Feeling charitable? Tito’s Vodka gives proceeds from online store to nonprofits

Tito's Vodka is not only a big producer of vodka, but a generous contributor to multiple causes.
Tito’s Vodka is not only a big producer of vodka, but a generous contributor to multiple causes.

Tito’s Vodka has always been in the spirit of giving — but the local vodka company is taking its charitable pursuits a step further now by donating all of the proceeds from its online store to designated nonprofits.

The philanthropic initiative, according to the company, will go on indefinitely.

When you purchase an item from the store, you’ll be able to choose which of six charities you want your money to go toward. For the first quarter of this year, those nonprofits include Emancipet, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Grammy Foundation, American Red Cross, Operation Homefront and CORE.

Emancipet has already been the recipient of Tito’s Vodka’s Vodka for Dog People program launched at the end of 2013. Vodka for Dog People sells dog-related items, from dog leashes and toys to T-shirts, and donates the proceeds to the Austin-area nonprofit. Emancipet offers low-cost spay, neuter and vaccination services to dogs and cats of low-income families.

USE OUR GUIDE: GET TO KNOW AUSTIN’S DISTILLERIES AND MORE IN THE AUSTIN360 BOOZERY GUIDE

All of the funds from the dog-related items in the Tito’s store will automatically be given to Emancipet.

“Philanthropy has always been something we are extremely passionate about at Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and there is no better way to express this than having 100% of our online store proceeds donated to charities from now on,” Bert “Tito” Beveridge, the founder of the company, said in a press release.

For more information, visit titosvodka.com.

Via 313 owners taking over Longbranch Inn with new bar concept

Kelly West / American-Statesman. The Longbranch Inn is being transformed into Nickel City, which will retain the neighborhood bar vibe of the original space.
Kelly West / American-Statesman. The Longbranch Inn (circa 2005 in this photo) is being transformed into Nickel City, which will retain the cozy neighborhood bar vibe of the original space.

Having successfully launched pizza franchise Via 313 in Austin, brothers Zane and Brandon Hunt are trying their hand at something new: opening a bar in the old Longbranch Inn space, which closed in September after more than 80 years on East 11th Street.

In April or May of next year, the Hunts — along with Craig Primozich of Javelina and another as-yet-unnamed business partner — will debut Nickel City as a neighborhood bar with a heavy whiskey selection and an accompanying food trailer called Delray Cafe at 1133 E. 11th St.

Like Via 313, the food selection at Delray Cafe will be Detroit-style. Delray Cafe, Brandon Hunt said, was named after an old eatery in the brothers’ hometown that is no longer there.

The Hunts have been wanting to open a bar in town and jumped at the chance to take over the Longbranch Inn. They want to make clear, however, that they don’t want to completely destroy the spirit of the longtime institution. Their intent, instead, is to “spruce up” what’s already there, including the antique bar top that originally belonged to the 130-year-old Driskill Hotel but was relocated to the Longbranch Inn.

“I think when people hear that a place they have fond memories of is gone, they get bummed out, especially with the way things are going in Austin,” Brandon Hunt said. “So what’s important to us is that we want to respect the Longbranch and the history there and do it right, but we want to bring it up to date as well. I’m pretty sure that bar hasn’t been touched since it was built.”

One of the new additions to the bar will be draft beer, he said. It’ll also have “great cocktails without the pretentiousness and higher price points,” he said. “Nickel City is going to be the kind of place where you get a handshake when you walk in and a handshake when you walk out, with an old school bar feel to it.”

Nickel City was named after Buffalo, New York, where the unnamed partner — not yet ready to announce involvement in the venture — is from. The food truck, on the other hand, pays homage to food that the Hunts grew up with, such as Detroit-style Coney dogs, cheese fries and sliders. But no pizza: Via 313’s four locations will continue to be the only sites for the Hunts’ thick square pies.

Delray Cafe gives them a chance to branch out, Hunt said.

“Definitely Coney dogs and sliders are the focus, but by calling it a cafe, we aren’t limiting it to what we’ll offer,” he said. “We’ll have a fish fry on Fridays, that kind of thing. We still want to represent Detroit with our food.”

The Hunt brothers first opened a Via 313 trailer in late 2011, and the pizzas proved so popular that they now have another food trailer and two brick-and-mortar locations. But the itch to own a bar was never quite satisfied. That’s why they had been searching awhile for an old watering hole, like the Longbranch, to make new again.

“My background is managing bars in Detroit, and it’s every guy’s dream, right, to own a bar, a place they can call their own?” Hunt said.

Seven local products to buy for the booze lover in your life

Photo by Kevin Hobbins. Real Ale has now bottled two beers in the elusive Mysterium Verum series: Tenebra Aeterna and Benedictum, the most recent one now on sale at Texas retailers.
Photo by Kevin Hobbins. Real Ale has now bottled two beers in the elusive Mysterium Verum series: Tenebra Aeterna and Benedictum, the most recent one now on sale at Texas retailers.

