SWIFT DRIFT: DISTILLERY IN SAN CLEMENTE BECOMES ORANGE COUNTY’S SECOND SINCE PROHIBITION
By Eric Heinz
Grains of wheat ferment and other spices fuse with flavor. Heated by the distillery, the molecules trickle down into a copper still to combine with alcohol.
This chemical processing creates Drift Distillery’s signature whiskey and vodka, San Clemente’s newest liquor and spirits operation and the second distillery in Orange County since the Prohibition Era, according to owner and operator Ryan Winter. Winter and his wife Lesli will be opening the doors of the new South Orange County business in the near future.
Ryan describes Drift’s whiskey as more of a moonshine, but tamer. Made of 100 percent wheat mash, he said it’s made to be barreled and they have started to bottle it for purchase. Although Drift is only currently concocting whiskey and vodka, Ryan says they also have plans to make gin and rum, made with molasses or sugar cane juice. The Winters also have an interest in producing a rye whiskey and bourbon.
When asked, Ryan said his favorite part of distilling whiskey and vodka is “drinking it.” But he said he enjoys the process of bottling it and seeing the final product too.
“My favorite part of the process is the fermentation,” Ryan said. “Seeing it bubble and the smell; it kind of smells like a bakery. There’s a lot a going on, and you can actually see the process of it bubbling. If you go to a brewery, everything is closed so there isn’t any ‘contamination.’”
For Lesli, the triumph is in the finale.
“I just like seeing the bottles fill up with the finished product; it’s such a sense of accomplishment,” Lesli said.