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Best Local Booze San Francisco 2008 - 209 Gin

Our theory is that the Bay Area is in the process of becoming a Western European country — Italy, maybe, or France. Think about it: We have a major wine industry, artisanal cheeses running rampant, and vegetables that actually taste good, feeding a developing regional cuisine. Enthusiastic cultural production, and, of course, a large peasant class all lead us to this conclusion. One thing the becoming-Europe trend means is marvelous, delicious, small-batch liquor, made right here. The elixir known as 209 Gin is currently a source of civic pride, as it should be. The company boasts a classic Bay Area story: Investor acquires NorCal winery, feels inspired by awesome distillery outbuilding, buys world's best pot still, and hires former dot-commer to make innovative but yummy recipe. (Bergamot orange peel is the zinger ingredient — and it's from Italy. Coincidence?) The company sets up shop on a San Francisco pier and charms everyone who tastes the stuff. Someday maybe we'll also have charming traditional garb, universal healthcare, and a working knowledge of history to go with our renowned spirits.

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