Sometimes it takes awhile to get back into writing.
Sometimes it takes me even longer to realize there’s a hidden gem right down the block.
When we launched this site last summer, we dove head first into cocktails. After all, writing should be fun, making cocktails is fun, and a routine where we would make a fancy drink, photograph it, and then spend the rest of the evening grilling on the patio is a fine way to spend a summer Saturday.
Every time I’d post something with rum, a friend of ours would give us untold amounts of grief because we were using a high quality Puerto Rican rum instead of something her son was distilling here in town. Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to that.
Sheesh, what was I missing? Well, in a grungy industrial park in Southwest Houston is the Grateful Dane Distillery. (I say grungy in the most loving sense of the word. Everything that’s good about Houston is a little grungy.) Grateful Dane, named for owner Ian’s dog as well as a play on his favorite band and Danish heritage, is pretty much a two person operation that turns sugar cane and molasses from Louisiana into an artisan craft rum.
Ian had set out to become a craft brewer, but a grain allergy led him to open the first legal distillery in the city instead. It’s a beautifully inefficient process that’s as far from mass produced as you can get. Start with sugar, molasses, water, yeast, and the Houston heat in a small un-air conditioned warehouse space to create alcohol, distill it twice in a pot still, and you end up with their Texas Silver rum. The same process with some added spices creates their spiced rum. They’ll also age the Silver rum in oak barrels for 20 to 30 months to create their Texas Gold rum – its golden color comes naturally from the barrels, not from food coloring.
You can visit the distillery on Saturdays from 1 to 5, where Ian and his wife conduct tours and sell cocktails and limited direct sales (the TABC limits the number of bottles you can buy direct from a distillery each month). You’ll also find bottles of Grateful Dane rum at Specs stores in Houston and Total Wine across Texas.
Ian’s about to sell out of the current batch of Texas Gold; once that runs out you’ll have to wait for the next batch to finish aging. We picked up a bottle and drove to the grocery store humming this song.
When was the last time you’ve had a daiquiri made with fresh fruit instead of syrup from a carton? If you haven’t made them yourself, the answer may be never. Pull out your blender and let’s fix that.
- 4 or 5 fresh peaches
- 3 jiggers of rum
- sugar to taste
Start by adding rum to the bottom of the blender, then fill the jar halfway with ice. Smash your peaches into the jar, skins and all, discarding the stone. Then blend. Add a few spoonfuls of sugar as needed depending upon the sweetness of the fruit and blend again. Pour and enjoy.
I’ll still get a bottle of Ron Del Barrilito the next time I’m in San Juan, but I’m also not going to wait to drive over to Gulfton and pick up a bottle of Grateful Dane. This is the good stuff.
Grateful Dane Distillery – 5250 Gulfton Street, Ste 1-H, Houston, TX 77081. Hint: they’re in the building to the north of Houston Photo Imaging. Look for the tents set up in the parking lot. Open Saturday 1-5.