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Texas Distilleries Flex Their Flavor Muscles


Chris Ware makes Colorado Bulldogs.

Chris Ware makes Colorado Bulldogs.

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.

Waterloo Gin's Tom Collins variation.

Waterloo Gin’s Tom Collins variation.

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.

The crowds enjoy their cocktails.

The crowds enjoy their cocktails.

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.

Jeff Balfour's pretzels.

Jeff Balfour’s pretzels.

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.

Rick Cavender performs.

Rick Cavender performs.

 

 

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Cocktail Conference Shakes It Up for a Good Cause


Rob Gourley of San Antonio makes a Philly Smash with rye, lime, Averna, simple syrup, berries and mezcal at the Esquire Tavern.

By the time the last drop of vodka had been poured, the last cube of ice chipped and the last mint garnish bruised, the inaugural San Antonio Cocktail Conference could be classified a success.

Adrian Sarabia of San Antonio uses Ranger Creek White in his White and Red.

The four-day event, which included everything from what could affectionately be dubbed “booze cruises” along the river to Sunday brunch, attracted hundreds. Several of the seminars, on topic ranging from ice to making cocktails at home, sold out, all offering the promise of a great future for the event.

The best news of all was the event, planned as a fundraiser for the San Antonio charity HeartGift, raised enough money to pay for the costs associated with the heart surgeries of two children from countries where the proper treatment is either unavailable or inaccessible. The surgical fees are donated by the doctors, but there are costs associated with flying the children in and taking care for them during their recuperation.

Houston Eaves of Austin makes a 3-Piece Suit with Fernet, Campari and Punt e Mes.

Saturday brought a cocktail competition in which more than 30 contestants had to prepare an original cocktail that was judged on taste, presentation and execution. The grand prize winner was John Lermayer from the Florida Room in Miami, followed by Jake Corney of Bohanan’s, which is where the contest was held, and Charles Shelton of Austin.

Lermayer named his winning cocktail Have a Heart and promised HeartGift executive director Cathy Siegel that he would be donating some of his winnings to the charity.

Saturday evening brought a crowd of cocktail lovers to the Esquire Tavern. Along the longest bar in Texas, mixologists whipped up specialty drinks that featured drinks such as Texas spirits, including Ranger Creek White and Tito’s Vodka as well as absinthe, mezcal, the Italian vermouth Punt e Mes, and digestifs such as Averna and Campari. Spray cans of bitters were also used by several to finish off their cocktails.

Wonderful flavors, all, and a great reason to raise a toast to a successful launch of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

 

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