There are countless local wineries and breweries, but Venus Spirits is offering something different—hard alcohol made in small batches with local handmade ingredients.
Owner Sean Venus started selling his spirits in 2014, and opened a tasting room last year. His bottles are found in approximately 300 stores in California. Now, with a new law that’s passed in 2016, he is hoping to start selling bottles of his spirits at his tasting room in the very near future.
GT: How could California’s new liquor law affect your tasting room?
SEAN VENUS: We don’t serve cocktails now. We just pour small tastings of each one of our spirits. We usually start off with our gin, go to our agave spirits and finish off with our whiskies. When people come in, we talk about how you can apply our spirits to a cocktail. It’s our hope with the new law that the city will allow us to serve little mini-cocktails. What we’d be doing is pouring our spirits, then pouring our representation of a cocktail, so this is how you could pour this spirit at home. Before doing this, I knew nothing about cocktails. My background was beer. I enjoyed my whiskey straight. Each one of our spirits pairs very well with some classic cocktails. There are some people that are doing some interesting things with our spirits. Like Paper Plane in San Jose is doing a cocktail with our aquavit that’s a cucumber soda base and Cocchi Americano, and they serve it on draft. There’s a lot of different applications for cocktails. We’re trying to highlight that on our website.
What inspired the switch from beer lover to spirit maker?
Whiskey was definitely my focus. There’s just a lore and love for American whiskey, and it’s growing in popularity now, it’s recognized globally. I think that’s why it’s everyone’s inspiration. Now we do two lines of gin, one that’s a clear, one that’s a barrel rusted. We also do an aquavit—it’s a Scandinavian spirit. Then we have a line called El Ladrón. It’s our agave spirit line. It’s similar to tequila in that we make it from agave, but it’s a little different. Then we have two wayward whiskies, a single malt, and a rye.
What’s different about doing spirits in small batches?
A small batch for us is around 500 bottles at a time. Our stills are 125- and 250-gallon stills. They’re quite small. We do everything here by hand. We’re manually moderating the stills, opening and closing the valves, and hand-bottling stuff and hand-labeling. It’s a very artisanal approach to it. Because we’re not doing large batches, our stuff isn’t homogeneous, so there are subtleties from batch to batch, which we celebrate. Every bottle is hand-labeled and each batch number is written on there, so there’s opportunities for our community to enjoy our whisky and try batch 5 and compare it to batch 6.
427 Swift St., Ste. A, Santa Cruz, 427-9673. venusspirits.com