Downtown L.A. Distillery Delivers Spirits and Sustainability

When Litty Mathew and Melkon Khosrovian first came up with the idea for Greenbar Distillery, the two former journalists didn't realize how much red tape was required to sell spirits. For example, even when Greenbar Distillery opened in 2004, distilleries were still bound by 80-year-old temperance-inspired trade laws that prohibited them from selling directly to customers. Spirits could only be sold through wholesalers or retailers.

Fractionating columns used in Greenbar's distillation process.

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Everything changed with the passage of the Craft Distillers Act of 2015. A Type-74 license was created that allows small distilleries to host private events and operate onsite restaurants. They could also sell to customers directly, which leveled the playing field for California distillers. Craft brewers and small wineries in California had already been granted the right to sell directly as have distilleries in 40 other states.  

Greenbar Distillery was one of the first companies in line to file for the new license. They opened their split-level, arts district warehouse in downtown Los Angeles to afterhour tasting events with live bands and classes. 

They also offer tours of their unique green processes. Greenbar Distillery uses real fruit to flavor their spirits which they mostly source from local farms and zest by hand. They use lightweight, recyclable packaging and work with a nonprofit to plant a tree for every bottle sold. 

Greenbar Distillery storage area
Greenbar's oak aging barrels include five types of wood for flavor

So far Mathew and Khosrovian have quietly "gotten customers" to plant more than 600,000 trees throughout the Central American rainforest and even won an award for their green efforts. But they don't really promote the fact. "In the end we are making an indulgence. You don’t have to have your spirits to survive. You don’t need your martini to survive, " says Mathew. "If you are going to enjoy something then in that case, something needs to be happening behind the scenes that makes everything a little bit better."

Second camera and production assistance: Marie Targonski-O'Brien

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