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Wine and Spirits

A vodka made from fog? San Francisco’s Fog Point gives drinkers a unique taste of the Bay

Produced by California vodka brand Hangar 1, the US$134-a-bottle Fog Point offers something new for curiosity seekers while also drawing attention to water conservation in an area hard hit by drought

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2017, 5:39pm

Despite its plain potato roots, vodka comes in some wild varieties. You can buy milk vodka, bacon vodka, fresh cut grass vodka, and now – perhaps strangest of all – fog vodka.

Fog Point contains extracts of fog from San Francisco where, to quote the late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, it filters “through the harp strings of the Golden Gate Bridge”.

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A poetic concoction steeped in regional atmosphere, Fog Point was created by two organisations: FogQuest, a charity based in Ontario focused on water projects, and Hangar 1, a vodka brand that produces fresh, experimental strains from Californian ingredients.

The aptly named Chris Fogliatti, a volunteer for FogQuest, and his team trap fog with mesh sheets that resemble giant plasters. Strategically placed around the San Francisco Bay area, the sheets capture condensation which is then mixed with vodka derived from a Californian wine called Le Cigare Blanc. The resultant limited edition spirit, dubbed “premium redeemed” by the fashion site trendwatching.com, has garnered intense publicity; even at US$134 a bottle, it is often sold out.

Countering any suggestion of grime – the Bay Area is one of the most polluted regions in the US – the vodka is advertised as “an extraordinarily crisp, pure and gluten-free sipping vodka with elegant hints of pear, citrus, and honeysuckle”. It raises the question of what mixologists might dream up next.

“Manufacturers will try to market their brand using all kinds of gimmicks – special water, special ingredients, a special filter process, a special bottle design, or an elaborate backstory,” says vodka blogger Christoph Rehage. “But what it comes down to in the end is just two things: taste and aftertaste.”

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That said, Fog Point does have good environmental credentials. In using fog it is recycling a sustainable, easily wasted water source – particularly salient in California given the state’s 2011-17 drought that included, in 2014, its driest spell in 1,200 years.

“We realised that fog is so iconic here in the Bay Area [and] the solution for our water issue was actually right in front of us this whole time,” said Hangar 1’s head distiller Caley Shoemaker at a Google talk in June. She added that the fog is cleaner than typical Bay Area tap water.

For Shoemaker, the fog gives the spirit an outdoorsy tang. “When you’re outside on a nice warm day after a damp morning or a rainstorm and you can smell the warm wet stones of the river or something as you’re crossing by – that’s exactly what the fog water reminds me of,” she said. The spirit’s salty, mineral side, meanwhile, may come from the ocean; as a result, Shoemaker said, Fog Point pairs well with seafood, of which San Francisco has plenty.

She added that it appeals to “spirits nerds” and ordinary drinkers alike, with people across the board seeing fog vodka as a cool idea that spurs conversation about water conservation.

Fog vodka is also a reminder of how inventive the Bay Area is when it comes to tipples. Up the road in Oakland, the mai tai was allegedly invented in 1944 at a restaurant called Trader Vic’s. Another classic area cocktail, pisco punch, was created towards the end of the 19th century at the Bank Exchange Saloon, where the Transamerica Pyramid now stands.

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Fog Point nobly carries on that tradition, offering curiosity seekers a taste of the Bay – at a premium price. Drinkers can also say they’re doing their bit for the environment, with profits from the spirit piped into sustainable water research.