• Jarnard Sutton

Behind the Stick with Laura Johnson and Trevor Bowles of You & Yours Distilling Co.

The new craft distillery and tasting room in East Village, You & Yours Distilling Co., are putting a spin on cocktails while utilizing its flavorful Y&Y Vodka and Sunday Gin. We caught up with the founder and head distiller Laura Johnson and bar manager Trevor Bowles to chat about a cocktail that appears to be a customer-favorite called the Side Salad.

Side Salad

$12

.50 oz lime juice

1 oz green bell pepper juice & honey mix

1.50 oz Y&Y Vodka

Pinch of salt

Garnished with herb-infused olive oil drops

Nardcast: What's the story behind the Side Salad cocktail?

Laura Johnson: I always knew I wanted a savory drink on the menu but a week before opening we didn't have a savory concept that I loved. We were struggling with a different drink - a Kale & Pear Gimlet - and I decided to scrap it and take it in a different direction i.e. ditch the pear and add more vegetation, savory elements, etc. We knew we wanted to start with a green juice of sorts but the kale wasn't translating well so I decided to try green bell pepper. First we tried muddling the bell pepper but that didn't quite work either. As soon as we juiced the green bell pepper I knew we were almost there... lime seemed like the obvious companion and the subtle anise notes and freshness of basil complimented the grassiness of the bell pepper nicely. A touch of honey keeps it from actually tasting like salad and the pinch of salt just amplifies everything. The olive oil garnish was a play on the name, as well as a way to create more mouth feel and texture.

Describe the taste.

Fresh, herbaceous and bright

What's the key component of this drink?

The bell pepper.

What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?

"Wow. I was skeptical but that actually works."

What flavors do you get from the Y&Y Vodka?

A nice floral sweetness, creaminess in texture and subtle fruitiness.

What's a good dish to pair with this cocktail?

Something fried and/or something with a bit of aioli would go well. Asparagus "fries" or battered Romanesco cauliflower with an herb aoili maybe... The juxstaposition of the freshness of the cocktail and the richness of the fried veggies would play well together I think.

Watch as Trevor serve up the refreshing, creamy and floral libation called Side Salad.

What kind of experience can guests get at You & Yours Distilling Co.?

First and foremost we're about hospitality and making everyone feel welcome and at home. As for the actual experiences, you're welcome to enjoy a tasting flight of our current spirits or try the spirits in the form of a cocktail. On weekends, you can also come for a distillery tour and guided tasting of our spirits. Last but certainly not least you can buy bottles of our spirits and take them home with you to prolong the experience.

About Laura Johnson

Are you from San Diego?

I'm from the Dallas, TX area and have been in San Diego for almost seven years.

What has your journey been like leading up to starting You & Yours Distilling Co.?

Lots of ups and downs. Starting a distillery, especially in an urban neighborhood, is not easy.

What's unique about You & Yours Distilling Co.?

It's the first concept of it's kind in California.

Where did the name "You & Yours" come from?

We were looking for something really familial and approachable and the literal meaning behind the name is you, your friends and family, and that's exactly what we want to embody - an elegant yet comfortable space for you to spend time with family and friends and enjoy an elevated imbibing experience.

What are some challenges you face when it comes to producing high-quality spirits?

The time investment, occasionally the ingredient costs.

What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?

The Distiller's G&T.

There are a lot of gin drinkers out there. Describe the flavors of the Sunday Gin?

Citrus forward thanks to lots of grapefruit, Valencia orange and a little bit of kaffir lime leaf. Then the juniper comes in around the middle, giving plenty of that familiar piney-ness and giving way to an elegant floral finish it gets from rosehip and other florals. Overall it has a nice brightness from fresh mint as well.

What's your favorite spirit?

Gin.

What's one drink we should be making at home?

Gimlets. They're so easy. Just gin, lime and a little simple syrup, which everyone should make themselves and keep on hand.

Define the perfect cocktail.

Something where the spirit shines, something that incorporates a unique seasonal ingredient perhaps and most of all, it must be balanced.

If you're going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in San Diego?

Fairweather, Campfire, Prep Kitchen Little Italy, Carnitas Snack Shack on the Embarcadero

What's one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in the business?

Go out and drink. Responsibly of course, but really invest some time and money in developing your palate. Don't drink the same shit all the time. Challenge yourself and learn how to develop and marry flavors.

What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails and operating your business?

Read, travel when I can, cook.

You operate a blog called Distillerista. Why did you start that?

I knew I wanted to get into the distilling and craft spirits industry but had no idea how or where to start. I figured putting myself out there via a blog couldn't hurt and would at least give me a little bit of clout/authority when introducing myself to industry players.

What's next for You & Yours?

Distribution, a food concept perhaps... and future locations.

About Trevor Bowles

Are you from San Diego?

I am a born and raised San Diegan

What has your journey been like leading up to your current position at You & Yours Distilling Co.?

The journey has been beautiful. I worked at Bencotto Italian Kitchen for years and is where I developed my passion for hospitality and all things delicious. Spent two years working for some great restaurants in San Francisco. I worked for CH Projects which was an incredible experience. Truly learning from the best before coming onto You & Yours Distilling Co.

What's your favorite thing about bartending?

The people. From the staff to our guest. It has always been about the people and creating a special experience.

What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?

Peel Out. It is a refreshing rosemary grapefruit gin cocktail.

What's your favorite spirit?

GIN. How do you think they got me to come aboard?!

What's your thought process when you're creating a new cocktail?

I love the collaboration piece of coming up with a cocktail. Laura's palate is amazing. She comes up with these great flavor combinations and then I take the idea and put it into a glass.

What's one drink we should be making at home?

Sunday Gin & Tonic. It is a timeless classic that is incredibly easy to make and delicious.

Define the perfect cocktail.

Perfect is more about someones perception. I love making drinks for guest and having their reaction be, "Wow, that's perfect?" Perfect to someone might be our Side Salad cocktail while for someone else might think perfect is just sipping on our Sunday Gin on the rocks.

What is your advice to people wanting to work in bars?

Work in a bar because of your love for people, not for your love of cocktails.

What are some trends you're seeing in San Diego?

Collaborations and Guest Bartender Events. I think it is amazing that our community is so willing to share the creativity and help elevate the entire standard of hospitality in this city.

If you're going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in San Diego?

I got a soft spot for my CH roots. Polite Provisions, Soda & Swine, Nobel Experiment.

What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?

I love to spend time with my family. They have been the most incredible support system someone could ever ask for.

What's next for you?

Hopefully making a drink for you at You & Yours Distilling Co.

You & Yours Distilling Co.

1495 G St., East Village. (619) 955-8755 or youandyours.com

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