Editor’s note: This article was originally published January 15, 2014
When on a family vacation, sisters Kelly Gasink and Jill Burns noticed the bottled margaritas they were drinking didn’t taste very good. That’s when the idea first struck them – why not create their own line of ready-to-drink cocktails?
Burns, who splits her time between California and Austin, had worked with a start-up beverage company in the past and believed that with the right ingredients, they could come up with drinks they’d enjoy.
After almost two years developing the recipes, she and Austinite Gasink have produced Austin Cocktails: four vodka-based ready-to-serve drinks that have all-natural ingredients, including agave, and are all under 100 calories and a little over 10 percent ABV. Using only all-natural ingredients, it turned out, was the key to producing cocktails they both liked, a conclusion they drew after painstaking taste tests.
Each of the four drinks – Cucumber Vodka Mojito, Paradise Found, Tea Twister and Vodkarita – have six-times distilled vodka, natural fruit juices, herbs and organic agave nectar.
They selected the agave after trying all kinds of sugar to sweeten up the cocktails, including stevia, sucralose and aspartame. The agave they get from Mexico, the sisters noticed, made their drinks sweet without tasting too artificial, a balance that can be tricky with ready-to-serve cocktails. The ultimate result was exactly what they had been looking for that day on a family trip.
“Jill and I have very different cocktail tastes,” Gasink said. “She likes to taste the alcohol. But I think we came up with drinks we both love.”
I tried each of the cocktails, and the one I liked best was the Tea Twister, a combination of vodka, tea that came from Kenya, lemon and agave. Gasink said that because the volcanic African soil helped to produce a naturally sweeter and bolder tea, they didn’t have to add too much of the agave.
There’s also a mojito with cucumbers, a “vodkarita” with orange and lime, and Paradise Found – a cocktail the entrepreneurial sisters are particularly proud of. It’s got the somewhat unusual ingredient of coconut water, along with lemon, limes, basil, and mango and coconut. I did notice with all four of the drinks that they still don’t taste quite like a cocktail made fresh by the bartender right in front of you, but they’re light, enjoyable and make for easy sipping.
Gasink said so far they’ve gotten lots of positive feedback about Austin Cocktails. One aspect of their project they were wary of that ended up working out was its name – once they had all their cocktails, what to call the brand?
“Naming the brand was the hardest thing, second only to figuring out our cocktail recipes,” she said. “I was hesitant at first to use ‘Austin’ because what would that conjure in people’s minds when they hear it? But then I realized Austin embodies our goal of making cocktails that are premium without being pretentious.”
Right now Austin Cocktails are available in California and, you guessed it, Austin and a few other places around Texas, all in Twin Liquors and Spec’s stores.