In the Spirits of Texas

by Meredith Kay

I’ve been told that my great grandmother, Linnie Zonelle Tysinger Bates, was quite the wild woman. She lived in Quanah, a sleepy little town near the Oklahoma border in North Texas, where my mom was born. It’s been said that she was known for her entrepreneurial skills, which included the management of a rather successful boarding house (and probable brothel) along with a dancehall. She was also quite popular for her bootlegged whiskey during prohibition, in and around Hardeman County, which was a completely dry county until 2006.

It seems that Linnie Zonelle was ahead of her time. Although Prohibition only lasted from 1919 to 1933, Texas didn’t allow distilleries of any kind to operate until 1997, when Tito Beveridge lobbied and fought for legislation that would allow Texans to obtain distillery licenses. Tito’s Vodka is distilled in Austin, and has become a national favorite in the vodka category. Tito was a maverick and now Texas has 45 distillers across the state, including San Antonio’s own Rebecca Creek. The first distillery in San Antonio since Prohibition was repealed, Rebecca Creek makes its signature whiskey, along with the handcrafted, small batch Enchanted Rock Vodka as well.

Texas ranks number nine in the U.S. among states with the most distilleries, and with the recent change in legislation, allowing distilleries to sample and sell their own products on-site, the industry is set to explode. Libation-loving entrepreneurs are creating jobs and increasing tax revenue for this fledgling industry across the state, and Texas distilleries are producing high quality liquors that are winning awards around the world.

Read more in the October 2013 issue of S.A. Scene.