Old town, new spirit! Historic downtown Santa Ana is home to the first craft distillery in Orange County. Blinking Owl Distillery, named for a once-iconic bar on the corner of Birch and 3rd Streets, has a walk-in tasting room—plus it’s a great launch pad for exploring old Santa Ana landmarks.
Blinking Owl distills a variety of spirits worth sampling, including an OC Orange Vodka that’s flavored with fruit from Heritage Museum of Orange County. Their truly tasty limited-release Old Tom Gin, is “vacationed” for three months in a Napa wine barrel. You can also imbibe some creative craft cocktails. Try the signature Swedish Fish, which contains their own aquavit made with a touch of hibiscus, the official flower of Santa Ana. Don’t miss out on a tour of the lab, where bourbon and rye whiskey are aging to perfection—and where you’ll find out why the beautiful hybrid copper still is named Bastian Penelope Coco Frigalicious.
POST-SIPS STROLL: After the tour, stroll downtown Santa Ana on a 3-mile round trip. Heading south, navigate to French and 4th Streets and head west on 4th to enter the heart of DTSA. Murals on your left flank the 104-year-old Yost Theater, while the 4th Street Market (home to a slew of restaurants) is on your right. Continue to Sycamore and turn right to behold the magnificent Old Courthouse, a Romanesque Revival building that has appeared in many films. On your right is the 1889 Queen Anne–style Howe-Waffle House—not a breakfast joint, but rather the former home of one of the county’s first female physicians. Head back to 4th and walk west, turning left at Birch Street and left on 2nd Street to reach the center of the Santa Ana Art Walk (first Saturday of every month). Look for the bird-masked bronze sculptures by Mexican Artist Jorge Marin and a variety of galleries. When you reach a dead-end at Main Street, head north up to 4th and follow your path back to the distillery. What a hoot, eh?
Take the I-5 to the Penn Way exit. Go south on Penn Way, followed by a left on Washington St. The Blinking Owl is on your immediate right. Street parking. A 45-minute tour is $30, which includes tasting. Tours are at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. Visit the Blinking Owl website to make reservations. No dogs in distillery.