Thursday, July 18, 2024

Broken Spirits Distillery will open its doors in Downtown Long Beach on May 31


After announcing their plans back in October of 2023, the group behind Orange County’s wildly popular Smoke & Fire and Villains Brewing concepts are ready to unveil their distilling space, Broken Spirits Distillery. Taking over the former Portuguese Bend space in Downtown Long Beach, Broken Spirits has announced they will open May 31.

broken spirits distillery
Breaking into a four-year-old aged aquavit from Broken Spirits Distillery master distiller Max Stecca distilled. Photo by Brian Addison.

Why Broken Spirits is important for Downtown Long Beach and our distilling scene

When it was announced in October of 2023 that a crew of respected restaurant industry peeps—Isaias Hernandez, Josh Bentrem, and Juan Hernandez, along with master distiller Max Stecca—would be taking over the former Portuguese Bend space, there was a huge sigh of relief: Portuguese bend was then wrapped up in bankruptcy and drama following its abrupt closure in the beginning of 2023, marking the downfall of the city’s first formal distillery.

broken spirits distillery
Broken Spirits Distillery’s master distiller Max Stecca. Courtesy of business.

Portuguese Bend, which opened with a huge bang and much celebrated menu and cocktail porgram, shuttered after about two-and-a-half years of operation—a day that made us wonder within the food scene about many things: Portuguese Bend was the first to score a special license that allowed a distillery to have a restaurant on site—would it be the first distillery we got as well as the last? Could we revitalize that key space with another use, best another distillery? Or had we shot our shot and missed by scaring away potential future investment?

And given our spirit was a little broken from a small business and culinary perspective by the closure, the name of Broken Spirits Distillery seems even more prescient and relatable.

“This is one really is for Long Beach,” Isaias told me back in 2023 of Broken Spirits. “We had looked at so many other properties across the years in Long Beach—years, I am talking—and we are so happy they didn’t work out… We’re here to invest, to bring in something the city can have some pride and ownership in, to bring a new sense of community. And you know what? We’re honored to be able to do that.”

So it was only a good thing that the space (and its distilling equipment) wouldn’t be tossed away—and the move marks a huge shift in Long Beach’s distilling scene, which currently has Willie’s Tin Shop in Cal Heights and the soon-to-be-distilling endeavors from Beachwood at their Bixby Knolls. Broken Spirits only adds to this scene while also harnessing a space that welcomed Long Beach’s first grain-to-glass distillery, only to be mired in controversy and shutting down not too long after opening.

And if there is anything to say about master distiller Stecca’s first look he provided me, we are in for a treat when the space opens on May 31 because, yes, Broken Spirits Distillery will be opening with aged spirits on hand.

broken spirits distillery
Expect a variety of cocktails that will span flavor profiles at Broken Spirits Distillery in Downtown Long Beach. Courtesy of business.

What to expect from Broken Spirits Distillery

In a serendipitous exchange, Stecca’s former workspace, Blinking Owl Distillery, found itself in its own between-owners drama, abruptly closing before Stecca was able to serve his first offerings of rums, whiskies, and aquavit. So he bought them back—and they will be among the first offerings.

We’re talking single malt whiskies, gins, potentially some rums and aged aquavits, and more to make craft cocktails of the quality that once graced the space when mixologist Dane Olsen led Portuguese Bend during its prime.

“These spirits were made by me and it will give people an idea of my style,” Stecca told me earlier this year after taking out a barrel of 2019 aquavit and tapping into it. Pouring a small amount into a tasting glass, the immediate notes of caraway and dill come through on the palate, offering up a high-proof preview of what will eventually be a spirit that “can be used in nearly every cocktail,” Stecca said. “It’s such a wonderful, underrated spirit.”

When it comes to food, expect burgers and sandwiches as the space gets its feet wet before diving into more dinner-centric offerings as its patronage develops.

Expect a full food and cocktail preview after I host a private party at the space before the grand opening.

Broken Spirits Distillery is located at 300 The Promenade N. and will be open to the public on May 31.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.



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