There’s definitely a few horses, maybe a cow or two, and a handful or so of goats along the road on the way to Seersucker Gin Distillery. From the heart of downtown, the jaunt down 281 south, 87, and then 37, takes less than 30 minutes, but the payoff is worth the drive when vodka, gin and spirit fans find the manicured lawn off 8501 Cover Road where Seersucker gin is made.
Launched in January of 2017, Seersucker Southern Style gin was the second product of the Azar Brand, the first being Cinco vodka, which launched in 2010. Yes, vodka pays the bills (as most bartenders will tell you), but finding the market for vodka saturated with competitors, Trey Azar, along with wife and business partner Kim, turned their attention to gin.
“We did have the benefit of Cinco for seven years before we jumped into this,” Azar said. “Without Cinco, Seersucker doesn’t exist.”
Azar’s goal: producing a gin that varied from the classic London dry style that turns off non-gin drinkers. He landed on a formula that uses botanicals of citrus peels, coriander seed, cardamom, clove honey, mint and juniper in 2014.
The name was part of a fortuitous moment at a Starbucks during Derby Day when Azar overheard two guys in seersucker shorts chatting about the event.
“I called Kim and told her the name — Seersucker Southern-Style Gin — and there was silence,” Azar said. They secured a trademark in July of 2016 and set to distilling.
The first tours, held during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference in 2017, showcased the early stages of the brand. Large format bottles still weren’t available to the public, and the distillery was rustic at best with blueprints lining the room featuring what was to come.
The distillery matches the aggressive growth the brand has made in less than 16 months with the help of two sales managers (including Paramour alum Christopher Ware, who first met the Azars while at Bohanan’s). You can sip Seersucker gin in 15 states across the south, including Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, as well as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Nevada and Colorado.
Though early plans included event space and traditional tasting rooms, a trip to Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Kim and their five kids (the five in Cinco) inspired Azar to scrap those initial layouts and aim for an immersive, interactive experience with the gin.
Seersucker’s 5,000 square-foot facility, which opened officially to the public this month, holds massive 16,000 gallon tanks wrapped in giant Seersucker labels that help set the tone for the self-guided tour. This is Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and you don’t need a golden ticket. Signage shares the process for slow-distilling, and Seersucker blue graces the floor of the distillery where Betty the copper still, Azar and assistant distiller Joshua Brock make magic happen. Sweep over to the tasting room where leather apron-clad bartenders shake up patio pounders as gin courses through the pipes overhead to the storage tanks in the bottling room (a bottling line is on the way later this April, but for now Seersucker is bottled by hand) all visible through a window next to the tasting room.
Though Azar has aspirations of turning the already picturesque 6-acre plot into a great lawn that welcomes visitors to the distillery, it’s already bucolic as is. Sunny days means guests will lounge on striped patio furniture, an afternoon with cornhole or the upcoming bocce ball court, with Seersucker in hand.
“It’s peaceful,” Azar said.
Derby plans are already in motion, but take a drive to Seersucker’s facility before then to experience two new flavors: Southern-style limeade and lemonade (which pair well with a splash of Topo and a squeeze of a Cutie clementine as per Azar’s suggestion).
Seersucker attire optional.
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