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Cory Volkening
Cory Volkening pours a drink using sustainable spirits. Photo by Clarke Surrey from Surrey Media
Columns Food & Wine Lick the Plate

Lick the Plate: Distilling sustainable spirits with Misadventure & Co.

Having a nephew who is a partner in Detroit City Distillery,  I’ve kept loosely connected to the burgeoning spirits scene over the past ten years.

When someone told me a Vista-based distiller was utilizing food headed to the dumpster from local anti-food waste organizations to distill their vodka — as all you need is a starch or sugar source to make that happen, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.

As it turns out, their new bar was under construction when the coronavirus struck, and in the spirit of an innovative pivot and to stay afloat, the company started to make hand sanitizer.

Since then they have reopened with outdoor dining and bar with a full range of delicious craft cocktails made with its award-winning vodka.

To learn more I connected with Cory Volkening, Encinitas resident and beverage director at Misadventure & Co. Below are some highlights from our conversation.

LTP: Tell me about growing up in North County and how the restaurant scene has changed.

Cory: I grew up in Encinitas and my life was mostly surfing and burritos and I regret precisely none of that. I’ve been working in restaurants in North County since a very young age and the scene has gone through tremendous changes. The culture has definitely elevated and customers have come to expect more and more from restaurants (in terms of service and atmosphere) and from chefs and bartenders as well, and I think everyone in the service industry has risen to the occasion.

LTP: What were some of your early restaurant gigs and what was it about them that drew you to the industry?

 Cory: I started as a busboy and a dishwasher at some local diners then moved into some chain restaurants and started bartending at sports bars and some local dives. The core nature of the job itself always appealed to me–I enjoy being social and friendly and fast-paced, high-pressure scenarios have always been an area I do better in. More than that I enjoy the camaraderie created by every restaurant’s individual ecosystem, and I’ve met some interesting people (both customers and coworkers) with some interesting stories to tell.  Especially when you’re young, you gain a lot of valuable perspectives.

LTP: What is behind the name Misadventure and Co.?

Cory: When you’re hiking or traveling it’s often the unexpected things going wrong that create the most exciting times and best stories. The same holds true for business endeavors. We started out as a distillery that wanted to throw whiskey in re-used wine bottles. That turned out to not be a viable process for a startup.

But going through that process gave us the skills and know-how to be able to pivot to making vodka from surplus baked goods instead. Misadventure & Co. advocates embracing life’s hardships and misadventures. With the right mindset, you can learn from them and come out of it stronger and wiser.

LTP: I had not heard of your process for making vodka before, tell me more about that and how the idea came to and the process for making it?

Cory: In 2015 the company was trying to find a spirit that didn’t have to age for years like bourbon. Enter vodka, which takes a week to make. We still wanted it to be sustainable so we started looking at what was grown locally in abundance.

During that search, the Natural Resource Defense Council came out with a study that showed we waste nearly 40% of the food we grow. With that waste comes wasted land, water, and other resources, plus once food decomposes in a landfill it creates massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

When you make beer, wine or spirits, all you need is a starch or sugar source. With that understanding, we asked ourselves, could we use some of this extra food as the raw ingredients to make vodka? It was that question that led us to where we are today. The first vodka in the world made from surplus baked goods.

LTP: What organizations do you team up with for your raw materials?

Cory: We partner primarily with the San Diego Food Bank, and also with gleaning and anti-food waste groups such as Produce Good and The O’Side Kitchen Collaborative.

LTP: Tell me more about your location and the food partners you team up with on-site.

Cory: Our tasting room is like an urban escape. We are located in a business park near a lot of breweries, but we wanted our space to provide a more comfortable environment. Our new outdoor area continues that idea surrounded by herb gardens comfortable seating. Our guests say it’s like being at a close friend’s house. For food we have a mix of high-quality, local food vendors to fit the occasion.

LTP: Where can folks find you at retail around North County?

Cory: Right now you can find us at Seaside Market in Cardiff and Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido. You can also buy bottles at the distillery or at misadventure.co and we will ship anywhere in California.

LTP: Any plans for expansion?

Cory: We have plans to build our own kitchen and increase production, as well as make sustainable gins, amaros, and canned cocktails.

Find Misadventure & Company at www.misadventure.co