Not sure what to get your picky friend or family member for Christmas? Chances are good that they’ll be happy to receive a bottle of booze — especially if it comes from an Austin-area producer.

Here are a handful of suggestions with a seasonal focus. With many of these, you won’t want to delay in grabbing a bottle.

Texas Keeper Cider's winter release was aged in oak with pecans and orange peels.
Texas Keeper Cider’s winter release was aged in oak with pecans and orange peels.

Texas Keeper Cider’s Cider Noir: Apples are a key fall flavor, but the fruit hadn’t displayed its full potential so well this time of year until the trio behind the far South Austin cidery got a little inventive.

For Texas Keeper’s winter release, Cider Noir, they decided to age Baldwin and Idared apples on oak. That’s not all they’ve done to make the cider a seasonal stunner — the apples are first double-fermented with Belgian candi (which is typically used in dubbel and tripel ales) and then aged with toasted pecans and orange peel. As a result, it’ll pour as dark as a porter and as boozy as many a stout, at a robust 10.1 percent ABV.

You can find it at the cidery at 12521 Twin Creeks Rd. or at one of the many retail shops where Texas Keeper can be found.

Real Ale Benedictum: The Black Friday release of Tenebra Aeterna, the first Mysterium Verum beer to be bottled, seemed to indicate Christmas had come early for many fans of the Blanco brewery. Now, it really has, as Real Ale is releasing another in the series of sour and barrel-aged brews this week.

Benedictum, an award-winning sour brown ale with cherries, can now be found in stores across the state. Or, if you want to get it closer to the source, Real Ale is hosting a bottle release party on Saturday encouraging you to pick up Benedictum at one of two nearby stores and then driving to the brewery to get the bottle signed by the people who made it. That’s an extra special touch if you want to gift it to a lucky loved one.

Pedernales Cellars’ Stonewall Glögg: Mulled wine is a popular seasonal beverage that many people like to make themselves. But this year, let a wine expert do it: Texas Hill Country winery Pedernales has bottles of its glögg, a traditional Swedish dessert wine, on sale in the tasting room and at both locations of sister winery Armadillo’s Leap.

I wrote about the glögg for a seasonal drinks story running in Friday’s Austin360, if you want to learn more information about it.

Adelbert’s Brewery’s Barrel of Love trio: The North Austin brewery clearly knows how great the gift of beer is because it’s offering a whole ready-made gift pack of one of its rarer offerings.

This branded gift box, available at the brewery at 2314 Rutland Dr., has a trio of beers inside of it — three different versions of the Barrel of Love, Adelbert’s whiskey barrel-aged quad.

First up is the 2015 Barrel of Love, which has had an extra year of bottle-conditioning to develop deeper, richer flavors. Then there’s the 2016 Barrel of Love, full of “complex fruity notes of figs, raisins and plums with a soft whiskey bite,” according to the brewery. Bottles of this beer are being separately shipped out to the Texas market; only this version is leaving the brewery.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Put this gift box of Adelbert's beers under your tree for the special beer lover in your life.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Put this gift box of Adelbert’s beers under your tree for the special beer lover in your life.

Rounding out the pack is the Blackberry Barrel of Love, the first taproom-only bottle release since Adelbert’s switched to a brewpub license early this year. Yes, it’s got lots of blackberries and tastes as such.

Revolution Spirits’ Chocolate Cafecito Liqueur: Although this distillery on the road to Dripping Springs has become recognized for its Austin Reserve Gin, Revolution also makes a variety of experimental products — chief among them the Cafecito Coffee Liqueur, liquid gold for any coffee fan out there.

The most recent release is even sweeter. For the Chocolate Cafecito Liqueur, a new seasonal bottling available from December through February each year, the distillers have macerated fair-trade OKO Caribe cacao nibs from SRSLY Chocolate, adding them to the coffee beans Revolution receives from local Cuvee Coffee.

There’s a lot more coffee than chocolate in the mix, but the chocolate is present enough to satisfy any sweet tooth over the holidays. Pick up a bottle at the distillery during open Saturday hours.

Last Stand Brewing’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout: Located just yards from Revolution Spirits, the small-batch Last Stand doesn’t bottle many of its beers, which makes the special release Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout extra special.

The brewers have had this project in the works for awhile. They “filled two freshly emptied Donner-Peltier LA1 Whiskey barrels one year ago with our first batch of Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout,” according to the brewery, and debuted the results of it last weekend at the taproom at 12345 Pauls Valley Rd. Bldg. I.

Only 200 bottles are available, so if this one looks like the winning stocking stuffer you’ve been looking for, stop by Last Stand during weekend taproom hours to grab one.

Austin Beerworks Sputnik: The seasonal necessity is only on draft for now, as it has been in winters past, but any day now — pending TABC approval — local stores will also receive six-pack cans of the Russian imperial oatmeal stout. Austin Beerworks has been in the midst of a large expansion that has allowed the North Austin brewery to start canning some of its seasonal beers, including Sputnik.

