You can take them to go from the Barton Springs brewstillery.
A South Austin brewery that introduced a small line of spirits this spring wants people to drink cocktails as easily as they do beer.
Uncle Billy's Brewery & Smokehouse is now the first booze business in Austin — and possibly Texas — to have canned cocktails featuring hard liquor. The trio of vodka-based drinks in 12-ounce cans launched at the brewstillery Oct. 2, just a few days before the Austin City Limits Music Festival returns on Oct. 5. That debut date is intentional: Uncle Billy's, which tends to get packed on festival days, hopes that ACL attendees take these cans to go.
No outside alcohol is allowed inside the park itself (and will be confiscated if you try to sneak it in), but the southern stretch of Barton Springs Road, across the street from Uncle Billy's and down to Zilker Park — about a 10 minute walk — is in a part of town where it's OK to drink booze in the open. (During last year's ACL Fest, the brewery sold beer to go.)
Once the festival ends, of course, the canned cocktails will serve their main purpose.
"People want the convenience of having a drink you don't have to make yourself at home. You don't want to have to prep for 30 minutes after a long day at the office before you can finally have your cocktail. You can just let me do the work ahead of time and then crack open a can and relax," Josh Mabrey, Uncle Billy's beverage manager, said.
That's the appeal of canned cocktails, a segment of the ready-to-drink market that has been growing of late. So far, Mighty Swell is the only other local brand with cocktails in cans (those are wine-based rather than spirit-based), but Mabrey and the other enterprising minds at Uncle Billy's anticipate that the popularity of canned cocktails is about to explode. Their goal is to be ahead of the pack.
Each of the three canned cocktails are already available at Uncle Billy's as cocktails on tap. Mabrey and distilling expert Mark Shilling have chosen to can them first because they've proven to be best-sellers and the sorts of refreshing drinks that Texans, in nearly year-round warm weather, would want to enjoy in cans.
Leslie's Cucumber Sipper: vodka, freshly juiced cucumbers and tonic water.
Lady Bird Lemonade: vodka, lemonade and lavender water.
Vimosa: vodka, pineapple juice, orange juice and coconut syrup.
Mabrey and Shilling, who spearheaded the creation of Uncle Billy's vodka and whiskey, made sure the recipes translated well from keg to can, and that the liquid itself was properly carbonated. The cans will go into distribution, at the retailers and bars and restaurants where Uncle Billy's beer is already available, by the end of the year; they are being sold only at Uncle Billy's for now for proof of concept, Mabrey said.
But Shilling doesn't doubt their success.
"I think the appeal to these is that they're real cocktails, they're simple, and they're portable. And if you're at home, all you have to do is go to the fridge," he said.
Take it easy when you drink them, however. The Vimosa is the lowest in alcohol, at 10 percent ABV; the other two are 12 percent. And, in cans, they are the ounce equivalent of about two and a half cocktails. While they're being sold at Uncle Billy's, you won't be able to take home a bunch, anyway; in accordance with Texas law, people can take to go what amounts to roughly four cans per person per month, a number Uncle Billy's must keep track of.
Shilling has other boozy projects up his sleeve and hopes Uncle Billy's whiskey cocktails catch on more this winter, so that he and Mabrey can have canned whiskey cocktails, too. In the meantime, he's curious to see how the ready-to-drink trend progresses, especially at Uncle Billy's.
"I think you'll see more breweries, distilleries, even wineries doing some form of canned cocktails," he said. "For a brewery and a distillery with experience canning, like Uncle Billy's, it just makes perfect sense to do it."