Pret-a-Reporter

'Justified' Star Walton Goggins' New Spirits Brand Is a Love Letter to Los Angeles

John Cizmas

Goggins is partnering with friend and cameraman Matthew Alper in the boozy venture called Mulholland Distilling.

You may know Walton Goggins from Justified or Hateful Eight — or the series Six currently airing on the History Channel—but he is now making his way into everyday life via another popular vice: booze. The actor and his longtime friend, L.A. native and cameraman Matthew Alper, have launched Mulholland Distilling, one of the first spirits companies to call L.A. home since prohibition.

Alper traces his obsession with creating a local L.A. spirit to his practice of trying local wines, beers or spirits as a way of understanding culture in places he’s traveled for work. “With the exception of a few amazing pioneers, our local spirit does not exist,” he says of L.A. “Maybe I was naive or swept up by the hubris of the idea that L.A. needed its own spirit, and that I was the one who could bring that spirit to Los Angeles.”

While his and Goggins’ gluten-free vodka ($19.99), New World gin ($26.99) and American whiskey ($29.99), are not actually distilled in the City of Angels — but finished and bottled here — they feel the spirits bring together all the things they love about L.A. “I mean, what is the ‘spirit of Los Angeles’ anyway? It’s taking the best, being the best, wanting the best, and coming here to this amazing place, this aggregator of dreams, and recreating who you are into who you want to be and then presenting that you to the world,” says Goggins. “That’s what I believe Mulholland is doing and will continue to do into the future.”

In the future the pair hope to have a destination distillery drinkers can visit for tasting, events and education, but for now they’re happy being behind the bar at a number of L.A. hot spots (think Silverlake Wine, Bar Stella, Kettle Black, Petit Trois) mere months after launching in SoCal Whole Foods. An overwhelming theme for Mulholland, even in notoriously aspirational and exclusive Hollywood, is inclusivity. “We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy our spirits,” says Goggins. “It’s who we are as people. It’s how we live our lives, sharing the good times with all of our friends. It’s not about status or bling, but quality and cool. We believe that what goes on your bar is a reflection of your taste, your aesthetic.”

Their “fair, affordable price” may be one reason for the great reception they’ve had. Flavor, too. The vodka is distilled six times for a silky finish, while the 96-proof gin — “that spirit that gets abused in youth, never to be smelled or sipped again,” says Goggins — has aromatics including cucumber, lavender and lime that end up appealing to people who “just don’t drink gin.” (The actor drinks it neat, with a touch of ice or in a Negroni.) And the bright, young whiskey has scents of vanilla bean, sweet corn and maple that sip and also mix well. Then there’s their genuine enjoyment of meeting and drinking with people. 

“There are so many amazing and exciting places to imbibe in L.A. these days,” they say. As for where they go, “It depends on the mood, the neighborhood, the day.” For a beer their picks are Golden Road or Arts District Brewing; for an afternoon cocktail, Winsome, Beelman’s, ERB or Sawyer. For nighttime drinking the list ranges from Chateau Marmont, Good Housekeeping and Old Lightening to Republique, Varnish and Seven Grand. Goggins’ favorite is Bar Stella: “Every time I feel like I’ve been invited to the best house party in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.”

They’re understandably picky about their cocktails: “I generally start off with a Whiskey Sour,” says Alper. “I feel like it’s the perfect drink to see where my bartender is at. How long do they shake, do they single or double strain? Up or with a rock? It’s a fairly simple drink that is deceptively difficult to do properly, but when they get it right it’s just so damn beautiful.”

But regardless of someone’s skills crafting a cocktail, they feel any drinker is their target audience. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I see everyone drinking our hooch,” says Goggins. “It’s authentic, it’s from our heart. Mulholland Distilling is our celebration of Los Angeles, that’s the experience we’re selling. I’ve traveled all over the world and whenever I say I live in L.A. there’s this universal smile that comes across people’s faces. It makes them happy when they think about it.”

Whiskey Sour
- 2 oz Mulholland American Whiskey
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 1 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 egg white

Dry shake until well aerated. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a coupe glass. Dot meringue with aromatic bitters and pull toothpick through for design.

Classic Negroni
- 1 part Mulholland New World Gin
- 1 part Dolin Vermouth Rouge
- 1 part Campari

Gently stir with ice until well chilled. Strain into Old Fashioned glass over large ice cube. Garnish with orange peel.

Walton’s fave:

The Separatist (from The Ordinary in Charleston, S.C.)
- 1 part Mulholland American Whiskey                
- 1 part Amaro Averna     
- 1 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice    
- ½ part 2:1 simple syrup

Add all the ingredients to tin shaker. Fill with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain, serve neat in a chilled glass. Garnish with orange twist.

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