The Long Now Foundation Salon Redesign and Limited Edition Spirits

The Long Now Foundation is building a new event space at the site of their current museum / store in San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason. Their Help us build it… video announces details of the project including design by Because We Can, a fundraising distillation collaboration with St George Spirits and unique bottles by Adams & Chittenden. Today they posted more video clips with additional details about the design of both the space and spirits, some of which you’ll find below.

[We] have designed a salon space that will not only house our prototypes, and a hand curated library, but also serve locally roasted coffee by day, and inspired cocktails by night. The goal is to build a social place to help make long-term thinking more automatic and common rather than difficult and rare.

Dedicated to fostering long-term thinking in an age of fractured attention spans, Long Now is best known for building a 10,000 year clock. The Foundation’s name comes via Brian Eno, who sits on their Board and was their first speaker. Their work has inspired a Neil Stephenson novel, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is now funding their clock’s construction in Texas. Full disclosure, I’ve helped out with this project, from advising on their “bottle keep” spirit club to picking juniper berries for their new gin. My lady works for the Foundation, so I’ve got a lot of insight on what makes this project special.

Long Now bottle stand and gin prototypes at St George Spirits / photo by Jillian Northrup

In this video, from footage for a forthcoming documentary short about the salon redesign, Jillian Northrup of Because We Can talks about the design challenge of a bar that is not primarily a commercial space.

Here’s Lance Winters of St George Spirits talking about his approach to crafting a special gin for Long Now using juniper berries picked from their property in Nevada and how his creations are an “olfactory archive” of a place and time.

Lance and team created the line of Hangar One vodkas, and have since moved on with St George Spirits to smaller run, hand-crafted spirits including a line of distinctive gins. They’re creating two unique products for Long Now:

St George Spirits in Alameda has created two exclusive spirits for us. Each one is truly a distillation of long-term thinking. The first is an aromatic gin made with juniper berries harvested by hand among the five-thousand year old bristlecones from our site in eastern Nevada.

The other spirit is a whiskey with a specially tailored grain bill. It will be fermented and distilled in such a way that it'll be delicious without aging, and grow more intricate and complex with every year. We will bottle a small amount, each year for the next 15 years, allowing you to taste its annual progression.

Photo by Jillian Northrup

Long Now gin and whiskey will only be available at their Fort Mason space. The redesign construction is funded in part by donors who join Long Now’s Founders Spirit clubs modeled after Japanese bottle keeps. Each bottle that is purchased ($1500 for the gin, $25,000 for 15 years of whiskey) stays at Long Now with the donor’s name on it, ready for when they visit. This approach fits Long Now’s mission of heightening people’s attention to the passage of time.

Juniper berries are the most distinctive ingredient in gin, and the Long Now gin features remarkable berries harvested from property they own on Mount Washington in eastern Nevada at elevations of up to 11,000 feet. Here are photos I shot there including a closeup of a juniper bush rife with tiny berries, and a several-thousand-year-old bristlecone pine tree:

View from Long Now's property on Mount Washington in Nevada

Bristlecone pine tree on Long Now's Nevada property

Photos of Nevada by Mikl-em

Here Lance talks about the unusual flavors and characteristics of the juniper berries from Long Now’s property.

Long Now has additional videos about the project here.

Back in 2006 Laughing Squid’s primary tentacle Scott Beale shot photos of the opening of Long Now’s space at Fort Mason. It hasn’t changed much since. Here are a few “before-and-future” comparisons of the redesign with 2006.

Long Now public space “Before-and-future” (front room with Orrery):

The Long Now Foundation Public Space Opening photo by Scott Beale

Above: photo by Scott Beale of Long Now’s space in 2006. Below: similar view of Because We Can’s planned redesign.

Long Now Salon design by Because We Can, front room view

Long Now public space “Before-and-future” (back room, two perspectives):

The Long Now Foundation Public Space Opening photo by Scott Beale

Above: photo by Scott Beale of Long Now’s space in 2006. Below: similar view of Because We Can’s planned redesign.

Long Now space viewing toward the back... BWC design

Long Now Bar design, forward view, by Because We Can

Above: the bar viewed in the opposite direction (via Because We Can). Below: how it looked in 2006 (by Scott Beale)

Long Now Bar space 02006, chime generator, photo by Scott Beale

When will the new space open? No date is set but, at least relatively to the 10,000 year clock, it won’t be long now.

Alexander Rose from Long Now and Lance Winters of St George Spirits

Alexander Rose from Long Now and Lance Winters of St George Spirits. / photo by Jillian Northrup.

Here are all of Scott’s photos from the day the space opened at Fort Mason in 02006.


Actor, nerd, poet, producer, writer mikl-em made his name short so you wouldn't have to. In addition to his blog you can find his writing in "Hi Fructose" magazine and witness him almost life-sized in various plays at The Dark Room Theater in SF's Mission district.

He tends to write about theater, humor, San Francisco culture and history, and stuff that's just plain weird. He thanks Scott for sharing the keys to the Laughing Squid virtual HQ and promises to uphold whatever it is that the mirthful cephalopod would prefer to be uplifted.