“It’s the pixie mandarin tangerine!” a fresh face at my local liquor purveyor enthused as I acquired from the store my third bottle (in six months?) of Wilder Gin, an herbivore’s delight out of Ventura Spirits in Ventura County, California. The pixie I might note has a pixie impact on the palate. No, I taste Ventura County in all its natural flora. I have tasted that taste a hundred times on 101, 33, PCH, in Ojai, in Camarillo, and along the rows of tucked away farms outside of Oxnard. In fact, never have I tasted a California spirit that picked up the flavor of the very air under which it distills as much as Wilder Gin does.
Not a lot of juniper here. I am a fan of juniper laden gins, enough to consider it one of the two primary gin axes (the other is sugar, and of that I am no fan), but in this case I know that Ventura terroir well enough after sixty SoCal years to appreciate the sagebrush et al. herein. I even have a few friends on that terroir who may thrill to the thought of an Oxnard Old Fashioned, as I might when I get around to thinking about one.
For my money, though, and money is always precious when I spend it, I don’t find a drink on the Ventura Spirits cocktail page that exceeds the good feel of Strawberry Fields Forever, made with their blithe spirit vodka: California Vodka. In fact, the next time my California Surfliner is wheezing up the coast, I might have a Thermos of Strawberry Fields Forevers (sic) at the ready, as I watch the strawberry fields of Ventura County unfurl forever and an hour.
But as for sturdier drinks, here is what I recommend: stir some Wilder with rocks as a vermouth free martini, as I have done above, but drop a few drops of orange bitters into the glass or shaker first, to bump that pixie mandarin taste to the max. This will call to mind to fans of Graham Greene (or me) a fabled concoction called pink gin. But this gin is still colorless because orange bitters couldnt tint your best shirt. Then add a wide cut lemon peel twist AND a wide cut tangerine peel twist. In my backyard, all citrus grows well EXCEPT tangerine. So with the double barrelled twists and the shout of orange bitters, I am squeezing whatever pixie citrus I can out of this wild and Wilder gin.