After a very circuitous route that sparked lively commuting conversation along the lines of, “Is this the Webster Tube?” and “So…this is the third stop light, why doesn’t it look like we can veer left?” and “Maybe we should just follow that car, it seems to know where it’s going,” we finally arrived at St. George Spirits Distillery. Discerning barflies know it as the home of Hangar One, that fecund mecca of inspirationally infused vodkas. Why were we there? Why, to get our Qi on, of course!

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is this hot, new, tea liquor from St. George Spirits that calls itself “the spirit of tea.” Well, it’s a spirit and it is definitely tea, but was it good? Let me put it to you thusly, when we walked into the Hangar One hangar for the launch party, it was so cold they had thoughtfully placed heat lamps around even-more-thoughtfully-placed sofas. However, when I sunk my body into a hot cup of craft-distilled Qi and Lapsang Souchong, I was warmed to the core. It was smoky and sweet with a definite kick that would go over well in the frozen tundra of my homestate. I liked it a lot, and I’m really surprised by that. I went over there thinking, “Well, I like tea. And I do like alcohol, but putting the two together sounds too much what little old ladies do with their sherry and tea in England.” I’m happy, nay, ecstatic to be enlightened.

After making fairly short work of my tea and Qi, I sampled a few of the cold cocktails they had shaken up for this launch. These cocktails included such ingredients as lime, orange, whisky, mint, and ginger ale, but I determined that I really preferred to sip my Qi neat in a tiny sherry-sized glass. The smoke put me in mind of some delightfully peaty whiskies my husband and I had sampled on our Scottish Highland honeymoon five years ago, but where whisky can sometimes give off that unmistakable Band-Aid aroma, under all that intriguing smoke and clubby leather, Qi was touched only by vanilla and exotic fruits.

Qi 1 is definitely a winter tipple that cries out for roaring fires and ski-fatigued limbs, but I’m just praying they do a jasmine Qi somewhere down the line because I have a inkling that this tea-infused stuff is going to be a huge hit. You can currently find Qi at Citizen Cake, The Slanted Door, Range, Frisson, and Solstice in San Francisco and at A Côté in Oakland. However, if you wanna do like I do and seek out a bottle of your very own, look for the amber brew at Royal Liquors and Swirl on Castro in San Francisco, Caddell & Williams in Alameda, and Piedmont Grocery in Oakland.

Qi and Sympathy 9 February,2006Stephanie Lucianovic

  • Nina

    OMG, tea liquor? It’s about time. The only “tea cocktail” that I knew of before was tea and rum (which I had in Vienna). This sounds so much better.. Can’t wait to try it!

  • shuna fish lydon

    Although I no longer drink alcohol I find this interesting.

    I think we were both meant to go to the events we did as I might have written something like this, “nice bottle, people liked it, saw friends.”

  • Sarah

    Qi was too smoky for me.

    Sorry for the long link, but I posted my thoughts on my blog.


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for,, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

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