On the heels of dry January, February feels like a pretty good time to toast winter with a Texas-inspired beverage. From whiskies and bourbons to distinctive wines, here are three sips born and bred right here in the Lone Star State sure to warm you up this season.
Nine Banded Whiskey
By Pam LeBlanc
Every month, Will Glass heads to Bar None Ranch in Mason County, where the distillery manager at Nine Banded Whiskey fills a 250-gallon container with fresh spring water that bubbles up out of the ground.
That limestone-filtered liquid, which has higher levels of calcium than tap water, is blended with distilled liquor and aged in charred white oak barrels to make uniquely Texas bourbon.
Nine Banded Whiskey produces a straight bourbon, made with 51 percent corn and a mixture of barley and rye. But it also makes three types of wheated bourbons using wheat instead of rye for a slightly sweeter profile.
“Those three different proofs allow for three different experiences,” says co-founder Sean Foley. “The wheated is a softer grain, and a lot of people enjoy that soft profile when they’re enjoying us.”
Nine Banded, named for the official small mammal of Texas, the armadillo, takes its Texas roots seriously, and music is a big part of that. In 2022, it will pay homage to Willie Nelson’s first concert at the Armadillo World Headquarters.
“This August will be the 50-year anniversary of that show. Many long-time Austinites agree that when Willie stepped foot on that stage that night, Austin changed and became the Live Music Capital of the World. We’ll be saluting that milestone with events throughout the year.”
Seasonal sip: Austin
2 oz Nine Banded wheated bourbon
½ oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist and a cherry.
By Mauri Elbel
Greg and Nikhila Narra Davis are undeniably young in the wine-making world, but the couple is breaking ground in the Texas wine industry producing wines every bit as beautiful and interesting as the backstory behind Kalasi Cellars, their boutique Hill Country winery.
Venturing into winemaking at the ripe age of 30, the husband and wife duo are the proud owners of one of the few Texas wineries making 100 percent estate grown and produced wines.
Although Kalasi Cellars’ tasting room –– sitting on 16 sprawling acres just a half-mile from Fredericksburg’s Main Street –– opened in 2020, the couple’s family farming history has roots that run much deeper. Five generations ago, Nikhila’s family began farming in India, cultivating crops of cocoa, coconuts, rice and turmeric. Today, Kalasi Cellars honors that family farming heritage by solely utilizing estate grown grapes from their vineyards in the Texas High Plains as well as its tasting room’s onsite vineyard in Fredericksburg.
Kalasi, which means “together” in Telegu (the South Indian language Nikhila grew up speaking), produces around 1,500 cases each year and features eight varietals on its tasting menu, spanning a luscious Carménère boasting hints of pepper, chocolate and soft tobacco, and a signature white Malvasia Bianca, featuring notes of peaches, pears and a slight hint of honey.
“We are a heritage reincarnated – we focus on the roots we came from,” says Nikhila. “We take everything a step further to tie in our history with our winemaking.”
Kalasi’s two labels blend into that idea –– the Heritage Collection focuses on common varietals and blends using traditional wine making techniques while the Reincarnated Collection is comprised of rarer varietals and blends produced with less common wine making techniques.
Sip and swirl wines at Kalasi’s tasting room, open seven days a week, while enjoying Indian-inspired snacks on offer like the tikka masala naan pizza, or time your visit with Valentine’s weekend (Feb. 11-14) and reserve a wine, chocolate and cheese pairing https://www.kalasicellars.com/reservation/.
Seasonal sip: Kalasi’s Teroldego
Description: The Davis’ were the first to plant Teroldego in Texas at their vineyard, Narra Vineyards, and the first to make a single varietal wine with the grapes. The wine features mellow tannins with delicious cranberry, blackberry and pomegranate on the palate, and is predicted to soon be a staple varietal for the Texas wine industry.
By Mauri Elbel
Zach Landry has long considered himself a whiskey connoisseur. Following in his grandfather and uncle’s footsteps, the longtime Austinite and serial entrepreneur has also been a lifelong fan of quarter horse racing.
Landry Distillery is the perfect marriage of these two passions, representing the first whiskey brand inspired by the world of quarter horse racing with two small batch labels –– Landry Oaks Rye and Landry Stakes Bourbon, both blended and bottled in Austin from cask-strength whiskey sourced from a small family-owned distillery.
As the founder and third-generation owner of racing-class quarter horses, Landry followed his dream of joining the rich heritage of Texas whiskey makers and set out to create a spirit good enough to drink himself and extraordinary enough to give to friends that holds its own without breaking the bank.
“For the price, it’s as good as any whiskey you can buy,” says Landry, who collaborated with a family-owned craft distillery and partner Gary Crowell, the visionary behind Deep Eddy Vodka and co-founder of Nine Banded Whiskey, to yield the winning result.
Overproof Landry Oaks Rye ($49) and Landry Stakes Bourbon ($59) are currently sold at select retailers throughout Austin and Central Texas, but plans are in the works for a Texas tasting room.
“Building a state-of-the-art distillery with a tasting room dedicated to quarter horse racing is the next step for us in becoming a great Texas whiskey brand,” says Landry of the project slated to break ground in the Texas Hill Country in 2022.
Additionally, this spring, Landry Distillery will launch its first limited release expression honoring an esteemed quarter horse racing champion on each collectable bottle presented in a gift box with branded glassware that will retail for $125. Throughout his lifetime, Landry has gifted friends with limited-edition commemorative bottles created for the Kentucky Derby and is using his entrepreneurial spirit to fill the void on the shelf.
“There’s nothing out there like this in the world of quarter horse racing,” says Landry. “I’ve always wanted to build my whiskey brand around this dream.”
Seasonal sip: CITY SLICKER (the Landry take on a Manhattan)
2 oz Oaks Rye
½ oz Cocchi Americano
½ oz Cocchi Torino
4 Dash Angostura Bitters
Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled halfway with ice. Stir until cold – about 20 seconds. Strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
If You Go
Nine Banded Whiskey doesn’t have a tasting room, but the bourbon is available at major liquor stores across the state, including Spec’s, Total Wine and More, and Twin Liquors.
Kalasi Cellars’ contemporary, window-wrapped tasting room is an hour and a half from Austin and sits just a half-mile from Fredericksburg’s Main Street.
Be on the lookout for the opening of Landry Distillery and Whiskey Tasting Room in the Texas Hill Country. Until then, buy yourself a bottle at major liquor stores including Twin Liquors throughout Austin as well as Houston and Temple.