New Santa Cruz vodka takes top honors at San Francisco competition

Santa Cruz Spirits vodka
(Via Santa Cruz Spirits)

A double gold at the recent San Francisco World Spirits Competition has Santa Cruz Spirits’ flagship vodka trending, and its founders are aiming to ramp up production and make waves well beyond the county’s borders.

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What started out as just “a fun thing” with some friends has now turned into a full-blown spirits company that’s already earning accolades as it quickly grows. Santa Cruz Spirits’ flagship vodka recently won “double gold” in the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a competition organized by the Tasting Alliance, which holds similar events in New York and Singapore. Double gold is awarded to entries that receive gold ratings from the entire panel of judges.

The idea for Santa Cruz Spirits started pre-COVID. The company has been producing its vodka for about two years — but it’s been on the market for only about six months, said co-owner Art Danner, who has over 35 years of experience working with wine and liquor companies and bringing new brands to market.

“We knew because of feedback and my experience that we had a really good taste profile,” said Danner.

The vodka, made from organic grains and distilled five times, is also available in flavors like grapefruit, lemon and cucumber.

Production is done in Scotts Valley, where the company is currently making a couple of hundred cases (12 bottles per case) a month but that’s quickly ramping up, said Danner.

Santa Cruz Spirits vodka
(Via Santa Cruz Spirits)

“We do want to expand, but do it right,” said Danner of the company’s growth ambitions. “I’ve seen many brands that had great starts fizzle in the end because they went too fast without proper planning. We want to really hit [our] homeland of Santa Cruz County, Santa Clara County, Monterey County, etc., then Northern California and Central California and spread into Southern California.”

The company also aims to expand distribution throughout Nevada and possibly Arizona and Hawaii by the end of 2023, he said. It would like to increase to selling 3,500-5,000 cases per month by then, with a goal of 10,000 cases per month by the summer of 2024. That will rely heavily on the right distribution partners.

“We feel the time is now — the [vodka] category is a little stale, a little boring,” Danner said. “We’ve got some excitement going. The [Santa Cruz] name really gets people going.”

Right now the company makes only vodka, but Danner said it is keeping the door open for adding other spirits to the mix. Locally, Santa Cruz Spirits’ vodka can be found at various retailers and restaurants, including Deer Park Wine & Spirits, Bittersweet Bistro, Harbor Liquor and many more.