Drink Up

Local craft spirit Genius Gin prepares to make its widespread Austin debut

Local craft spirit Genius Gin prepares to make its widespread Austin debut

Austin Photo Set: shannon_genius gin_nov 2012_2
 "The Toothache" cocktail. Photo by Shannon McGarvey
Austin Photo Set: shannon_genius gin_nov 2012_1
Mike Groener gives a thank you speech to friends. Photo by Shannon McGarvey
Austin Photo Set: shannon_genius gin_nov 2012_2
Austin Photo Set: shannon_genius gin_nov 2012_1

When it comes to Texas-made gin, there’s a new sheriff in town. Mike Groener and Charles Cheung, respective CEO and COO of Genius Liquids, LLC, are among the newest gin producers in Austin, joining the ranks of local distilleries Treaty Oak (Waterloo Gin) and Bone Spirits (Moody June Gin).

Whereas the flagship beverages of Treaty Oak and Bone Spirits were rum and vodka, respectively, Genius Liquids is all about the gin.

Groener and Cheung first began toying with the idea of creating a craft spirit in the summer of 2011, but didn’t take the plunge into manufacturing until last November.

Like many businesses just starting out, it’s been a long road for the pair and one rife with obstacles, but Genius Gin has a finished product and is set to make its retail debut in early 2013.

The duo shared their work with friends in a private tasting event held earlier this month. Groener offered a sampling of original cocktails — “Le Samurai,” “Autumn Martini,” “The Toothache” — that he paired with an assortment of complimentary cheeses.

“I want to do something new that pays tribute and respect,” said Groener in a short speech to friends, “while at the same time elevating the spirit.”

Groener’s selections did much to highlight the character of the gin, which is rich in notes of juniper and cardamom and strays from the more traditional, proprietary flavors of lavender and lime peel. Perhaps this is why mixologists such as Jessica and Mike Sanders, owners of the North Loop bar Drink.Well., had such a hard time classifying Genius Gin.

“I was struck by how interesting it is,” said Jessica, “[because] it doesn’t fit into a predetermined style of gin.” Such bold flavors might be better suited for enthusiasts who will easily recognize craft and delight in deviations from the norm, she said. “The more transparent you can be to bartenders,” said Jessica, “the more we can get behind it.”

Transparency is paramount to Groener and Cheung, who are very open about the purity of their process. The pair makes all of their alcohol from whole foods, using no chemicals or additives. Batches are small and produced from scratch, using a hot/cold process to better infuse flavors at different temperatures. Although this process takes a bit longer, according to Groener, it greatly improves the quality and cohesiveness of the drink.

“We have managed to create a gin that is sip-able like a bourbon, but is flexible like a vodka.”

When asked if Genius Liquids has any ambitions to broaden its scope beyond gin, Groener said that they hope to venture into vermouth and white whiskey (a corn-based, un-aged rye) within the next 24 months.

In the meantime, Groener and Cheung are putting the finishing touches on their brand: awaiting approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau, securing distribution, and otherwise gearing up for the widespread release of Genius Gin.