Canyon Diablo Distillery is our kind of spot.
The booze is strong and masterfully executed, and the humor behind the labels is chock-full of grim and dark Southwest history.
In October the Flagstaff distillery plans to release a bourbon-barrel-aged Old Tom gin named Clabberfoot, hysterically titled after one of Canyon Diablo’s most illustrious madams. Unlike other gin styles that rely heavily on juniper for flavor, Clabberfoot is devilishily sweet on the nose with slight notes of bourbon and smoke. It dances on the palate like a saloon girl and goes down smooth, even at a whopping 90 proof.
We had Canyon Diablo’s master distiller Randy Ahern down to the Masters of Brewtality crypt to tell us a bit about Clabberfoot. Owner Joe Pendergast chimed in with recommended cocktails for fall.
Q. First off, where’d the bourbon barrels come from?
A. Those are from our bourbon whiskey. We emptied them out after the whiskey was properly aged. We’ve got the gin in right now.
Q. A bourbon-barrel-aged gin is a rare thing, even in these experimental times for drinking. Where’d you get the idea from?
A. We were just kind of kicking ideas around here at the distillery, and barreled gin is pretty popular, so figured we’d give an Old Tom style a try.
Q. Could you take us through what sets this style of gin apart?
A. It’s sweeter than say, a beefeater-style gin. You use more sugar and it gives it a sweeter taste. All gin has to have juniper and from there, it’s pretty much whatever you want to do with it. There’s lots of different styles of gin and various flavors. At our last distillery, High Spirits at the old Mogollon Brewing Company, we started using Southwest botanicals and it gave our gin a really distinct flavor. We found that less juniper just gave it a nicer flavor.
Q. How’d you recommend we take this. Gin isn’t reknowned for being a shot and we generally drink ours with juice while listening to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”.
A. Well, you can take it with tonic, seltzer or some people even do water. We generally stick to tonics around here because this just has such a nice taste because of the whiskey barrels.
Q. And when is Clabberfoot out?
A. It’ll be out in the fall.
Q. Finally, Canyon Diablo comes up with great names based around the history of the area. The John Shaw Whiskey comes to mind, which got its name from an outlaw who was killed in the area and later exhumed for a drunken photo shoot. What’s the story behind Clabberfoot?
A. Well, where ever the railroad would go, these tent cities would pop up as they’re actually building it. And Clabberfoot, where we took the name, came from a woman named Clabberfoot Annie who was a madam at one of the brothels in Canyon Diablo. She was famous for fistfighting the rival madam in the middle of the street, which was located directly across from her establishment. When the town went bust and everyone moved West toward Flagstaff, she kind of just drifted off into history. No one really knows what happened to her, but the gin is so sweet, we thought the name fit.
The West truly was wild. Thanks so much! Onto the cocktails!
Canyon Diablo Distillery is a small company, so you’ve got do a little searching to find their spirits in local establishments, but they’re well worth the hunt. Canyon Diablo’s liquors, with the exception of the absolutely fierce Two Ghosts chili pepper vodka, is great straight up, but a fine cocktail is the perfect complement to a chilly fall evening here in beautiful Flagstaff. Southside Tavern and the DoubleTree Lounge offer Diablo’s full line of spirits. Check them out!
Here are a few of Joe’s recommended drinks:
Bloody Mary with Two Ghosts Vodka: A Diablo Mary, the vodka adds the perfect spice.
Sonoran Rose Prickly Pear Vodka Cosmopolitan: The Cactus Cosmo, if you like.
Firefly at Rendezvous: Utilizes Desert Rain Gin and is a best-selling cocktail.
Bourbon Whiskey: Straight or in a whiskey sour.
Grand Canyon Mule: Grand Canyon Vodka with ginger beer and lime.