Keep an eye on Austin Beerworks’ social media accounts for news of the can launch. Once the six-packs are in stores, there’s no doubt they’ll go fast.

Deep Eddy Vodka expands to additional distillery in Buda

Get an early taste of Deep Eddy Peach at the Dripping Springs distillery starting on Thursday, when you can try it in cocktails like the Peach Lemonade.
Deep Eddy Vodka makes flavored spirits like the Deep Eddy Peach, the most recent of the boozy offerings. The vodkas have become so popular that the company needs more space to produce them.

Yes, it’s real this time: Deep Eddy Vodka is officially opening a second distillery south of Austin to make room for the skyrocketing growth of the brand.

The 194,000 sq. ft. Buda facility is going to operate in tandem with the current space in Dripping Springs so that Deep Eddy Vodka, which sold last year to a Kentucky spirits company called Heaven Hill Brands, can increase production capacity to more than 5 million cases per year.

Even without the expansion, the company is on track to send 1 million cases to the market this year, according to Deep Eddy Vodka President John Scarborough.

Deep Eddy produces flavored vodkas including the top-selling grapefruit-forward Ruby Red in the Dripping Springs distillery, which opened only two years ago and has already outgrown its size. At the time, the space was expected to support future demand for Deep Eddy Vodka products.

BOOZE GUIDE: Find out all about Austin breweries, distilleries and cideries.

In September, the City of Buda prematurely announced that Deep Eddy Vodka was moving there following the passage of an incentives package by the Buda City Council. Nothing had been finalized, however, until this week.

Scarborough said in a news release that remaining in the Austin area is important to the company, no matter how big it has grown.

“Austin and the Central Texas region are the foundation of our brand, and this investment represents our commitment to keeping it that way. Our roots are planted here,” he said in the release.

A large production facility is not all Deep Eddy Vodka is adding to accommodate massive growth. An integral part of the Dripping Springs location is a 5,000 sq. ft. tasting room with vodka cocktails that opened to the thirsty public in the fall of 2014. It’s getting updated to allow for more people and more events, enhancing the visitor experience.

For more information, visit deepeddyvodka.com.

Treaty Oak Brewing & Distilling officially unveils beer program

Photo by Matt McGinnis. Treaty Oak Brewing & Distilling now offers beverages for beer lovers and cocktail aficionados alike.
Photo by Matt McGinnis. Treaty Oak Brewing & Distilling now offers beverages for beer lovers and cocktail aficionados alike.

Although visitors to Treaty Oak Brewing & Distilling ranch in the Hill Country have seen house beers on the menu for some months now, the brewmaster hadn’t been ready to launch the beers more widely.

That’s changing this week: Treaty Oak has perfected the recipes and is sending three core brews into local bars and restaurants.

Chris Lamb, formerly the head distiller, started learning a new skill last year when owner Daniel Barnes decided it was time for Treaty Oak to expand its boozy horizons. The distillery, now 10 years old, had moved onto 27 acres and had the room for trying something new. But Lamb didn’t expect he would dive full-force into the project so quickly.

“Daniel originally proposed the idea of a seven-barrel system but then goes off and orders a 30-barrel system. Totally different monster,” he said. “Because we started on a 30-barrel system right away, we had to do lots of trial and error and experimenting to get things right.”

But unlike many other breweries going through rough starts, Treaty Oak has a couple of advantages. Fermentation, a process key to beer-making, is also a primary step in the distillation of Treaty Oak’s spirits — something the distillers have been doing in some form for a decade.

Plus, Treaty Oak has a full-fledged tasting room where visitors have been sipping on cocktails made from the distillery’s vodka, gin, rum and whiskey. Lamb was able to put the beers he was testing on draft at the rickhouse to get feedback. He would read reviews on the app Untapped, he said, and ask the bartenders what customers thought. And he would tweak and change and fret.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Treaty Oak brewmaster Chris Lamb has put a lot of work into crafting easy-drinking beers, and he's finally ready to say they're ready for Austin drinkers.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Treaty Oak brewmaster Chris Lamb has put a lot of work into crafting easy-drinking beers, and he’s finally ready to say they’re ready for Austin drinkers.

Now, the beers have met even his high standards.

Treaty Oak is debuting the beer program with the Bright Side Blonde Ale, the Lil’ Hop Session IPA and the Fitzhugh Ale, a British mild. Each one is low ABV and balanced between each of the ingredients, including the Mandarina hops he favors that are “a wonderful sun-kissed orange flavor bomb.”

“The goal with all of (the beers) was to be extremely sessionable, like the current trend, so they’re all between 3 ½ and 5 ½ percent ABV,” Lamb said. 

Eventually, Treaty Oak will be able to make the equivalent of 27,500 cases of beer a year — probably more, with the addition of two coming fermenters.

Although the three mainstays are on draft only for now, the brewery is hoping to release them in cans in March. Other brews are also in the works, but Lamb’s focus on the first three means he can scarcely fathom new styles at the moment.

