CITRUS GROVE DISTILLERS
A RIOTOUS GOOD TIME IN THE 909
You never know where a good time can be found but it’s safe to say that if you include a bounty of booze, well, your chances for enjoyment are amplified. So when I made the nearly 40-mile trek from Hollywood to Claremont in the 909, I didn’t really know what to expect but I was hoping for the best. Mission accomplished.
The reason for the sojourn was to check out Citrus Grove Distillers—a SoCal distillery with an ample lineup of spirits, including vodka, gin, bourbon, and rum, along with agave spirits (think tequila but made in California so hence the name agave spirit).
As the story goes, Citrus Grove Distillers started when two best friends that loved the idea of owning a bar together finally decided to build their own distillery. It seems that in their many travels, they visited numerous distilleries and always enjoyed the atmosphere, so much so that they started their very own, thus giving birth to Citrus Grove Distillers.
The brain trust includes marketing director Matthew Martin Hall, veteran master distiller Ray Digilio, and Head Mixologist Lisa Copenhaver. During our recent visit, Matthew welcomed us, Ray gave us a quick but comprehensive tour, and Lisa made us some pretty special cocktails made with their spirits and liqueurs.
The bar’s cocktail menu changes from month to month so Lisa Copenhaver is always crafting new libations. During our visit, I fell in love with The King, an ode to Elvis Presley made with Clareville Vodka, Giffard Banane du Bresil, peanut butter powder, and vanilla cream garnished with a torched skewer of cooked bacon. It was delicious and clever and I so love it when bartenders think outside of the box. Mad props to Lisa for coming up with The King. I think Elvis would have approved.
Housed in an industrial warehouse complex, the outside may seem unassuming but step inside of Citrus Grove Distillers and you’ll be taken in by its charming bar and copper distillery looming in the background.
Because of certain laws in place in the area, you should be aware that a visit to the distillery includes having to buy membership.
“People must be members in order to drink at our bar,” explains Matthew Martin Hall. “Because of the laws that currently exist, we can't operate a full bar and be open to the public without being attached to a bona fide eatery. So, we close off our bar area to the public by making it members only.”
There are two levels of membership. A $20 one-time lifetime membership pays for a tasting flight and grants you unlimited access to the bar; and the $40 VIP membership, which is a month-to-month program, offers unlimited access to the bar, a complimentary drink per week, 10% off all cocktail, drink, merchandise, and non-limited bottle purchases, free access to educational events, and four guest passes that also include a complimentary cocktail per pass.
There are two levels to the VIP membership. There’s the $40 individual membership and a $70 couples membership. The couples’ membership grants all the same privileges to both parties, but only includes four guest passes between the two members.
The current lineup of Citrus Grove Distillers’ spirits includes:
Clearly Cucumber Vodka
Clearly Mary from the owners own Bloody Mary Mix
Clearly Chocolate Vodka
Clareville London Dry Gin
Old Thyme Gin
Clareville Bourbon (aged six months in oak barrels)
Demerara Sugar Rum
Chai Spiced Rum
Blanco Agave Spirit
Serrano Pepper Agave Spirit
Eau De Vie brandy
The industrial complex is also home to a brewery and a cidery, and often food trucks will come and park so guests can get their grub on. It does make for a long, lazy and great day when you can indulge in hearty eats to go along with your stellar cocktails or spirts flight. I know we had a damn good time during our visit.
And check out The Distillers Corner podcast to learn trade cutting edge news as well as to grasp an in-depth knowledge of the distilling process.
Citrus Grove Distillers is located at 1420 N. Claremont Blvd #111A in Claremont. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 3 pm to 10 pm; Sunday from 1 pm to 8 pm. The distillery is closed on Monday. Call 909-228-6288.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Citrus Grove Distillers