Nestled in the central coast’s agricultural belt, Ascendant Spirits has access to a multitude of fresh produce year-round. May is one of the best times of the year because it means its strawberry season! While most people may associate strawberries with shortcakes and chocolates, our master distiller thinks of ways to infuse this berry into our spirits. Of course, there’s no recipe book for fresh fruit infusions, so our distillery has become quite the science lab over the last few months. After just a little more tinkering, Steve (the master distiller) and Anthony (his apprentice) will have the perfectly balanced recipe for both a strawberry moonshine and strawberry vodka that promises to refresh during the warm summer months.
These spirits’ unique flavors are derived from local organic strawberries grown just 35.5 miles north of the distillery. Since its just a hop and a skip away, a few of us decided to take a field trip over to Santa Maria to meet the farmers and see what strawberry growing is really all about.
As you can see from these pictures, there is a reason why this is called the agricultural belt. In Santa Maria alone, 437 million pounds of strawberries are grown annually. We purchase our organic strawberries from Innovative Produce Farm, which ships their crops all over the US and beyond (fun fact: the majority of their broccoli is sent to China!). While we were there, we had the pleasure of meeting George, a farmer whose family has been on these lands for the last five generations. In addition to strawberries, he grows broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, and kale, rotating the crops seasonally. The acidic soil and constant sunshine are the key ingredients to growing the perfect strawberries. The black plastic you see in the picture holds in the moist humus soil, protects against weeds, and lessens the need to water.
After walking through the fields with George, we were handed our crates of strawberries. The aroma of these berries filled the car and we couldn’t help trying a few. All I can say is I cannot wait for Steve to finish blending these little bites of perfection into our spirits!