Showing up to a fancy bottle shop to find Anthony Schmidt there is like finding Alice Waters at a farmers market or asking Johnny Marr if you could tag along to a guitar shop. Schmidt, the beverage director for Consortium Holdings (Noble Experiment, Craft & Commerce, False Idol), is the quintessential cocktail geek, a booze savant, and a genuinely wonderful person. And the shop I found him in earlier this week, Raised by Wolves, happens to be partly his. Consortium Holdings’ latest project, it’s located at the UTC mall—which had me a bit confused until Schmidt pointed out the obvious: the location allowed them to easily combine a retail store and a bar. “There are no neighbors to complain about the noise,” he said. “They actually want us here.”
I’ll write about the bar part of Raised by Wolves for another post (located in a hidden area inside the shop, you take a seat in front of a rotating fireplace to get to it), but it’s the bottle shop I’m most excited about. San Diego is woefully short on good liquor stores. There’s Old Town Liquor, Handy’s at 30th and Adams, and Mona Lisa in Little Italy. Whole Foods has some nice surprises, too. But there’s nothing as well-curated as Raised by Wolves. The French Quarter-inspired, Paul Basile-designed store is, in itself, lovely. You can check out vintage bottles of liqueurs and spirits, gawk at an extremely rare crystal decanter of Suntory whiskey, but also walk away with something really special for under $40. Whether you prefer gin or are looking for a sweet, pretty liqueur for a springtime cocktail party, there’s stuff here you won’t find anywhere else.
And if you love whiskey, this is your new favorite place: Raised by Wolves carries a great selection of single-barrel bourbons handpicked by Schmidt and other Consortium Holdings bartenders. The stock of Japanese whiskey is the best around, and they’re getting a weekly shipment of two bottles of Weller 12-year, aka, “the poor man’s Pappy.” (I grabbed one as well as one of CH’s Elijah Craigs.)
I asked Schmidt for some quick picks in the affordable range (some of these are around $30, some less, some more but worth it). If you’re lucky, Schmidt or co-owners Erik Castro or Chris Patino will be there to help you find the perfect spirit and tell you some great stories about the process behind the product.
Consortium Holdings’ Elijah Craig single barrel (or any of the CH-selected bourbons, really)
Old Forester 1897 Bottle in Bond
Old Overholt Rye Bottle in Bond (for only $26, “you can’t pass it up,” Schmidt says)
Suntory Toki (“great with soda water and a grapefruit twist,” Schmidt says)
Compass Box Peat Monster
Kilchoman’s Machir Bay
Two James’ Doctor Bird Jamaica Rum
Castarède VSOP Bas Armagnac
Sibona Grappa Riserva
Sipsmith London Dry Gin
Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill Gin (made with juniper and raw honey —”fantastic,” Schmidt says)
(Schmidt: “Do I have to?” Me: “Yes.”)
Nikka Coffey Vodka
Cutwater Spirits’ Fugu Vodka
Siembra Valles blanco
Del Maguey Tobala
La Quintyne rouge (Schmidt warns it’s a bit funky and not an all-purpose vermouth, but he loves it in a Manhattan, or on the rocks with a bit of lemon)
Amaro Sibilla (for Schmidt, this one hold memories. A waiter brought it out after he and his wife enjoyed an exceptional meal in Umbria, Italy — “an amaro in the context it was intended,” he says).
Got ideas for a future post? Email me.
One of many shelves of whiskey at Raised by Wolves.