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  • Mary Stanley

Meet Charming Texas Women in Distilling

Updated: May 29, 2018

Once upon a time a south Texas farm girl grew up and traveled the world. She came back to Texas more worldly, more sophisticated, and really into limoncello. Thus, Paula Angerstein became the first woman and second person to be licensed to distill in Texas. Paula Angerstein received the second Texas distiller's license (after Tito's), in 2003, and began to distill an orange liqueur--based on her Italian ancestry--more in the style of a limoncello than a triple sec. It has a very bright orange taste, and makes a distinctive margarita, but watch out: It has double the proof of an ordinary triple sec, so a Paula's Orange margarita will pack an extra punch. We have been serving margarita's made with Paula's since we opened The Turtle Enoteca.


Paula's also made a lemon version of the spirit. One of the things you will consistently hear about Paula Angerstein is how charming and nice she is. She she is charming! A few years ago, she charmed Gary and Dee Kelleher (Gary is the co-founder of Drippings Springs Vodka and Gin) into buying a majority stake in Texacello. In 2016, Paula's Texas Grapefruit made with Texas Ruby Red grapefruits from the Rio Grande Valley, joined the two other fruit liqueurs in the hope of making it indispensable in another much-loved Texas cocktail: the paloma. The Paloma is made with tequila and grapefruit soda or juice, perfect for a hot summer's day. Texacello's production manager, Chris Roberts, makes each of the three liqueurs with fresh fruit. He's also been producing another boozy beverage, this one the creation of Gary Kelleher: Martine, a honeysuckle liqueur.


San Luis Spirits Distilling Company founded by brothers Gary and Kevin Kelleher was dedicated to the art of distilling world-class products in small batches. The company built on Paula’s brand and remains family owned and operated. Using the brand recognition of Texacello, the Kellehers joined forces last year with two other booze companies, Pepe Zevada Z Tequila and Republic Tequila, to form Texas’ first liquor house, Empresario Brands. The conglomerate gives each company the muscle to grow. The merger finalized earlier this year combines two distinguished Texas beverage companies under the new name, Dripping Springs Distilling (DSD). The DSD portfolio includes: Dripping Springs Vodka and Gin, Republic Whiskey and Tequila, Paula's Texas Spirits, 1876 Vodka and 1876 Bourbon, Martine Honeysuckle Liqueur, Pepe Zevada Z Tequila, and Republic Spirit Blends.


DSD is headquartered at the current San Luis Spirits distillery in Drippings Springs, Texas, about 20 miles southwest of Austin. The new company will produce over 100,000 cases in 2018 and immediately begin construction to increase capacity to 350,000 cases. DSD currently has distribution in 15 states with plans to move into additional markets.


It’s also turned the Kellehers’ a family business. While Gary remains involved in San Luis Spirits and acts as Empresario’s COO, Dee is the head of marketing at Empresario — with their daughter, Carolyn, working as a marketing specialist under her. Carolyn will be visiting The Turtle Enoteca on June 29, 2018 from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm to show case her brands along with Jessica Leigh Graves of Derelict Airship Distillery to impress upon our guests the role of women in the Texas distillation industry; and make some amazing cocktails for us with their products while they are here.


Carolyn and Jessica will be unveiling a historic moment in cocktail history with the creation of The Texas Sazarac using Derelict Airship’s Emerald Absinthe under the Violet Crown label and 1876 Texas Bourbon.*


1876 Texas Bourbon is distilled, barreled and bottled in Texas using 80% yellow #2 Texas corn and 20% Secale Cereale Oklahoma winter rye. This blend is triple distilled and aged in new, white American oak then refined to 85 proof with Hill Country Artesian Spring Water. The end result is a rich and balanced Bourbon with flavors of rye toast, caramel and vanilla with just a hint of smoke.





1876 Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the sixth product in the San Luis Spirits family, joining Well No. 1876 Vodka, Dripping Springs Vodka, Dripping Springs Texas Orange Vodka, Dripping Springs Artisan Gin and Dripping Springs Traditional Gin.


The name is a toast to the year 1876-the year that ushered in the American Centennial, the first National League Baseball game, and the adoption of the Texas Constitution. It was a year of new beginnings and a time of adventure and opportunity.


The Texas distilling adventure and opportunity is also being explored down a different path by Jessica Leigh Graves and Matt Mancuso. They hold Texas first license to distill Absinthe. And how is their absinthe you might ask? Well they pulled a 4.0 in a review at The Wormwood Society. http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/index.php/20-absinthe-brand-reviews/traditional-absinthe/750-emerald


Isn't Absinthe illegal, you may ask? Absinthe is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and, from 1912 though 2007, was completely banned in the U.S. The reason for this is that absinthe contains thujone, a toxic chemical found in several edible plants including tarragon, sage, and wormwood. Why is thujone so dangerous that its presence in your glass of booze needs to be regulated by the FDA? The answer has more to do with history than science. That history deserves it's own lengthy post. But the fact is that you may consume more thujone in your chicken salad sandwich or Thanksgiving sage turkey dressing than you will in a glass of Absinthe. It's the high ABV that you need to consider when consuming, which is why Absinthe is drunk diluted or louched with ice water, or as a flavor component in a cocktail.


Jessica leigh Graves, you music lovers may recognize as one half of the Ukelele band the Love Leighs who have graced The Turtle Restaurant’s patio in years past. Jessica is veritable Absinthe fountain, overflowing with multiple talents. She is the marketing arm of Derelict Airship and walking encyclopedia of Absinthe, while Matt is the scientist and master distiller. She is a heck of a cocktailian and secretary of the United States Bartending Guild, Austin, Texas chapter. She is also a Certified ASL Interpreter. I am wildly proud to be her friend and accomplice in anything she does because she does everything exceeding well and with great humor. The cocktails aren't bad either!!


In addition to presenting The Texas Sazarac with Carolyn Kelleher, Jessica will be making cocktails with her newest product, Violet Crown Jasmine Liqueur and another new product under development. Violet Crown Jasmine Liqueur is a blend of green and black jasmine teas with a hint of orange for the citrus note, with only 20% grain neutral spirit and 20% cane sugar. Derelict Airship Distillery is quite proud of this product made under the Violet Crown label. It’s already making its way onto shelves in retail and cocktail spots throughout Texas. You can taste all of these right here at The Turtle Enoteca in Brownwood on June 29, 2018 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 pm. Celebrate these women and “firsts” in the Texas distillation industry. Just because Brownwood is in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t mean we can’t be first too! So join us on June 29, 2018 at The Turtle Enoteca, 510 Center Avenue in historic downtown Brownwood. We'll be making herstory.


Violet Crown Emeral Absinthe, a Texas first.


*perhaps we should take a moment to explain what the Sazarac is. Antoine Amédée Peychaud is the man most associated with those beginnings. Like many liquors and liqueuers, they had beginnings in pharmaceutical history. Antoine ran a drug store in New Orleans in the 1830s and created Peychaud's Bitters -- an ingredient still served in Sazeracs to this day. Peychaud was born in Haiti, but fled to Louisiana as violence erupted between the slaves and French colonists, and he eventually set up his own dispensary. On top of filling prescriptions, he apparently served his customers toddies mixed with his bitters and Sazerac de Forge et Fils cognac. They became so popular that a bar called the Sazerac Coffee House started buying his bitters and pouring a blend of the Sazerac cognac, bitters, sugar, and absinthe as their signature cocktail. Eventually they purchased the rights to the bitters outright, and subbed the cognac for rye whiskey, a swap that probably caused Forge et Fils to say "sacrebleu" and other French words like "merde." This footnote leads to another one about the history of Rye Whiskey in America but that is for a later date.




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