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Santa Cruz, California is best known in some circles for being the birthplace of O’Neill wetsuits in the 1950s, with its cold waters and laid back surfing vibe or for the Santa Cruz Skateboard brand, with its iconic logo and original shop, The Boardroom.

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Ginagin over the bar

In more recent years the mountains that surround the coastal community have developed a reputation for award winning wine and the city has bloomed with tasting rooms, wine bars, celebrated restaurants, distilleries, breweries and casual, dog friendly beer gardens. Blended with artists, coffee shops and organic farms, Santa Cruz has become a buzzing young makers market town.

This youthful energy and confidence was the inspiration and catalyst for Rick Allen, founder of Ginagain, to take a chance on an idea he had been toying with for 20 odd years. A gin company.

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While starting a gin brand in the USA is not impossible, the drink is not a staple of the American bar scene, where bourbon and Coke are more likely ordered over a gin and tonic. He felt that England, with a deeper appreciation for the spirit, was a better place to begin.

California is famous for a few things, the flower power movement, sunny beaches, Hollywood and movies, wine and its economy. In the 1920s oranges were second only to oil in terms of income for the state. While that agricultural income has significantly decreased the orange is still a staple of Californian life.

Growing up on the edge of the Central Valley, where most of the California’s northern citrus farms can be found, Rick wanted to incorporate the fruit into a London Dry gin for a distinctive signature flavour.

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With the onset of Covid-19 and lockdowns he retreated with his partner, Stephanie, an Australian born Brit, to their little A-Frame cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Weekends days were spent renovating the cabin and in the evenings they would set up a still and test out gin recipes, tweaking it by a few grams for each ingredient until after more than 60 attempts they felt like they had it almost right.

They partnered with a distillery in Northamptonshire and produced their first run with organic Californian orange peel imported specifically for Ginagain in February of this year. The distinctive flavour of the orange is brought out in the gin during the distillation process where it sits in the basket and is infused with a spicy cubeb berry pepper for a subtle warm, but clearly juniper forward taste.

The addition of the orange during the distillation process, rather than afterwards, keeps the sweetness to a low level and suits those who love a traditional London Dry with a twist.

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The addition of the orange during the distillation process, rather than afterwards, keeps the sweetness to a low level and suits those who love a traditional London Dry with a twist.

Recently it scored a 93 when reviewed by the International Drink Specialists, an organization comprised various spirit awards judges who provide consulting services to distillers.

“Inviting bright and open nose with a balance between green herbs, spices, roots and fruity notes. There’s a hint of floral citrus and some lovely juniper too. Complex and elegant on the nose.

The palate is fresh with a rich start then it dries out pleasantly. It has some sweet notes but it is all part of a greater picture and well balanced by some citrus zest. It stays cool however and the alcohol gives it a nice lift. It has a smooth and long lasting finish with some cooling juniper and peppery and spicy notes.”

In 2024 the pair plan to move to the UK so they can focus on expanding the brand with new flavour profiles, new markets and hopefully an award or two.

“We were happily surprised when IDL rated it a 93, which, if it was given at a competition, would translate into a Silver or Gold.” says Rick. “We’re taking them up on their recommendation to enter it into several international competitions next year so we’ll be interested to see how it fares”

You can purchase directly from or find them on Masters of Malt.

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