After attending Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma and briefly attending The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Sam Desner, 25, realized that his true passion was in mixology.
After all, he had been experimenting with his own liqueurs at home, creating flavors made from such things as rose petal, rosemary and sage.
That led him to attend the Bartending Academy of Tacoma, as well as take a craft distilling course at the Spirits Institute of Puget Sound. He then took that knowledge, plus his interest in liqueurs, and approached his father, Sandy Desner, with a question: Can I turn this into a business?
And so they have, opening Salish Sea Organic Liqueurs in Lacey’s Meridian Campus on Jan. 24, in space that also happens to be next door to Stottle Winery.
Never miss a local story.
It didn’t happen overnight, but after about three years of hard work they finally opened the doors on their distillery, producing handcrafted, small-batch USDA certified organic liqueurs.
Sam Desner is head distiller and Sandy Desner, general manager.
“I’m having a blast,” said Sandy, 61, a well known area real estate developer who has been semi-retired since 2008.
For its debut, Salish Sea is releasing 16 flavors — with plans to grow to 22 — including lemongrass, peppermint, sage, hibiscus and cinnamon, and sells its products in pints and fifths as well as by the case.
Prices start at the low 30s for a fifth and ranges from the high teens to low 20s for the pints, Desner said. Alcohol by volume ranges from 16 percent to 23 percent.
So what does one do with a liqueur?
You can drink it, you can mix it with other spirits to make a cocktail, or you can use it as a cooking ingredient.
Desner is particularly excited about the culinary aspects of the product.
They use it at home, for example, to grill lemongrass liqueur-marinated shrimp on the barbecue, or apply sage liqueur to chicken, pork and fish.
And if it’s chicken, take those sage liqueur-soaked bones and use them to make chicken stock for a delicious chicken soup, he said. Or spice up that pancake syrup with a little hibiscus liqueur.
But Sam Desner is just getting started.
Among his future flavors, he wants to create an organic absinthe, and he has his eyes on future products, such as gin and fruit brandies, he said.