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In Good Spirits: Hangar 1’s Latest Vodka Is 60% San Francisco Fog

Due to the drought, the distillery is catching fog in the city to capture water, vodka's main ingredient.

[Photos: courtesy of Hangar]

A distillery in the Bay Area is introducing a new vodka that comes with a twist: One of its key ingredients is fog. Hangar 1 unveiled Fog Point Friday, the first spirit ever made using fog caught in San Francisco, a substance readily available in the city.

The idea might seem like a gimmick, but consider this: California is currently experiencing its biggest drought in history, which means vodka’s main ingredient (water) is in short supply. While the proverbial well hasn’t quite run dry yet, it’s certainly time to start considering alternative water sources.

The idea to include fog in vodka arose from Hangar’s desire to find a water solution that makes sense given the drought.

"We started doing a ton of research," says Hangar’s head distiller, Caley Shoemaker. After discovering fog as a possibility, the distillery spent six months collecting it in order to get enough water for a run of the vodka, which is purified before it’s added.

So how exactly do you go about catching fog? To get the fog water it needed, Hangar 1 partnered with the group Fog Quest, a nonprofit that works to help those in impoverished areas of the world create a sustainable water supply. The group placed fog catchers at a number of strategic locations around town, including the top of San Francisco’s iconic Sutro Tower. Fog Quest will also be getting all the profits from sales of the vodka.

Essentially a net of sorts, fog collectors need to be set up near the ocean, but also at a high enough elevation so that their access to the fog isn’t obstructed by trees and buildings. The collectors are set up perpendicular to the wind, so that the fog is driven into the net of the collectors, and then gradually makes it way down the net into a bucket where water is collected.

Given the urban and hilly environment of San Francisco, the collectors at Sutro weren’t exactly the most ideal. Even with a few obstructions in their way, however, they’re hoping to capture four liters per square meter each day during the foggy season (which is starting now), and were able to get an average of one liter per square meter in the off-season.

The collectors used at Sutro are also smaller than those typically deployed–-the ones set up for the Fog Point project were one square meter, a size traditionally used to measure the viability of an area for fog collection as well as to test the appropriate mesh to use in a particular area. Once a space is deemed suitable for fog collection, a much larger 40 square-meter collector might be installed.

"In order for this to be viable, you really need to be up in terms of four or five liters per day. That’s what we’re hoping to see at Sutro Tower this coming summer," says Chris Fogliatti, Fog Quest’s San Francisco area director. Another group is looking at the Presidio, a protected area beside the water as another potential location for fog collection. A small fog collector costs roughly $220 to install.

As for Hangar, it plans to continue looking at interesting ways it can incorporate its native California into its spirits.

"Hangar 1 Fog Point is the first of many Hangar 1 initiatives designed to return favor to our foggy home in Alameda —a home which makes our pioneering distillation approach and our dedication to local agriculture and fresh ingredients possible," says Shoemaker. "At our distillery, we take a fresh approach to vodka. Our quest is to continue to discover cutting-edge innovations, working with our local partners in the Bay Area to inspire new vodkas made of California."

The base of the Fog Point vodka, for instance, is Cigare Blanc, a wine by Bonny Doon. The Northern California winery uses a sustainable winemaking process to make its wines, creating a minimal human footprint with the production of each bottle. Each bottle of the vodka is designed to look somewhat like a vessel used to collect fog water. A metal rim around the top is done in the style of the mesh on the fog collectors.

"Hopefully this will spread some ideals about water conservation," says Fogliatti. "And if people can look at what Fog Quest is doing in California, and if we can apply some of what Fog Quest is doing to some basic landscaping technology, I think that will be helpful."

Hangar 1’s Fog Point will be available starting today at Hangar 1’s Reserve Bar as well as a number of Bay Area bars and restaurants.

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