Earlier this year we brought you coverage of California Fernet, a fun spin on the classic Italian style that mixes in both Californian and Swedish sensibilities. Now we’re back to the well with five more products from Martin Geijer’s Geijer Glogg, the San Francisco-based company behind the brand. This quintet spans a wide range of the spirits universe — and finishes out our coverage of the entirety of its current lineup.
California Glogg Liqueur – This is Geijer’s amaroish liqueur-like recreation of Swedish Christmas glogg, and if you haven’t had that iconic winter warmer, you probably won’t realize how exactly this liqueur duplicates the experience. Made with the classic 7 flavoring ingredients of glogg — cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, almonds, raisins, orange peel, and cane sugar — the only real difference is that the wine base has been subbed out and a distillate subbed in. You really get every one of the elements in the recipe here — particularly the trio of spices and, of course, the sweetness of the sugar. The almonds surprised me the most: They come across more clearly than in the typical glass of warm holiday glogg, showing here with a delicate orgeat-like sweetness. The finish is all cardamon and cinnamon. It’s so authentic that I swear I can smell the hot dogs and Swedish pancakes cooking one room over. 40 proof. A / $39
California Spiced Liqueur – Geijer calls this spin on allspice dram “pleasantly funky,” and it’s also unusually transparent, instead of the usual deep brown in color. The rhum agricole base is flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, and clove (and perhaps other ingredients). Cardamom is heaviest of these on the nose, but the cloves dominate the palate. This gritty, earthy element weighs the finish down a bit, smoldering for a long while. Allspice dram (aka pimento dram) is hardly known for its delicacy, but Geijer’s version feels more blunt than usual. I don’t get even a whiff of the agricole “funk” mentioned in the description. 80 proof. B / $33
California Aqua Vitae – A Cali spin on aquavit: “The caraway, fennel and dill serve many modifiers well and the orange peel, ginger and sage brighten the traditional spices — dare we say a California fusion spirit.” Black pepper, grapefruit peel, cloves, and cardamom are also all in the mix. Quite dry on the nose, the spirit finds a balance between caraway and anise-like flavors, with a healthy sprinkle of black pepper making an impact. The palate is again very dry and savory, those rye-bready spices clinging roughly to the tongue. Peppery, with a particularly heavy punch of caraway and a less heavy sage note, the spirit is pushy and rather blunt, and it cries out for some sweetness. You won’t find it here, save for a hint of citrus on the finish, which at least offers a slight squeeze of brightness. 80 proof. B- / $38
California Orange Liqueur – A sweet orange liqueur made with the addition of vanilla. You won’t miss the vanilla, which is so evident on the attack that it makes the liqueur come across a bit like an orange Creamsicle. From nose to finish, that creamy vanilla note is simply impossible to miss, and the orange element feels surprisingly mild here. This combination may appeal to some, but it may not work in every cocktail. When starting off with this as a mixer, dial down proportions or try using it alongside a standard triple sec. 80 proof. B / $29
California Falernum – Falernum is a spiced syrupy liqueur (though sometimes non-alcoholic) that is often used in tiki style drinks as a sweetener and flavor booster. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum (just 22 proof, btw) is the most ubiquitous brand. California Falernum is made from Jamaican-style rum distilled in the state, spiced with lime, ginger, almond, cloves, allspice, cardamom, orange peel, cacao nibs, and cane sugar. At 30% abv, it drinks like a real liqueur, and it feels deftly designed for tiki cocktailing. Lime, cloves, allspice, and cardamom all make an impact — in that order, and the sugar content seems just about right. In comparison, Velvet Falernum (B / $18) is quite a bit sweeter, and it pours on the allspice, with lime lingering heavily on the finish. Both are fine in a cocktail, but if you want more of an herbal punch (and don’t mind the higher abv), California Falernum could be a better bet. 60 proof. B+/ $39