Who knew that 25 miles out of Austin we could find incredible the State-born Dripping Springs Vodka made from mineral rich, Texas spring water and a golden breakfast taco chaser from the back of a gas station? When I was at the University of Texas in Austin we made many a road trip to the nearby Dripping Springs, sometimes a visit to Reimer’s Ranch park and a dip in the beautiful Hamilton Pool. It’s worth a Flickr search - a natural, emerald pool with a 50’ waterfall, with plenty of river rock outcroppings to laze away bright, shiny days. And although I knew about the wineries that were cropping up and Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Co., I was utterly caught off guard and thrilled to find satisfaction at a truck stop and love on a street corner.
Local friends had raved about the Taqueria Valle de Bravo breakfast tacos found at the Dripping Springs Grocery (a gas station, basically). Fuel up your truck and body at the same time. Efficiency never tasted so good - a flour tortilla (homemade), stuffed with your early morning favorites: eggs, potato, sausage… I’m partial to refried beans, potatoes and cheese. Top it off with salsa, the hotter the better.
And what better salsa and breakfast pairing than vodka? On my last visit I stumbled upon the taste of the town, Dripping Springs Vodka. It was pretty damn fantastic. Smooth with a slight mineral taste from the spring water sourced from the deep limestone formations beneath the Texas Hill country.
We met Dripping Springs Vodka co-owner Kevin Kelleher to talk more.
Jacque Lynn Schiller: How did this whole business started?
Kevin Kelleher: It’s a long story. The short version is brothers Gary and Kevin Kelleher set up the company in 2005. It took two long years to get our Federal and State licenses in place prior to production. Without a finished product or package our distributor Republic National gave us an order for 500 cases for the Austin and San Antonio markets. In 2012, Dripping Springs Vodka and Dripping Springs Orange will sell well over 50,000 cases.
JLS: How did you learn the trade?
Kevin Kelleher: Through research, hard work and trial and error. We start with Midwest corn, slow distilled in our own 50 gallon copper Pot Stills. The product is mixed with artesian spring water then gently filtered through Swedish activated charcoal.
JLS: What are your thoughts on the artisanal food scene in Texas, the Hill Country in particular?
Kevin Kelleher: Austin and its surrounding areas have always been very proud of buying local and the food scene here no exception. Local restaurants and bars are heavily influenced by sustainable, seasonal and local values and are certainly very proud of being Texan. One of the most exciting things about the local food scene is the explosion of Southwestern fusion cuisine, seen in everything from fine dining restaurants like Congress to food trailers like The Peached Tortilla.
JLS: What’s your favorite hangout in Dripping Springs or hidden gem?
Kevin Kelleher: Hidden local gems include swimming holes Hamilton Pool and the Blue Hole. Both are magical and totally unique. We also love the Salt Lick BBQ and historic Gruene Hall.
JLS: What’s your favorite recipe or pairing?
Kevin Kelleher: This is something that changes seasonally, partially because the summers here are so extreme. Right now the cocktail of choice is Dripping Springs Vodka, fresh lemonade and iced green tea- it’s amazingly refreshing.
Thanks to the Manske brothers for steering me in the right direction.
BOOTS & BOTTLES
by Jacque Lynn Schiller