Bixby Gin creator Trevor Peterson really did try to walk the buttoned-up professional track, working as an aeronautical and medical engineer and then in software sales after college. But when he’d run into his Cal Poly buddies who’d gone into winemaking, he eyed their jeans and torn T-shirts with envy from within the confines of his collared existence. “I totally screwed up,” he recalls thinking during one such meetup at a wine party in Beverly Hills.
On top of that, said Peterson, “I just like being around fermentation.” So, around 2006, he started developing his own equipment and messing with his friends’ rejected fruits. “I started distilling everything people didn’t want,” said Peterson.
In 2011, he got official by licensing Lloyd Distillery, named after his grandfather, who was born in San Francisco and hailed from an old California mining family. “He was a bit of an adventurer,” said Peterson. “When I got to try my first whiskey, I realized that was the odor of my grandpa.”
But his twin girls had been born the year before, so it wasn’t quite time to ditch the day job. He spent his time honing a gin recipe.
Why gin? “Because I didn’t know what I was doing,” admitted Peterson, who thought the juniper-flavored white spirit would be easy and quick to develop. “It’s an extremely sensitive process. Every single ingredient has to work. I had 57 jars of tests. It took 18 months.” Using his design chops, he also developed his own gin basket during the process, one that he believes is more efficient at capturing flavor than what’s available on the commercial market.
He settled on 10 ingredients, including coriander, white sage, and chamomile that he grows in his garden, as well as bay leaf that he forages from the Central Coast woods and elderflower he sources from Europe. He chose the name Bixby Gin as an ode to Big Sur’s iconic Bixby Bridge. “Big Sur means a lot to me,” said Peterson, who hopes the brand and label inspire customers to “let it all go and take in the ocean and the coast.”
In fall 2014, he took an early batch down to the Granada Hotel in downtown San Luis Obispo, before he even had invoice slips. “They took a case, and they’ve been a customer ever since,” said Peterson, who slowly lined up other customers when he had free time from his day job, including Big Sur’s legendary Post Ranch Inn and the Skyview Hotel in Los Alamos. Today, he makes about 30 cases at a time over the course of a 14-hour day at a facility in Gonzales, which he shares with Fog’s End Distillery.
The brand got a boost this summer, winning a double gold at the California Craft Spirits Competition. The timing was fortuitous, as 2019 marks a jumping-off point for Peterson — he finally quit his day job on June 1 and is pursuing the booze business full-time. Said Peterson, “Now it’s real.”
Cocktail Recipe: Dog Days
By Robin Wolf, 2019 Tales of the Cocktail winner and bartender at Hatch in Paso Robles. Inspired by late summer days on the California Coast.
2 oz. Bixby Gin
1 oz. Plum Tea Syrup (see below)
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon
California Sparkling Wine
Shake all ingredients, reserving bubbles, in cocktail shaker. Remove rosemary. Pour contents, ice and all, into your favorite tumbler or rocks glass. Top up with bubbles and garnish with fresh rosemary. Cheers!
For Plum Tea Syrup: Heat three rough chopped plums (remove pits) and 1/2 cup cane sugar, and two tablespoons water in a saucepan. When sugar dissolves, reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool. When cool, gently press mixture through strainer, extracting juice.
Separately, brew 16 oz. of hot, strong black tea (I like Earl Grey).
Mix tea and plum juice while tea is still hot. Cool before use. Keep in refrigerator for up to 4 days.
4•1•1 | Bixby Gin is available at The Good Lion, the Liquor & Wine Grotto in Montecito, and the Hotel Californian. See lloyddistillery.com.