“Once we get our feet underneath us, we will definitely do seasonals,” Lamb said. “Maybe a saison, maybe a maibock in the spring. It’s so early to say. But once we have details ironed out on the production side, I can slip away and do all these experimental things, which I really want to do.”

Expect plenty of experiments, a core activity at the ranch. The rickhouse is filled with barrels aging spirits, but they can age beer, too. And what about distilled beer? That’s already happening, of course.

In the meantime, Treaty Oak is planning tap takeovers and meet-the-brewer nights at area bars to introduce the beers. That has turned out to be another advantage for the company: Treaty Oak and its distributor have barely had to convince potential retailers to take a chance on them.

“Having that name recognition in all the bars around the state, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure.’ A lot of accounts have signed up without even tasting it,” Lamb said.

Austin’s drinking events calendar, December 2016

Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell / American-Statesman. 'Tis the season for holiday treats like spiked hot chocolate, which will be at LaV's Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 5.
Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell / American-Statesman. ‘Tis the season for holiday treats like hot chocolate, which will be pouring at Jacoby’s Festivus on Dec. 6.

Opal Divine’s 14th Annual Whisky Festival, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. Sample the finest whiskies from Scotland and beyond while enjoying food and holiday merriment. $40 in advance, $45 at the door.

Six Pack Stories, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. The final installment of this speaker series about beer focuses on why we love it so much – the taste. Prepare for beer pairings with food, coffee and spirits. $35.

Rolling Stones Listening Party at Irene’s, 11 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. Sip on Rolling Stones-inspired drinks as one of the first to hear the Stones’ first new record in a decade.

The Brass Tap Domain’s Grand Opening, 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2 to 2 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. It’s a full weekend of festivities, with live music, rare beer releases (including Goose Island Bourbon County Rare) and more.

First Friday Firkin at Uncle Billy’s, 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2. This month’s firkin is festive: Uncle Billy’s Green Room IPA with spruce tips and cinnamon added. $3.

St. Elmo Brewing’s Grand Opening Party, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Celebrate the opening of the new South Austin brewery with more than six beers on draft, live music and Southeast Asian bites from on-site food truck Soursop.

Thirsty Planet’s Silverback Pale Ale Release, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Silverback season has returned. Stop into the tasting room for a pint and sign up for the Austin Gorilla Run while you’re at it.

Leap into the Holidays Party at Armadillo’s Leap Winery, 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Both locations of the winery are offering a celebration with wine tastings and reindeer mix to snack on.

Texas Keeper's Cider Noir is a perfect Christmastime treat releasing the first weekend in December at the cidery.
Texas Keeper’s Cider Noir is a perfect Christmastime treat releasing the first weekend in December at the cidery.

Texas Keeper Cider’s Cider Noir Release Party, 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Try this special winter cider alongside smoked meats and sides from pitmaster Evan LeRoy, formerly of Freedmen’s.

Hot Drinks Menu Party at Craftsman, 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. A new menu of hot cocktails is debuting, with s’mores also available for $5. Part of the proceeds benefit the American-Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign.

Little Woodrow’s at Tech Ridge One-Year Anniversary Party, 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Taste samples of Independence Brewing’s new Brown Sabbath beer, as well as other Indy beers at this tap takeover.

Champagne Class at Backbeat, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. This primer on champagne will get you all prepared for New Year’s Eve festivities – you’ll embark on a guided tasting to learn how the bubbly wine is made, why it’s so special and more. $50.

Christmas Flight Nights at Easy Tiger, 4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 and Tuesday, Dec. 6. Get into the holiday spirit by sipping four winter brews, including the Ballast Point Peppermint Victory at Sea. $10.

Jacoby’s Festivus, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. Enjoy hot chocolate and holiday cookies while gathering on Jacoby’s bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Then, Sip & Shop in Jacoby’s Mercantile.

Russian Tea Drinking & Traditions at Russian House, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7. Sip an unlimited supply of Russian tea while learning the importance of tea in Russian culture. $12.

2nd Annual Odell Brewing Ugly Sweater Party, 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8. Come decked out appropriately for this party at Pinthouse Pizza, which will have rare and seasonal Odell beers on tap. Odell is donating $10 to the Central Texas Food Bank for every ugly sweater present.

Holiday Wine Dinner at Duchman Family Winery, 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9. Gift yourself this four-course feast featuring Duchman’s Italian-focused wines. $65.

Holiday Spirits Mingle at the Spirit of Texas Distillery, 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. Party at the Pflugerville distillery, which will have food, drink and music for the festive afternoon.

12 Bars of Charity, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. Sign up for this bar crawl that will help raise money for specific local charities. Just donate $10 and you’ll be able to enjoy half-priced drink specials at participating bars.

Austin Beerworks Sputnik Launch, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. The beloved Sputnik Russian Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout is making its return. The launch opens to the public at 1 p.m., but come early for $30-$45.

Beer & Brunch at Blue Owl Brewing, 12 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. Pair Blue Owl’s sour-mashed suds with kolaches from the upcoming Batch Craft Beer and Kolaches eatery.

