I spent a recent afternoon at a distillery. This, if you know me IRL, doesn’t sound like that far-fetched of an activity — but it kind of was at this time of year, when I am knee deep in preparations for the upcoming academic year, and I’ve been trying to do all that I can to be efficient at work and make my tough situation better. However, every now and then a girl has to just say screw it and go drink some vodka in the afternoon.
I had purchased a Groupon for a tour of Artisan on Alamo Distillery here in San Antonio a number of months back. After some email exchanges with a super nice guy named Nick, I had my booking for a 4:00pm tour. Upon arrival downtown, I walked in to a very cool, unpretentious looking small bar, with interesting seating and cool light fixtures (I’m obsessed with light fixtures). Nick introduced himself, checked me in and scanned my Groupon, handed me a set of souvenir glasses and said we’d be starting shortly. A few other people drifted in, making up our motley crew of vodka drinkers, and Nick began teaching us his art.
Let’s start with that, shall we? This dude is an artist….not just with the pieces he has created to decorate the place, but in the spirits that he’s making. He has come up with a way to make vodka out of the cacti that grow rampant around here. I’m serious. Cactus vodka. And, before you traditionalists turn up your sweet, snobby noses, listen to me for a moment: it’s delicious. And a brilliant idea. And I, too, am jealous as hell that I didn’t think of it. GREAT job, Nick! Anyway, I, getting ahead of myself – back to the tour.
Nick explained the theories and ideas behind the art of distilling, and how he came into this line of work. (I’m not sure if he refers to it as a calling or not, but he should) He answered questions, kept the flow going, and was an excellent host. He took us into the back area, showed us the cacti he harvests and uses, and demonstrated the fermentation process. Next, we saw the stills he had going, and he did a brilliant job of breaking down the chemistry of the operation into something that could be easily understood by a bunch of day drinkers in south Texas. From there, we went to his bottling station, where he filled a bottle, capped that bad boy, and had a label slapped on it in less than a minute. He explained that he does that part of the distribution operation himself, so no wonder efficiency is key.
Spike Vodka was the product made from prickly pear cactus, and it had a lovely taste, reminiscent of tequila, perhaps. He gave us taste samples of his products straight, which is the only way to taste vodka if you ask me. As well, he offered suggestions of different ways to drink them (he suggested Spike, for example, in a Bloody Mary, and let me tell you, I cannot wait to give that a whirl – except I’m Canadian, so I will be making mine a Caesar and using Clamato juice and calling it a day) and explained how the different flavors pair well with different things. The other vodka we sampled, Texas Pride, was a really delicious, straight forward vodka that didn’t quite have the richness of flavors that was present in the Spike, but would certainly be an excellent choice for preparing mixed drinks.
At the end of the tour, I ordered a couple drinks from the bar – it was Happy Hour, and I was damn happy to be there! The drinks were delicious (I had a coconut concoction that was so delightful from beginning to end that I weep at the memory of it), and the bar was really relaxed, a great place to end the day. I decided to buy a bottle of Spike to bring home (those Caesars and Bloody Marys won’t make themselves), and Nick was kind enough to sign the bottle for me. Love that. ❤️
If you’re in the area, please go and give this place a try – you won’t be disappointed. As well, you can buy both Texas Pride and Spike at Total Wine and other liquor stores, so please give them a whirl and support a local business. You’ll be getting a yummy product, and supporting your own community. Everybody wins!
PS: Click here to read a San Antonio Current feature on this place – yaa!!!