History in the making
T.W. Hollister & Co., a family-owned business launched in 2016, is making history in more ways than one.
It is one of the first producers of American vermouth, a red or white wine flavored with aromatic herbs, a number of which are grown on Hollister Ranch, which was founded by Col. William Welles Hollister in 1855 after selling his homestead in Ohio and embarking on an epic journey to California.
Hollister Ranch, which covers 14,400 acres, is located 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, next to Gaviota State Park.
“The adventurous spirit of our early immigrant ancestors and the innovation for viticulture they brought with them to California helps define T.W. Hollister & Co. We are inspired by our traditions and our heritage,” said Clinton Kyle Hollister, 34, a fifth-generation Hollister who founded the business with his wife, Ashley Woods Hollister, 34.
The company produces two types of vermouth, dry vermouth and sweet red vermouth, under the name Oso de Oro, which means Golden Bear.”Golden Bear pays homage to the state of California, and Oso de Oro honors our Spanish heritage,” said Mr. Hollister. “We fortify our wines with sustainable California ingredients, including those grown on our property at Hollister Ranch, where an array of plants contributes to the earthy flavors in each bottle from white sage, berries, olives, eucalyptus, almonds and walnuts.”
The red vermouth is infused with a blend of 19 botanicals, including hummingbird sage, blood orange, grapefruit peel, ginger root and wormwood.
“Vermouth is actually named for wormwood, one of its historic ingredients. The German word for wormwood is ‘wermut.’ The red vermouth also has organic caramel sourced from a fifth-generation European caramel company. The caramel enhances the color, texture and flavor.
“Our dry vermouth has 12 botanicals, including orange peel, chamomile, rose hip and wormwood,” said Mr. Hollister, who lives near the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History with his wife and two children, Theodore, 4, and Hannah, 2.
“The initials in our company, T and W, are for my son and my wife, Ashley Woods Hollister,” he said. “There is another historic connection to the name Theodore, which was President Teddy Roosevelt’s formal name. When he came to Santa Barbara on May 9, 1903, he made a point of visiting Hannah (Annie) Hollister, whose son, Stanley Hollister, had been a Rough Rider with Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill. And one of his guards during the visit was Harry Hollister, also Hannah’s son.”
Mr. Hollister, the son of Clinton Doyle Hollister and Joanne, who have a home at the ranch, graduated from Cold Spring School, Santa Barbara Middle School and Cate School, where he met his future wife. After attending Tulane University in New Orleans, he returned to Santa Barbara to earn a bachelor’s degree in digital imaging from Brooks Institute of Photography in 2011.
For three years, Mr. Hollister worked in Los Angeles editing commercials and trailers for movies.
“When Ashley was pregnant with our first child, we moved back to Santa Barbara in 2014, and now I have my own company, Arlington Peak, working on post production for commercials and TV shows, and Ashley is executive director for The Squire Foundation,” he said.
So what led them to get involved with making vermouth?
“I was looking for something to do between jobs and began exploring our family history. Col. Hollister was known for his fearlessness, resiliency and innovation, and I guess there’s some of that DNA in me,” said Mr. Hollister. “I was a complete novice. I was looking for something different to do and stumbled on vermouth. Fortunately, a friend from middle school introduced me to Carl Sutton from the Bay Area. He started making vermouths back in 2009 at his San Francisco winery. We brought him on as our consultant.”
The 750-milliliter bottles of vermouth, which cost $37 each, are produced at a facility in Carpinteria. They are sold at The Liquor & Wine Grotto, 1271 Coast Village Road in Montecito; Savoy Wines Santa Barbara, 18 W. Anapamu St.; Satellite Santa Barbara, 1117 State St.; and online at www.twhollister.co.
The first batch, which was released in 2017, consisted of 100 of the dry and 100 of the red.
“They sold out quickly,” said Mr. Hollister. “We realized we needed to increase our batch production.”
The company is now creating 2,400 bottles per batch (1,200 bottles of each) approximately every two months. A rosÄ vermouth is also in the works.
“We’re really excited about resurrecting the culture around vermouth in the United States,” said Mr. Hollister. “In Europe, it has been a mainstay as an apÄritif in places like Spain, France and Italy.
“The dry vermouth is great in martinis, of course, and the red is great in negronis and Manhattans. I like mine on the rocks with a splash of soda water and some blood orange and an olive.
“It’s absolutely delicious.”
Oso de Oro vermouth is available at The Liquor & Wine Grotto, 1271 Coast Village Road in Montecito; Savoy Wines Santa Barbara, 18 W. Anapamu St.; Satellite Santa Barbara, 1117 State St.; and www.twhollister.co.
1 once mezcal
1 ounce Bruto Americano
2 ounces T.W. Hollister & Co. Red Vermouth
Add ingredients to shaker with ice and shake. Strain into square glass over large square ice cube.
Credit: T.W. Hollister & Co.
Vermouth Over Martini
2 ounces T.W. Hollister & Co. Dry Vermouth
1 ounce gin
Add ingredients to shaker with ice and shake. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with 2 green olives or 1 lemon peel.
Credit: George Yatchisin
1 ounce T.W. Hollister & Co. Red Vermouth
1 ounce fino sherry
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
Add ingredients to shaker with ice and shake. Strain into coupe glass. Garnish with 1 lemon peel.
Credit: Jeff Hollinger of the Comstock Saloon in San Francisco