Juniper’s 1st Annual Ugly Sweater Holiday Party, 4 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. A ticket gets you two cocktails, some of the chef’s most popular treats, live music and dancing, and a chance to win door prizes. $30 in advance, $40 at the door.

The Craft Series at the Driskill, 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12. Feast on four courses with four Austin Beerworks beers — including the hotel and Austin Beerworks’ special collaboration brew, the Cattle Baron Wheatwine. $40.

Mega Mutt Monday at Banger’s, 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12. At this holiday edition of the pet-friendly event, Santa will be at the bar to pose with your furry friends, along with the usual pet vendors.

Rabbit Hole Brewing’s Austin Debut, 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. The brewery from the Texas town of Justin is coming for tap takeovers at Star Bar and other places.

Uncle Billy’s Shakolad Chocolate Imperial Stout Release, 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14. These seasonal suds contain large amounts of cocoa nibs from Srsly Chocolate to give it flavors of dark cherry, plum and chocolate.

Austin Beer Guide 2016 Awards Party, 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15. Find out who the winners of this year’s awards are while sipping on special beers. Craft Santa will even be on hand to hand out the awards.

A Founders’ Christmas Carol at Banger’s, 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15. Some harder-to-find Founders beers will be on draft and paired with different chocolates.

Real Ale Mysterium Verum Benedictum Bottle Release, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. The rare bottles of Real Ale continue their launch with Benedictum, a sour brown ale barrel-aged with wild yeast, bacteria and tart cherries.

Hi Hat Public House’s 4th Birthday Bash, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Drool-worthy beers on tap and a dance party with Foot Patrol music starting at 9:30 p.m.

Pinthouse Pizza’s Fully Adrift Wet Hop Double IPA Bottle Release, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Grab the first edition in the Lost at Sea series featuring different Fully Adrift versions.

Holiday Pop-Up Market at Circle Brewing, 12 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Finish up your holiday shopping with local vendors. Plus, enjoy holiday cask beers, cheery tunes, food truck grub and more.

2016 FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships, 1 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. This unofficial sport’s final race dashes into Austin, featuring some of the world’s best beer milers who know how to run with a belly full of beer.

Julia Robinson for American-Statesman. Think you can chug a beer and then run a mile? These champions at the FloTrack Beer Mile sure can.
Julia Robinson for American-Statesman. Think you can chug a beer and then run a mile? These champions at the FloTrack Beer Mile sure can.

Howliday Market at the ABGB, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. The ABGB’s latest release in the APA!APA series, which raises funds for Austin Pets Alive, is debuting with a market of holiday goodies for your pup.

“Home Alone” at Live Oak Brewing, 6:30 p.m. doors Dec. 17. Bring your fold-out chairs and blankets for this outdoor screening of the Macaulay Culkin classic. Beer and food will be available for purchase. $10.

Sundayfundaymas at the ABGB, 1 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18. On this last Sunday before Christmas, enjoy reindeer games, a holiday market and song swap, and beer from the ABGB.

More Than a Tip at the Dig Pub, 4 to 11 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19. Bartender Ben Kazda is once again donating all tips of the night to the Salvation Army’s Austin Shelter for Women and Children.

Idle Vine Brewery Debut Party, 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21. Get a first taste of the beers from the new Pflugerville brewery, which will have its four core beers on draft at the Dig Pub.

Tun Tun Tun Fest 4.0, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21. The Brew & Brew’s blowout beer celebration returns with beers from Jester King, the Bruery, Dogfish Head, Cascade and more.

St. Elmo Sing-a-Long, 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21. St. Elmo Brewing is hosting musicians Craig Calvert and Mike Jackson, as well as their guitars, for this evening of merriment, beer and hot cocoa.

Prairie Christmas Bomb Tapping at Flying Saucer, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 24. There’s no better beer for some Christmas Eve fun than this dark, spicy and chocolatey brew from Prairie Artisan Ales.

NYE Wee Celebration at Blue Owl Brewing, 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31. Ring in the New Year six hours early (hey, it’s midnight in Scotland) with Wee Beastie in hand.

Hopfields’ Rat Pack New Years Eve, 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 31. Dress in your best Sinatra, Havana nights, Mad Men, Rat Pack wear and join the beer bar for a party complete with champagne toasts and a photo booth.

Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon ranked as one of the best whiskeys

The Garrison Brothers' trio of whiskeys again includes the hard-to-find Cowboy Bourbon, which aged five years in white oak barrels.
The Garrison Brothers’ Cowboy Bourbon, the bottle on the right, is a limited-edition whiskey that won’t be easy to find but is worth the hunt.

Made in the Hill Country, Garrison Brothers’ Cowboy Bourbon — a hard-to-find whiskey that sent Garrison fans into a frenzy last year over its release — might be more than just hype.

For a second year, a revered whiskey critic has given it the U.S. Micro Whisky of the Year Award in his “Whisky Bible 2017.” The whiskey-loving expert, Jim Murray, releases a book every year announcing what he believes are the best whiskeys in the world (or whiskies, depending on which kind), giving each one a score. The Garrison Brothers bourbon received the distinction of a 96.5, out of a possible 100, in the American Whiskey category.

