John Steinbeck pegged us pretty well when he wrote, “Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion.” If he’s right, then one of the top commandments would be “Anything you can do, we can do better.” Take the old rules of booze: Gin and Scotch hailed from the British Isles, bourbon was barreled in Kentucky, American whiskey was born in Tennessee, Limoncello was Italian, and vodka flowed from Russia. But over the last decade, the troika of craft brewing, state pride, and consumer demand for locally crafted products revealed talented distillers not behind the Iron Curtain but along the I-35 corridor.
Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge II, founder of the now-ubiquitous Austin-based Tito’s Vodka, was the first to take on the naysayers. Then Paula Angerstein, creator of Paula’s Texas Orange, became the first woman and second person (behind Tito) to become licensed to distill spirits in our state. From that point, new vodka brands emerged more rapidly, putting Dripping Springs and a public pool called Deep Eddy on the radar of drinkers worldwide.
Not to be outdone by our sister city to the south, distilleries are springing up in this town as well. Rather apropos for a place named after Hell’s Half Acre, Acre Distilling opened up shop in December in downtown Fort Worth between two existing bars – Malone’s Pub is the drinking sort, and the other is the Tarrant County Bar Association. In keeping with the theme of raucous and righteous, the tasting room at Acre also doubles as a coffee house, café, and workspace at tamer times of day.
My first experience with Acre Distilling’s products was not at its distillery, however. Last year during Fort Worth Cocktail Week, the newly minted brand was flowing fast and loose into local hands during the Weekly’s Texas Spirits Tasting Party. Back then, the talk was about Acre’s Longhair Jim bourbon, but the brand has expanded its offerings into other sectors of the cocktail world.
Traditional martini drinkers should veer toward the Two Minnies London Dry Gin. But for something more adventurous, try the vanilla-nuanced Meander “wooded” gin, an impressive enough product to land a recent silver medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition. Acre’s neighborhood namesake Hell’s Half Acre rum is made with real cane sugar, aged in American White Oak, and is a solid choice for your next daiquiri – a real one, not one of those frozen drink machine abominations.
If Deep Eddy Vodka has shown us anything, it’s that drinkers are clamoring for flavored libations that require zero bartending skills to be delicious. Dare I say this category is where Acre Distilling may cut its groove. Black Halo vodka, Peach Dream ginger peach tea vodka, and Miss Addie’s blackberry sage tea vodka need nothing but a splash of club soda to produce a damn good drink.
Italians know that with enough sugar, lemons, and patience, you can turn 190-proof grain alcohol into something other than a Molotov cocktail. Acre Distilling uses those same techniques to make Orange Burst orangecello and Lemon Bomb limoncello, absolute standouts in the liqueur space, and the spirit that should be splashed into your next margarita in place of Cointreau.
Testing each of these is an option at the Acre Distillery downtown, where they also mix specialty cocktails onsite. Acre is also on the shelves at Total Wine & More (5200 S Hulen St) and other liquor stores that respect fine spirits coming out of the great state of Texas.
1309 Calhoun St, FW. 817-632-7722.