Beer, Wine & Spirits

Everything costs more in San Francisco. So why not a fog-based vodka?

Fog Point, Hangar One.
Source: Hangar One

Happiness, it's often said, has no price. However, that might not be true for some diners looking to try a new San Francisco martini that's like virtually everything in the City by the Bay: expensive.

Hangar One, the Bay Area–based craft vodka maker, has released a spirit made of San Francisco's famously nicknamed weather event, "Karl the Fog" (which incidentally, now has its own Twitter account). What does this mean exactly?

The distillery is capturing San Francisco's layer of pea soup and turning it into fresh water that is logging brisk sales. Restaurant Epic Steak has just added a $43 Fog Point Martini to the menu — and in less than two months they've already gone through two cases.

'The sustainable cocktail

The distillery is capturing the fog working with sustainable water and fog researching nonprofit FogQuest.

In an effort led by head distiller Caley Shoemaker, Hangar One partnered with the organization to harvest fog for craft vodka making. The technology used is low cost and low energy, with specialized designed mesh used to power the process.

Shoemaker touted that the process is environmentally sound, in light of California's water shortage. Meanwhile, all profits to the vodka sales of the Fog Point vodkas go to the California Water Conservancy.

Inspired by the farmers she works with to create flavored vodkas, "I experience season change through what's available at the farmer's market," Shoemaker told CNBC.

"The drought is just the first thing that comes up every time — how that's affecting the fruit's quality, grape availability, the wine making and all that kind of stuff."

Vodka can be made with almost anything so long as it is distilled to 190 proof or higher.The water needed to bring the bottle back to 80 proof, in this case, is fog water.

By harnessing water this way, the distillery takes pressure off the environment in a time of severe drought. After six months of harvesting fog at about half a liter to a full liter per day, the distillery released just under 2,500 bottles. They've since sold out for retail sale but can still be found in restaurants.

In order to feed fog-thirsty patrons, the stuff is being caught in Berkeley Hills, Outer Sunset, the Presidio and Sutro Tower, which has yielded an above average return. More than just a gimmicky vodka, the move helps alleviate the stress of water usage in a state still grappling with a drought.

Fog Catcher
Source: Hanger One

The Fog Martini has become a staple in San Francisco, with places like Epic Steak, Cliff House, Foreign Cinema and Hog Island Oyster Co being just a few of the local restaurants serving the vodka. In New York, Gotham Bar and Grill is the only restaurant carrying it.

"We're a restaurant group based in San Francisco for almost 50 years, so things like this, we hold close to the heart," said Nick Henry, Epic Steak's beverage director. The restaurant carries a $43 martini featuring a 3-ounce pour of the foggy liquor.

As for the taste? "It has some floral notes because it is a grape-based vodka," said Henry. "What you get in the fog is some saltiness, some brininess — you can picture yourself standing on the bay breathing the salty sea air."

Customers have been a blend of dilettantes and serious aficionados. In just under two months of carrying Fog Point, the restaurant has gone through two cases and are waiting for more since quantities are so limited.

Hangar One Head Distiller, Caley Shoemaker.
Source: Hanger One

Hangar One has plans for a whole "Made in California" series, which right now is "super top secret" but will be revealed later down the road, Shoemaker told CNBC.

— By CNBC's Deborah Findling