That’s a small improvement from two years ago, when Murray gave the 2013 version of the Cowboy Bourbon a 96. This year, he also listed the Cowboy Bourbon as the best bourbon nine years and under.

“Four years in Texas evidently equate to 23 in Kentucky: there’s a geography lesson for you,” according to Murray. “Whiskeys from this distillery have absolutely delighted and astonished me in the past: this proves, indubitably, it was no fluke. If you didn’t think Texas was on the world map of Great Whisky, it is now.”

The Cowboy Bourbon is made just as Garrison Brothers’ flagship is: with organic Panhandle corn, soft red winter wheat grown at the distillery, two-row malted barley and Hill Country rainwater. But unlike the flagship, the 2015 Cowboy Bourbon was aged for four years and left at barrel-proof, unfiltered and uncut. If you’ve been able to get your hands on a bottle, treasure it.

Murray’s “Whisky Bible” features tasting notes from more than 4,600 whiskeys from all over the world. He named Booker’s Rye 13-Year-Old, from Kentucky, as the World Whisky of the Year.

Austin’s drinking events calendar, November 2016

Brooklyn Brewery Mash will give Austinites plenty of chances to try some beloved Brooklyn brews and meet the folks behind them.
Brooklyn Brewery Mash, returning Nov. 10-13, will give Austinites plenty of chances to try some beloved Brooklyn brews and meet the folks behind them.

Mort Subite’s Grand Opening Party, 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1. The long-awaited Belgian beer bar on Congress Avenue officially opens with a raffle, ribbon cutting, special tappings and more.

Wines of Tuscany at Italic, 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1. Master sommelier Craig Collins is sharing a tasting of six of his favorite wines from the Italian region of Tuscany. $20.

Ventura Wine Dinner at Bullfight, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2. Explore Spain’s recent fascination with the mencía grape with this four-course dinner. $68.

First Friday Firkin at Uncle Billy’s, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4. Taste Uncle Billy’s newest beer: the Brew Oyster Cult Figgy firkin, an oyster stout being served in 22 oz. mugs for $3.

The Dig Pub’s 9th Anniversary Party, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4. Expect a lineup of rare beers that are tapping on the hour, including Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin ’14.

Austin Homebrew Festival, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4. The annual event celebrating the best of local homebrews, from beer to cider to mead, returns with tastings, a silent auction and more. $35-$50.

Harvest Flavors with Wine at Central Market Cooking School, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4. For your girls’ night out, learn how to pair seasonal foods with wine (and try them all, of course). $45.

Jay Janner/American-Statesman. The Whip In will have a variety of sparkling wines available at its third annual Bubbles & Brunch event.
Jay Janner/American-Statesman. The Whip In will have a variety of sparkling wines available at its third annual Bubbles & Brunch event.

Whip In’s 3rd Annual Bubbles & Brunch, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. Enjoy sparkling wines from around the world at this brunch featuring locally sourced ingredients. $35-$40.

Meridian Hive’s Limited Release Mead, 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. After two years in the making, Bounty – Meridian Hive’s bourbon barrel-aged cyser – is finally ready for enjoying.

The 7th Annual Bourbon, Bluegrass & BBQ, 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6. The U.S. Bartenders’ Guild is offering tastings of premium bourbon, live music from local bluegrass musicians and barbecue from Central Texas pitmasters. Must RSVP to attend. $15-$30.

Movember Kick-Off Party at Easy Tiger, 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7. Raise a glass for a great cause. The proceeds of six featured beers will be donated to the Movember Foundation all week.

Election Night Watch Party at Black Star Co-op, 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8. Drinks, food and entertainment await to get you through the final stretch of the 2016 presidential election.

2016 Election Party at Infinite Monkey Theorem, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8. Await results of the election with a glass of wine, on tap and on special for the event. Plus, come dressed as your favorite American.

Yoga + Beer 1-Year Anniversary at Zilker Brewing, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9. It’s been a year of yoga at the brewery. Bring your mat, towel, water and $15; leave feeling relaxed (and maybe with a new pair of yoga pants).

Big Reds & Bubbles, 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10. The Wine & Food Foundation’s event marries cuisine from local chefs with a mix of sparkling wine and red wine.

Brooklyn Brewery Mash, 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 through 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. The weekend-long mash-up of beer and community fun – including a dinner, a concert, something called the Beer Mansion and more – returns.

Live Oak Brewing’s Primus Release Party & Ugly Sweater Contest, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11. ‘Tis the season for Primus Weizenbock and for you to break out your best ugliest sweater.

Nice Wine: A Holiday Meal at Central Market Cooking School, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11. Just in time for the holidays, learn to pair food and wine from the perspective of two winemakers who are also chefs. $70.

Wine Sensory Analysis Workshop, 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 through 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. These workshops will benefit anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of wine. $200-$350.

