Ten years ago, you could probably count the number of Texas distilleries on one hand. The short list included Tito’s Vodka, Savvy Vodka and Treaty Oak Rum.
Now, there are more than 50 bonded distilleries in the state producing everything from tequila and gin to bourbon and a slew of flavored vodkas.
Labels such as Deep Eddy Vodka, Man in Black Tequila, Waterloo Gin, Dulce Vida Tequila, White Hat Rum and Balcones Whiskey come from all corners of the state, while San Antonio is home to Cinco Vodka, Rebecca Creek, which makes both whiskey and vodka, Ranger Creek, which makes bourbon and rye, and Dorcol, which produces Balkan spirits, including rakia, a type of brandy.
Many of these distilleries offered their best Friday night during a Texas spirits tasting at the Pearl Stables during the 2014 San Antonio Cocktail Conference. And hundreds of people crowded into the spacious facility, ready to sample whatever was being served up.
Chris Ware of Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl made a Colorado Bulldog using Cinco Vodka with Kahlua, honey cream and espresso beans. James Moore of TBA on St. Mary’s Street used Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum to make a version of an Old-Fashioned that also included Allspice Dram and orange bitters. Waterloo Antique Gin was used as the basis of a mint julep. Folks from Barbaro, the Esquire, the Fruteria, Nao, the Brooklynite, SoHo Wine & Martini Bar and Minnie’s Tavern were among the other bars serving up their potent potables to the thirsty throngs.
Snacks from places such as the Boiler House, Tuk Tuk Taproom, the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, Tre Trattoria, as well as Arcade, the Fruteria and Nao were offered, while the Rick Cavender Band played through the evening. Jeff Balfour offered a preview of his upcoming Pearl restaurant by serving pretzels with sauces made from the beers that will be brewed there. At the door, Bakery Lorraine offered cocktail-flavored macarons as a sweet note on which to end the evening.
But the real stars of the evening were the Texas spirits, their array of flavors and their quality, which showed well in cocktails both sweet and savory.
The San Antonio Cocktail Conference continues through Sunday. For information, click here.