Distilling is all about conjuring spirits from grains, but the foundation of Misadventure & Co. — as well as its vodka and liqueurs — is wholly different. The sustainability-minded Vista operation is winning raves for coaxing a spirited second life out of excess baked goods which would otherwise go to waste. The majority of those breads and pastries are donated to the business by the North County branch of the San Diego Food Bank.
“They do impeccable work distributing food to those in need, however, they do not deliver empty calories to the food-insecure. Therefore, pastries that are donated from local retailers can pass through to us,” explains Misadventure’s founder and CEO Samuel Chereskin. “A number of local delis and bakeries also donate their excess baked goods, ranging from loaves of bread that don’t get made into sandwiches to various unsold starches from commercial bakeries, such as par-baked meringues.”
To distill with the donated items, Chereskin and his team pasteurize them in boiling water before blending them into a mixture similar to Cream of Wheat. After cooling to 100 degrees, yeast is added and the mixture is left to ferment for three to five days. From there, the ten percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) mixture is pumped into stills, where the alcohol is boiled off and concentrated to 192 proof (96 percent ABV). Demineralized water is then added to reduce the ABV to 40 percent, followed by filtration through carbon dozens of times over before bottling.
It’s important to note that opting for upcycling baked goods as an alternative to traditional base ingredients in no way compromises Misadventure’s product. The company has won awards from the American Distilling Institute, San Francisco International Spirits Competition, and Ultimate Beverage Challenge. On top of that, its ethos has merited praise from the Vista Chamber of Commerce, which presented Misadventure with its New Business of the Year award in 2022.
“Misadventure exists to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released due to food waste, which is one of the largest and most preventable causes of environmental warming,” says Chereskin, whose background is in agricultural economic development.
In addition to its flagship vodka, Misadventure produces a line of limited-edition liqueurs inspired by 19th-century recipes and is poised to introduce its own vanilla extract. The latter is produced by combining Madagascar and Ugandan beans, making for the first extract that could conceivably make it into baked goods that are eventually distilled into spirits by its original creator. All of the above can be experienced (straight and as part of cocktails) at Misadventure’s tasting room, which is decked out to resemble a circa-1900 explorers club with literal globe light-fixtures, a beautifully appointed bar, and a bevy of books and artifacts from Chereskin’s personal collection.
“Through our work, we aim to assist in modeling how food systems can become even more efficient in the face of growing global populations. The Gates Foundation has twice published open letters stating that global populations should plateau between 10 and 12 billion people by 2100. Globally, we struggle feeding eight billion people now,” says Chereskin. “Misadventure is bent on proving that farmers should be allowed to put all their resources toward growing food once with the intent of feeding people, rather than once for food and again for ethanol production. Misadventure proves that food can go further and that we can all still have fun sustainably.” misadventure.co