The 78702 Beer Mile Fun Run at Whip In, 10 a.m. Nov. 12. The run sounds simple, if you can hold your beer: Drink a 12 oz. can of Hops & Grain’s 78702 Kolsch, run a quarter mile, then repeat three more times.

4th Tap’s 1st Anniversary Party, 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12. The brewery co-op will have a variety of special beer releases to celebrate one year, including a Bière de Coupage. There will also be food trucks and live music.

Balcones Distilling moved into a more than 65,000 sq. ft. building in downtown Waco.
Balcones Distilling moved into a more than 65,000 sq. ft. building in downtown Waco and is planning a first look at the distillery in November.

Balcones Whisky’s Downtown Debut, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12. Get a self-guided tour of the new distillery in Waco, as well as a complimentary sampling of special edition whiskies. $10.

Pinot & Pig at Easy Tiger, 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. While DJ Gatsby spins his tunes, enjoy American and French flights of Pinot Noir and by-the-glass specials, all paired with a pig roast.

Feast of San Martino at L’Oca d’Oro, 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. Make reservations for this dinner celebrating the patron saint of winemaking by calling 737-212-1876. $65.

The Craft Series at 1886 Cafe & Bakery, 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14. The Driskill Hotel’s beer pairing dinner series continues, this time with Real Ale Brewing. $40.

Beaujolais Crawl at June’s & Irene’s, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16. Taste all 10 Crus of Beaujolais and French-inspired bites with master sommeliers June Rodil, Craig Collins and Devon Broglie at June’s; then, move to Irene’s for all the Beaujolais Nouveau you could want.

Hopfields’ 5th Anniversary, 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. The entire tap wall is getting switched over to a special collection of barrel-aged, sour and rare suds from Jolly Pumpkin, Firestone Walker, Prairie Artisan Ales and more.

Blue Owl Brewing’s Paper Anniversary Celebration, 12 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. One year of Blue Owl means music, food, games and all kinds of special barrel releases are in store for a party at the taproom.

Wine & Cheese Pairing at Pilot Knob Vineyard & Winery, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. Five Pilot Knob wines are getting paired with five gourmet cheeses. $30 for wine club members, $35 for everyone else.

Red Line Brewery Tour 1 Year Anniversary, 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 Take the Capital MetroRail Red Line to visit three local breweries: Circle Brewing, Black Star Co-op and Zilker Brewing.

Austin Beerworks & New Belgium Collaboration Release, 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. The Texas-Style Mango Berliner Weisse that the two breweries teamed up to make debuts at the Draught House.

Grand Opening of Jackalope South Shore, 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. Celebrate the second location of the Sixth Street bar with screen printing, an interactive photo booth and more.

6th Annual Wine & Swine, 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20. The Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s pig roast returns with live music and top-quality wine, beer and spirit tastings. $85.

Hops for Hope: Annual Art & Beer Bazaar, 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20. Thirty-six artists, more than 30 beers, five local DJs and three food trucks come together to support the 2016 HOPE Projects.

Mega Mutt Monday at Banger’s, 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21. It’s a special “giving back” edition of the pet-friendly event. Along with Banger’s extended happy hour, live music and favorite dog vendors, the bar will be collecting items for Austin Pets Alive.

Collaboration Release with 4th Tap at Black Star Co-op, 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22. The fellow co-operators have teamed up to make Jim Crust’s Friendship, a cherrywood-smoked imperial “friendship” brew.

Friendsgiving at W Austin, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23. The turkey can wait. Because you’d much rather be at all-night happy hour, right? Get the Thanksgiving festivities started early with DJ beats.

Yard Bar’s Black Dog Friday, 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 25. Yard Bar’s answer to Black Friday will have free dog ice cream for dogs with black coloring, as well as a holiday photo booth, live music and a limited release beer Yard Bar created with Austin Beerworks.

Black Friday Festival Fun at Treaty Oak Distilling, 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25. In case you need a respite from the shopping mall madness, Treaty Oak is opening the ranch an hour early with games and activities, including a family tug-of-war and a turkey waddle relay.

Mysterium Verum Bottle Release Party at Real Ale, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. Bottles of Real Ale’s Tenebra Aeterna, a barrel-aged sour porter, are debuting in the Texas market for the first time. Celebrate at the brewery.

Wassail Fest, 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. Downtown merchants in Bastrop will be competing for bragging rights for the best holiday brew during this inaugural event, an addition to the Lost Pines Christmas line-up.

Fall Creek Vineyard’s Cowboy Christmas & Feast, 12 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. Get your family into the holiday spirit with a lunchtime performance by “cowboy poet” Steve Smith and singer/songwriter Reuben Darnell at the Tow location of this Hill Country winery. $24.95.

Harry Potter-Inspired Beer Yoga at Circle Brewing, 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 27. A third installment of this outrageously popular yoga session promises more magical brews and poses. $20.

Japanese Whiskey Dinner at Vox Table, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29. Tour the versatile tastes of Japanese whisky with this pairing dinner featuring six courses of Japanese-influenced cuisine. $120.

