Alameda is known for a number of things: Its former naval air station, its charming downtown, its winemakers -- and its famous spirits. We're talking Hangar One vodka, St. George gin, bourbon, eau de vie and absinthe. And if you ever want to impress your 21-and-over kids, a tour and tasting at St. George Spirits -- at sunset -- is the place to do it. (We are now officially the Coolest. Parents. Ever.)

Housed in an old naval hangar on the edge of the Bay, the 31-year-old distillery produces artisanal, small batch spirits that make mixologists' hearts beat faster. The tours are fascinating and wildly entertaining, especially if you get one led by "Call me M" (she says she's actually Judi Dench in disguise). And the back stories and sights -- which include immense copper stills straight out of a Jules Verne dream and, oh yes, a shark -- are major fun.

Afterward, grab a perch at the tasting bar to sip your way through a sampling of spirits, as the sun sets in a fiery blaze through the windows.

The details: Guided tastings -- dubbed "Basic Training" -- are $15 and offered every half-hour from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and until 4 p.m. Sundays. That's nice but what you really want is the Advanced Training ($20), which includes a distillery tour. 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, and several times on Saturdays and Sundays. Make reservations at www.stgeorgespirits.com; 2601 Monarch St., Alameda.


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The sips: The tastings vary, but when we went, they included a pear eau de vie, Mandarin Blossom Hangar One vodka, Terroir gin, B&E (Breaking and Entering) bourbon, raspberry liqueur and absinthe.

More stops: Rock Wall Wine Co.'s tasting room is two doors down, and Faction Brewing's tasting room just opened next door. Find details at www.rockwallwines.com and factionbrewing.com.

-- Jackie Burrell