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  • Tony Chahal

Pacific Coast Spirits

Established in 2019, Downtown Oceanside’s grain-to-glass distillery doesn’t stop with award-winning spirits and craft cocktails. Pacific Coast Spirits has just launched a new collaborative menu with a renown local chef.

Story by Tony Chahal / Photos by Pacific Coast Spirits

Upon arriving at Pacific Coast Spirits, 404 S. Coast Highway, guests find themselves in an inviting, laid-back setting of picnic tables, string lights and a mini orchard of citrus trees known as Pacific Coast park. Converted during the pandemic the former parking lot leads into an indoor/outdoor patio and a large, airy interior with quiet talking nooks. Behind a glass and mirror-backed bar stocked with bottles of colorful spirits, you might also find the Downtown Oceanside grain-to-glass craft distillery’s founder and head distiller, Nicholas Hammond.

“Oceanside has a vibe to it,” Hammond says when asked how he decided to open the business here. “We worked with many other North County cities, but we wanted to be a part of Oceanside. Plus there’s not a lot of cities that have a building like this one right on Pacific Coast Highway with walk-in traffic.”

Pacific Coast Spirits is the culmination of a decade of passion, education and adventure. After months spent transforming the 12,000-square-foot building that was previously home to Joe’s Furniture for almost half a century, Hammond opened the distillery, craft bar and kitchen in November 2019.

For Hammond, Coast Highway accessibility equates to education.

“We pull back the curtain and the customers see how we make the spirits and our production side.”

And what a sight it is. The gloriously gleaming, all copper 500-gallon still system is custom-made in Germany and is accompanied by an equally shiny and spectacular 75-gallon still that is exclusively used for distilling gin. Looking past the still, there is another large room with stacked wooden barrels with aging liquor.

In his ongoing thirst for education, Hammond has traveled to Chile and Mexico to learn about the authentic distilling process of making pisco and tequila. The liquors made outside of those regions are known as unfiltered brandies and agave spirits.

“Our unfiltered brandy is made with all California grapes,” Hammond said. “I’ve consulted and made tequila in Mexico and now we import 100% Blue Weber agave from Jalisco and make it here in Oceanside.”

Created with a balance of creativity, innovation and old world techniques, the distillery’s handcrafted, small batch spirits include American single malt whiskey, California bourbon, white rye whiskey, gin, agave spirits, brandy and vodka. Six of these recently received 2021 American Distilling Institute Judging of Craft Spirit Awards.

“An absinthe made with real wormwood is also planned,” Hammond smiles.

Not long after the start of the pandemic, Pacific Coast Spirits adapted to the county’s mandatory closure of bars and restaurants by becoming one of only a few distilleries in San Diego to modify its production to create hand sanitizer. The distillery continues to produce and even ship the alcohol-based spray, developed in accordance with FDA and CDC recommendations.