Austin distillery creates unusual product, Martine, a honeysuckle liqueur

Knox Photographics. The Martine Honeysuckle Liqueur is a sweet new product that adds dimension to a variety of cocktails, but it's also tasty on its own.
Knox Photographics. The Martine Honeysuckle Liqueur is a sweet new product that adds dimension to a variety of cocktails, but it’s also tasty on its own.

The intensely fragrant honeysuckle plant is common in Texas, but no one had ever tried to distill the sweet taste of the nectar into a liqueur until now.

Martine is the new honeysuckle liqueur from Texacello, a small distillery known for making Paula’s Texas Orange and related products. The co-owner of the business, Gary Kelleher, also produces Dripping Springs Vodka and two Dripping Springs gins with his brothers in their San Luis Spirits distillery, and he’s become known for tinkering with new ideas like Martine, his mind abuzz with what to do next.

He had been thinking about creating a honeysuckle liqueur for awhile, thanks to happy memories of being a boy and plucking the honeysuckle flower from its stem to drink up the nectar within it — memories that evoke feelings of first love and summertime, he says — so he began playing around with early versions of Martine.

That was five years ago. The recipe took half a decade to get right because Kelleher wanted it to seem exactly as though he’d bottled up honeysuckle from his garden.

“Creating new liqueurs and liquors is something I love to do, but this one was hard to get right,” he says. “On the one hand, I wanted it to have the flavor of honeysuckle that’s in the blossom, but the other thing was that I wanted you to be able to taste what you get when you smell honeysuckle. So I wanted the flavor to include the aroma. Getting those two things balanced together took the longest.”

He won’t reveal the full recipe since there’s nothing like it on the market today, but he will say that it’s an infusion of sugarcane-derived spirits with an emulsion “that is a combo of honeysuckle blossoms, fresh fruits like orange and nectarine, and a blend of botanicals including vanilla.”

The result is undeniably sweet, and there’s only one way to describe it: Martine tastes like honeysuckle, precisely as Kelleher intended, to the point that you can drink it all by itself if you want. It’s meant to also add extra nuance to cocktails, he says.

“I wanted to create something that was delicious to sip by itself and evoked those memories of summertime,” he says. “But at the same time, it needed to be something that would fit into the mixology world. Something that you could use to enhance the flavor of cocktails, to create new flavor profiles with. That was really the idea behind it.”

Wanting it to mix well in a variety of different drinks meant that Kelleher, in the recipe creation process, had additional testing to do — making sure that it enhanced each of the spirits, from gin to tequila to whiskey, without being overpowering.

Right now, as Martine hits shelves, he’s discovering that all that hard work is paying off because bartenders and liquor store owners alike are showing interest in it, and “no one has turned us down,” he says. “It’s shocking; it’s wonderful. It’s a product no one has heard of, but everyone is willing to give it a shot.”

Martine will be pretty easy to find for home bartenders looking for a fresh liqueur to play with: Kelleher says it’s going into Twin Liquors stores, as well as Total Wine & More.

The Martine Cocktail

1 oz. Martine

4 oz. Sauvignon Blanc

Garnish lemon twist

Have the Sauvignon Blanc chilled ahead of time. Fill a wine or coupe glass with the Martine and wine and stir them together. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Como La Flor

1 oz. Reposado tequila

1 oz. Martine

1/2 oz. lime juice

1 tsp. simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into a coupe glass, sans ice, and garnish with a slice of lime.

— Martine Honeysuckle Liqueur

Love Tito’s Vodka? At ACL Festival, that’ll help a good cause

Tito's Vodka has a special installation at ACL Festival this year. If you take a picture in front of the "I love Tito's so much" mural and tag it on social media, the vodka brand will donate to the ASPCA.
Tito’s Vodka has a special installation at ACL Festival this year that will help out our furry friends.

During the second weekend of ACL Fest, make your way to a special installation that Tito’s Vodka has set up and get your picture taken in front of it with a Polaroid — that’s all you need to do to help out a good cause.

If you post your picture on social media with the hashtag #LoveTitos, the locally based vodka brand will make a $1 contribution to the ASPCA, a large animal welfare organization. Tito’s is hoping to get lots of fest-goers to participate, although the donation made after the weekend is over won’t total more than $10,000. (A hefty goal to reach, indeed, but the installation was also up last weekend.)

Tito’s ACL Fest mural is one that many Austinites will recognize. The 8 by 10 installation reads “I love Tito’s so much” in the untidy scrawl reminiscent of the “I love you so much” wall at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress Avenue, where droves of people have gotten their picture taken since it first appeared.

Feel your heartstrings tugging yet? Make note of where the Tito’s mural is from Friday through Sunday at Zilker Park so that you can do some good in between rockin’ out to all the good music at the fest. The installation isn’t near the Tito’s music stage but rather at the southern edge of the park, near Austin Kiddie Limits.

According to an ASPCA representative, Christina Wyman, the #LoveTitos initiative “will help support the ASPCA’s efforts to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”