles that are inspired by the place they’re made- the central coast. We make our gin from native plants found in Big Sur, age our rum in wine barrels, and make liqueurs from fresh oranges grown by local farmers. I’m constantly thinking about my experiences and observations living on the central coast and how to translate them into spirits.

Why is Paso Robles a great location for your distillery? Paso Robles is a great place in general that I’m lucky to call home. I like being surrounded by a community of winemakers and beverage artisans to bounce ideas off of. An example of an aspect on a more technical level is the Paso Robles climate. It’s great for aging spirits. The drastic temperature swings between freakin’ hot during the day and chilly at night causes the spirits in our barrels to move in and out of the wood which results in faster aging and smoother drinking.

Favorite cocktail and why? A daiquiri, the classic way: a little bit of lime, a little bit of sugar, and a lot of rum. When done right, the lime and the sugar just accents the flavor of the rum and doesn’t cover it up. I like the complex flavors of the rum to shine through.

Give your fans your favorite holiday cocktail recipe! When I want to warm my cold black soul I make a hot toddy. Calwise Spiced Rum is an awesome choice for this. Just mix 2 ounces of rum with 1/2 oz of lemon juice and a 1/4 oz of honey. Add hot water to taste. If you want to be extra fancy, garnish with a cinnamon stick and star anise pods.

Monica Villicana


Tell us a bit about what you do: Villicana Winery & Re:Find Distillery craft boutique wines and craft-spirits.  It is 2/3 of the trifecta in the alcohol industry.

What drew you into the spirits biz? My husband Alex and I  were drawn into the craft-spirits industry as a result of our desire to repurpose the prized, pre-fermentation wine-grape juice that is not being utilized in the wine-making process.   It seemed like a waste of a valuable raw material, so we figured out a way to turn the “entire grape” into other luxury products.

How is winemaking like distilling? Actually, being vintner for 25 years has contributed greatly to being a distiller in that our senses were already developed prior to start distilling. If you really think about it, distilling employs the same concepts of being a boutique vintner:  if you start with a high-quality raw material (premium Paso wine grapes), conduct a clean and healthy fermentation, and take a proactive approach to ensure that flaws are not developed, then you have the building blocks to being a good distiller. The proof for us is in the fact that we do not need to put our spirits through carbon filtration to remove flaws prior to bottling.  After all, what would you say to a vintner who runs his/her wine through 10 feet of carbon filtration? Yikes!

What makes you different than other local distillers? Re:Find Distillery pioneered the craft-distilling movement in Paso Robles, and in the winemaking space!

Why is Paso Robles a great location for your distillery? Paso Robles is the ideal place for Re:Find Distillery because there are 300+ wineries in the AVA, and it is the prized, pre-fermentation wine-grape juice that we repurpose to make our spirits. We also are able to work with the many local farmers for our flavoring ingredients.  And, we have the luxury of a budding craft-brewery industry in Paso as well which is ideal for our whiskey program!

Favorite cocktail and why? The Negroni is a favorite at Re:Find Distillery. It is a very simple drink to make with just 3 ingredients yet it is well-balanced with both bitter and sweet. Throw it into a barrel for a month or so, and it gets even better!

Give your fans your favorite holiday cocktail recipe. We, at Re:Find, love the Apple Spice cocktail during the holiday season!

2 parts Re:Find Vodka Finished in Barrel

1 part Liquid Alchemist Apple Spice Syrup

1 part Fresh Lemon Juice

Combine all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.  Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an apple slice.

Natasha Schmid



Tell us a bit about you do: I’m Natasha and I am originally from North-East Pennsylvania. My husband, son and I recently moved here from San Francisco. I’ve been in the industry for 11 years now and I have done everything from dives, clubs, hotel bars, to fine dining.

What drew you into the spirits biz? My father bartended through his twenties in Philly and would always tell stories about the people he would meet and the cocktails he’d make. Let’s just say I knew how to make the perfect Gibson before I graduated high school.

What do you do that’s different than other mixologists? Having bartended in various restaurants and being exposed to many cultures and cuisines I’ve been able to introduce some unique ingredients to my cocktails; anything from lychees to lavender.

Why is Paso Robles a great location for your bar? Paso Robles is the perfect location to meet new people. Either from the North heading south or the South heading north, to the family of locals with their own unique experiences and stories. You feel at home and taken care of in Paso Robles in a way you just don’t get anywhere else.

What unique ingredients do you like to use? I’ve enjoyed working with Sake lately. It’s extremely versatile and not many people have enjoyed it outside a Japanese restaurant.

Favorite cocktail and why? My favorite cocktail is a Gimlet (preferably with Junipero Gin). It has to be fresh squeezed lime! Fresh, simple, classic.

Give your fans your favorite holiday cocktail recipe. My go-to winter cocktail is an Old Cuban.

1.5 oz Aged Rum

.75 oz Fresh Lime

1 oz Simple Syrup

A few dashes of Angostura Bitters

A few sprigs of mint

Shake and strain into a coupe

Top with Champagne (or Sparkling Wine) Mint to garnish

Robin Wolf


Tell us a bit about what you do: A Central Coast native, I spent a decade in NYC immersing myself in the world’s most amazing restaurant game and the new cocktail Renaissance. I’ve returned to the area intent on bringing a new creative level to SLO County and upping the cocktail game here. I originally trained as a sommelier, and enjoy crafting unique flavor combinations utilizing as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible. I’m a national award-winning mixologist and mentor other local mixologists who are killing the game here locally.

What drew you into the bar biz? It’s the perfect intersection of my two great loves, performing (I have a degree in Theatre Arts) and parties. Drinks are all about creating a moment, an experience, and that’s what I do. I’m still amazed it’s a real job.

What do you do that’s is different than other mixologists? Other than my second X chromosome? Lol. In an industry still dominated by men, I’m proud to run a largely female-driven bar program. I’m also a huge advocate for the use of sustainable products in our industry. It’s our obligation to think of the future.

Why is Paso Robles a great location for your restaurant? Seasonal local ingredients are a cornerstone of my bar program, and I love incorporating local spirits into my drinks. A story and a history can sell a drink just as well as an ingredient, and Paso Robles is the ideal place for both!

What’s your favorite unique ingredient you love to use?  Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey. And smoke. And fresh herbs. I love an unexpected flavor pairing.

Favorite cocktail and why? The Old Fashioned. It’s THE classic cocktail. Spirit, sugar, water, Bitters. But within that simplicity is a structure that can be manipulated to unlimited flavor profiles. It’s magical.

Give your fans your favorite holiday cocktail recipe! Tough one! I’m going to go with a Spiced Pear Whiskey Sour.

2 oz Krobar American Bourbon

.75 oz St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur

.5 oz simple syrup

.75 oz fresh lemon juice

1 egg white

1 dropper SLO Bitter Co. Charred Cedar Bitters

Shake all ingredients with one ice cube for 20 seconds. Fill shaker with ice and shake for an additional 30 seconds. Fine strain into a fun and fancy glass, garnish with nutmeg.