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Interview with the creator of Jilli Vanilli and a martini recipe that will knock your socks off!

We recently got to sit down with Jilli Spear – creator of Jilli Vanilli products and a vanilla extract that is to die for. As we like to do, we sent over a few Proust-style questions (see below) and also sat down with Jilli to hear more about how she got her start in the Santa Barbara food community.

JilliVanilli-Santa Barbaravanillaextrac
After years in the real estate biz in New Jersey, Jilli moved to Santa Barbara and almost instantaneously fell in love with the food and wine community as well as the Santa Barbara lifestyle. Shortly after her move to our delicious city, she began volunteering around town and through her volunteer connections signed up for a jam making session with a local third generation jam maker. Thus began her love affair with all things food and she began literally dreaming about Jilli Vanilli which she says was the best night’s sleep she’s ever had. (We know the feeling, Jilli!)

Six months later, Jilli had a product to sell and was a hot ticket item in the artisan shops around town. She sources from Cutler’s Artisan Spirits for the base vodka and buys fair trade vanilla beans for her extract process. Since we at Eat This, Shoot That! love all things food and drink, we just had to get our hands on this product which we think is the cats pajamas!


Can’t get enough of a good product? Try putting her vanilla extract in a cocktail like her Wild Brew Fest award-winning Jilli Vanillitini recipe:
Rim martini glass with Jilli Vanilli Pure Vanilla Sugar
Combine 4.5 oz, Cutler’s Vodka, 1.5 tsp Jilli Vanilli Pure Vanilla Extract, 1 oz tangerine juice, 1 tsp simple syrup
Shake well over ice and add a splash of lime
Garnish with Jilli Vanilli vanilla bean, tangerine rind and sprig of mint

We’ll cheers to that!

Jilli Vanilli Questionnaire
What inspires you?

What profession would you most like to try?
Marine Biology

What profession would you not like to try?

What talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to sing!

What is your idea of the perfect meal?
Local fish, local vegetables and local wine with close friends

What is your favorite food?

What is your favorite drink?
Coffee with a splash of Jilli Vanilli!

What do you consider the most overrated or underrated ingredient?
Any ingredient in its purest form is perfect.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Santa Barbara!

What is your favorite motto?
Be present.

Are you a local? If so, get your Jilli Vanilli vanilla extract and other products at Isabella Gourmet in downtown Santa Barbara on Figueroa Street.
All photos by Phillip Van Nostrand.