Alamere Spirits was born out of a shared entrepreneurial spirit between spouses Susannah and Olivier Souvestre, in the face of a minor (but mutual) midlife crisis. Since moving to San Francisco in 2005, they’ve opened and operated four restaurants, but wanted to pursue something new. Together they turned to distillation and found a niche that allowed them to explore a different realm of culinary creativity, and founded Alamere in Marin County, California in 2020. Meet the husband and wife duo behind the bottle.
Where are you from? How did you meet?
Susannah: I grew up in Western Massachusetts, and met Olivier at a restaurant we were both working at. I was a server and he was the chef. Olivier is from Bretagne, France. We relocated to San Francisco together in 2005.
What drew you to distilling?
Susannah: Familial ties were our first connection to the process. Olivier grew up distilling with his grandfather in France. There was a traveling still that would come to each village and the farmers could use it to distill their apples. His grandfather made eau de vie and cider, and he has fond memories from that time.
Olivier: Susannah is the consummate entrepreneur and loves creating a business from scratch. She loved the idea of being able to create an endless variety of spirits and all the possibilities they could lead to.
How did you get started?
Olivier: We have been in the restaurant business together for the past 13 years, opening 4 concepts. Currently we own a Mediterranean spot called Zalta in Sausalito. I’m a lifelong Chef and Susannah almost quit college to become a Chef as well, so we’re both passionate about food and beverage. When we decided to found another business, we wanted to stay in this world and thought - why not distilling?
Susannah: Operating restaurants took a turn a few years back, and finding staff became quite challenging. We wanted to do something that we could take on together without hiring employees. We did two internships, one at a distillery in France and one in Seattle, and the rest we figured out ourselves.
Olivier: After opening so many restaurants, opening a distillery together was a breeze by comparison.
What is your creative process like when making spirits?
Susannah: Olivier goes back to his chef background and considers possible combinations and what is locally available to us. For example, our Espelette Chili Vodka is made with the Espelette pepper, which is relatively unknown in the US but used extensively in the French culinary world. We found an Espelette grower (possibly one of the only ones in the US) and she happened to be located in Northern California. This enabled us to use fresh chilis instead of dried, which led to a brighter flavor profile that we loved. We dig into our roots for inspiration, consider sourcing, and then adjust the spirit to taste.
Olivier: There are so many possibilities in making spirits that our initial experiments were overwhelming, we wanted to try so many things. Our first batch of gin was terrible! Once we stepped back, edited it down, and really thought about flavor pairings, we started getting somewhere. We love our two gins now.
What are your favorite Alamere Spirits?
Susannah: I love our French-Wheat Vodka. It’s just so smooth, crisp and easy to drink without the harshness of other vodkas.
Olivier: My current favorite is the Espelette Chili Vodka. Can’t get enough of the heat!
How do you drink Alamere?
Olivier: Our spirits are phenomenal in cocktails. Right now I’m enjoying an Espelette Chili Spicy Mule - the lime and ginger compliment the heat in the vodka so well.
Susannah: I’m all about a French Wheat Vodka Dirty Martini, with extra olives. Another favorite is our Gin with Makrut Lime and Lemongrass and tonic. Simple cocktails that let the spirits shine are my preference.
What are your goals for Alamere?
Susannah: We dream of national distribution - I’d love to be able to walk into a restaurant in Maine (where we visit every summer) and be able to order an Alamere cocktail. First up, Oregon, Washington and Nevada, then we’re coming for the rest of the US!
Olivier: Our product line is growing! There are seemingly endless options in distillation, it’s a very exciting business to be in. 2022 is going to be an exciting year.