The New Pride of the Peninsula

I got a call from my friend Davorin Kuchan about a week ago asking me if I had time to grab lunch and catch up. It had been more than a year since I had last seen him in person, so I was looking forward to hearing about the latest gossip from Old World Spirits. We arranged to meet in downtown San Mateo and had a lengthy conversation about the state of the micro-spirits industry, as well as the ever-changing fashion of cocktails and the future of booze distribution. As we were leaving, Davorin said he had a small present for me and handed me an unfamiliar bottle. I looked at the label; somewhat like his Blade Gin artwork, but with a hand-drawn image of an old saint trapped behind the giant letters "VODKA". What in the heck?

"It's my old vodka recipe. I never distilled it when I opened up Old World Spirits because I bought into that whole 'vodka is dead' hype that was going around at the time. Now, however, I'm over all that BS."

"That's fantastic!" I shouted, always happy to hear about someone smiting the perceived rules of the game. "What does that old recipe entail?"

"I can't tell you too much, but let's just say that it involves a number of painstaking steps that I perfected over many years back in Croatia," he replied. "It's a pain in the butt to make, but it's worth it in the end."

"And you're making this right here on the Peninsula?" I said.

"Of course. Same as always."

"We need to sell this! Our local customers will go crazy for a high-end vodka made right in their backyard," I answered. "I'm assuming it's good."

"St. Blaise is the patron saint of Croatia, so I wouldn't dare besmirch his name. Try it and find out."

I did that very night. Less than a week later, Davorin and I worked out a deal for us to buy his "painstakingly" delicious vodka direct from the source, available exclusively at K&L. He just needs to get a few labels printed up and a few more bottles in the ringer. In the meantime, however, I'm taking pre-orders. Anyone who isn't too cool for vodka will want to at least try a bottle. It's pretty awesome when one of the softest, most-supple vodkas on the market is made right down the street from your house. This is the type of vodka that's so clean and mellow you can drink it straight out of the bottle and it goes down like spring water. Right now it's just for us, so you might as well get in on the secret. Dust that half-empty bottle of Smirnoff that's been sitting in your cupboard for the last six years and get yourself something delicious and locally-made. Davorin's willing to make as much as you want to buy (even if it is a pain in the ass).

Old World Spirits "St. Blaise" Vodka $34.99 (SPECIAL ORDER) -Davorin Kuchan has been distilling spirits since his early days as a winemaker and eau-de-vie expert back in Croatia. When he established Old World Spirits here on the San Francisco Peninsula (right outside of Belmont), he brought with him the traditions and expertise of old world production methods and used them to formulate West Coast versions of his original spirits. This was right around the pre-Prohibition cocktail craze when vodka was becoming a dirty word, so Davorin instead made gin; never releasing his patented vodka formula state-side for fear that it would never get the credit it deserved. Now that all that prejudice is dying down, however, he felt it was time to bring back one of his most special old world creations. Using a unique finishing process (including granite and active charcoal sedimentation) and an ultra-slow, subsonic, continuous, multi-stage filtering process, Davorin has created a California version of his old St. Blaise vodka; a tribute to the patron saint of Croatia. Based off his eau-de-vie and grappa filtration methods, the idea is to polish and soften the spirit without striping the inherent character. The vodka is proofed with soft California Sierra spring water. The final product is soft, supple, and slightly creamy in texture with accents of sweet fruit in the background. It's one of the most pure and elegant vodkas we've ever tasted and it's being made right here in our own backyard. The pride of Croatia is now the pride of the Peninsula!

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll