In celebration of Craft Cocktails Texas week, I ventured over to The Stoneleigh Hotel Saturday morning for the Texas Craft Spirits seminar, another on astrology and mixology, and to see what was being shaken, stirred, muddled and blended in the tasting room. Unfortunately, I only ended up attending one class all day because two had been canceled.
I arrived at the spirits seminar to find Chip Tate, President and Head Distiller of Balcones Distillery in Waco, in an empty room chatting with one other industry guru. He informed me that the class had been canceled, but he was happy to provide some information and a taste of some of his current projects that won’t hit store shelves for a few more months. Balcones prides itself on trying to establish new styles of whiskey. Rather than sticking to the standard, they do a bit of experimenting with the type of wood they distill in. I tasted two of the several single malt pulls from minimum 24-month yard-aged Slovakian Oak barrels. My favorite of the two greeted me with the warm aromas of vanilla and honey and finished with flavors of spice and tropical fruit.
My stomach sufficiently warmed by whiskey, I headed downstairs to explore the tasting room only to find that it, too, had been canceled (probably due to low attendance). So far, Craft Cocktails Texas wasn’t looking so hot.
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Midday arrived and the stars aligned in favor of a lively Mixology Meets Astrology class with Intoxicated Zodiac founder Gwen Sutherland Kaiser and Zodiac Spirits CEO Tom Benson. Zodiac Spirits makes two products, a standard unflavored potato vodka, and its black cherry counterpart.
Kaiser has merged her experience as a mixologist and knowledge of astrology to create a collection of cocktail recipes tailored to the tastes of each zodiac sign. All libations were crafted with consideration for each sign’s ruling planet. As an Aquarius, I must share a cocktail with Capricorn since we also share Saturn as a ruling planet. The Aquarius and Capricorn cocktail, named the Saturn Return, is a concoction of black tea, vodka, maple syrup and liquid smoke, garnished with orange peel. While I found the leafy dryness of the tea with a subtle infusion of citrus combined with the smokiness to be an interesting melding of flavors, they were an assertive enough combination that they swallowed the maple whole, reducing its contribution to a source of sugar. This Aquarius would call it a miss, as it just had too many strong flavors competing for your attention for any of them to really sit well on your palate. After some discussion, we all agreed that this cocktail would be better served hot.
Cancer’s cocktail, the New Moon Eclipse, was the biggest crowd pleaser of the bunch. Several requests could be heard for seconds on this delightfully refreshing amalgamation of vodka, muddled mint leaves, lemon juice, agave nectar, pomegranate, and pineapple juice shaken over ice and served in a glass rimmed with pink Himalayan sea salt.
Whether or not you’re a firm believer in Astrology, the class provided a great crash-course in mixology and some creative drink recipes that are easy enough to make in any home kitchen. All recipes can be found on the Intoxicated Zodiac website.