Make vodka from strawberries? No one does that, says Anthony Caspary, co-founder of Ventura Spirits, a bootstrap distillery he started with his brother and two friends in the basement of an old industrial building on the western edge of Ventura. Other than the expense of the strawberries themselves, it's just too much work.
Yet that's just what they're doing — thanks to a rock bottom price Caspary and his partners got on 500,000 pounds of frozen strawberries abandoned in a contract dispute. Intent on distilling the essence of Southern California at Ventura Spirits, vodka from local strawberries was an irresistible idea.
In addition to the strawberry-sourced vodka, Caspary and his partners produce a gin infused with purple sage, sagebrush, bay leaf and yerba santa they forage from the coastal mountains outside their distillery. Local prickly pear fruit is the base ingredient for their Opuntia, a clean, white spirit intended to give a California spin to that other cactus-based spirit, tequila. They're also working on a spirit made from kelp gathered along the nearby ocean beaches.