Distilleries are one of the areas in the food and beverage industry that is still male-dominated, but thanks to some badass women like Laura Johnson, owner of You and Yours Distilling Co., that's changing. We sat down with the San Diego-based Johnson to learn more about the distillery and the world-class cocktail program she's created.
Tell us a little bit about You and Yours and why you wanted to start a distillery? I fell in love with distilling after college. It had always been a bug in my mind - ever since I visited a distillery the summer after graduating from high school - and as soon as I completed my first formal distilling education course I was hooked. I went down a rabbit hole of distilling education all over the country and just knew that I had something special to add to the industry.
The number of female-founded craft distilleries is on the rise, do you think we'll see a trickle down effect of women rising in other parts of the industry that have remained largely an "old boys club"? I cannot wait for more women to enter and rise up in the distilling and spirits industry. As women, we have more developed palates (just a fact), and we're innately hospitality-minded. I think the industry as it stands could benefit enormously both from increased effort on the overall craft distillery experience AND higher quality product.
Distilleries often start with a gin or vodka while they wait for the whisky to age, do you have plans for brown spirits in the future? It's certainly a common model to pump out clear spirits while your other spirits age, but we started with gin because we're all about gin. We do have plans for whiskeys in the future, but they're not even in barrel yet. Our model is very focussed on our gin program first, and our whiskey program second, or perhaps even third or fourth. Aged spirits are in the pipeline simply because I myself love several styles of whiskey, but will never be our sole focus.
I cannot wait for more women to enter and rise up in the distilling and spirits industry. As women, we have more developed palates (just a fact), and we're innately hospitality-minded.
You & Yours is known for it's cocktail program, do you have a go-to drink you always order or are you mixing it up based on mood or season? I definitely have a few go-to's every time we switch up the menu! Currently I'm all about our Kumquat Sour! It's our Summer Citrus Vodka, lemon, fresh kumquat puree, a pinch of sea salt, orange blossom water and egg white. So tart and refreshing. Otherwise I'll go for the Little Bunny Foo Foo, it's the perfect hangover cocktail!
What is an easy yet impressive cocktail recipe you can share with aspiring home mixologists? I love a Cucumber Ricky... dice and muddle a thick slice or two of cucumber with some fresh mint, add two parts gin, 1 part fresh lime juice and ice and shake. Double strain over ice in a high ball glass and top with some sparkling water and/or your favorite tonic water. Garnish with a sprig of mint!
What are 5 home bar staples every cocktail enthusiast should have? Any style of bitters, homemade simple syrups, a big basket of fresh lemons and limes, a good sweet vermouth and large format ice molds.
Do you prefer to host in your home or in your tasting room? Depends on who it is! if it's someone who hasn't seen the distillery before, then the tasting room of course, but if it's close friends or family, at home.
Favorite host/hostess gift to give or that you've received? To give: a big loaf of my favorite bread (Tribute focaccia!), salted butter and fancy jam for the morning after... favorite that I've received: a dear friend took care of our home while we were away for a few weeks and left us the sweetest potted herb garden on our balcony! And an immaculately clean house!
It was meant to be somewhere you could come and hang out for a while. Somewhere everyone, no matter age, gender, walk of life could feel comfortable!
Guests are arriving in 15 minutes, where are you? (i.e frantically cleaning the bathroom or pouring yourself a drink) Haha, definitely drinking but probably trying to get as much cooking done as possible so I can just relax when everyone gets here... and/or running around lighting candles.
I love the aesthetic of the the tasting room, it feels more like your cool friend's living room than the typical bare-bones distillery tasting room. Was that the vibe you were going for? It was meant to be somewhere you could come and hang out for a while. Somewhere everyone, no matter age, gender, walk of life, etc. could feel comfortable! And it needed to be aesthetically pleasing of course.
If you could invite 7 people to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be? This is such a difficult but fun question! If I'm trying not to overthink it too much, the first people that pop to mind are Anthony Bourdain, Francis Mallman, Samantha Power, Christina Tosi, Ina Garten, Princess Diana, and Amal Clooney.