The Making of An Old West Vodka

by James Stevenson

Before there were fruit flavored or tobacco-infused mixed drinks, and unidentifiable liquored beverages – spirits were organic, small-batch, and even sold as medicine.

While often being categorized as “artisan” or “new age” these classic liquors can be hard to find, and quite expensive today.

Vodka in America dates way back to the Wild West, where it was considered a novelty until the 1950s. Offering a stiff drink to a guest or suitor, was akin to breaking bread.

After the prohibition era, drinks like the Moscow Mule and the Bloody Mary popularized vodka as a root liquor around the country.

, The Making of An Old West Vodka

All-Natural Ingredients and Organic Distillation

We sat down with the owner of an Old Western vodka brand to learn more about the beverage’s iconic roots.

Bearing a simple recipe, with natural ingredients, and a basic yet punctual flavor – Hell’s Half Acre 1885 Vodka gives us an inside peek at the underground vodka industry.

Deep Roots

HHA 1885 was developed “accidentally” after an advisor of the brand owner spent hours in Liquor Stores searching for a real vodka, to no avail. He began observing liquor store customers and developed a keen interest in understanding their purchasing habits. He noticed that they would enter the store, and select their preferred vodka brand without much effort or thought.

They also seemed quite expectant, yet dissatisfied with the options available.

As he took notes, he would inspect the vodkas that were selected most often, and analyze their label, ingredients, & general shelf presence.

Most of the brands consumers picked were Neutral Grain Spirits/ Neutral Spirits. Then, after doing some research he discovered that most of these popular brands were purchasing bulk ethanol, redistilling, and rebranding the vodka to their liking. This results in low quality, high viscosity (heavy bite), generic vodka.

Traditionally, Western vodka is served on the rocks and made in small batches, in an effort to showcase the flavor of the raw liquor. This brand decided to create something equally enjoyable, with better ingredients, in an effort to take us back to our roots.

, The Making of An Old West Vodka

The Distillation Process

Today, it’s hard to find small batch vodka – especially given the amount of technology available to us.

Moving away from tradition into the future of automation forces most companies to sacrifice the quality of the product, yet this particular brand of vodka meets consumers in the middle.

They use USDA certified organic dextrose from a unique source, the cassava root. When the cassava root is crushed and then dried into a powder, it becomes what is called tapioca starch.

After saccharification this organic tapioca starch is combined with naturally occurring enzymes to produce more than double the amount of fermentable sugars than your standard corn, grain, or potato fermented vodka.

A rich harvest of starches creates a smooth, floral scented vodka. The product is then distilled six times utilizing a 21 plate copper column, and an intricate reverse osmosis machine to yield the purest and sweetest taste possible.

A methodical balance of copper reflux columns, stainless steel pots, and water produces one of the smoothest vodkas on the market today.

And contrary to popular belief, vodka was a smooth beverage in the Wild West – as technology did not afford companies the ability to skimp on quality.

The Filtration Process

Furthermore, Hell’s Half Acre 1885 Vodka is filtered through fine charcoal for the smoothest taste possible. In addition to charcoal filtering, they use a freeze filtration system and a micron filter before bottling to remove leftover impurities, creating an even more smooth, clean, and consistent spirit.

, The Making of An Old West Vodka

A Long History

St. Louis, Missouri may be the “gateway to the West” but Fort Worth, Texas is “where the West begins.” Hell’s Half Acre was considered the “red light district” of the Old West, and the area was known for its infamous outlaws, gamblers, and regular gunfights.

As a matter of fact, the rules were made by the winners of gunfights.

To put it simply, it was a harsh time to be alive and only the strong survived. There was no public healthcare, and there were no pensions. No followers, only rebels blazing their own trail.

Consequently, many people had a drinking problem. The liquor served as a smooth escape from this hard lifestyle, and it is from this rebel spirit that Hell’s Half Acre 1885 Vodka was born.

Finding Masculine and Feminine Notes in a Spirit

The pleasant floral notes of this vodka, add a subtle sweetness to complement the crisp taste on the pallet. With just around 40% alcohol to give this vodka its strength, the cassava root (tapioca dextrose) makes it smooth and forgiving.

How Western Vodka Differs

Unlike most vodkas, true Western vodka is exceptionally smooth with a hint of sweetness. It mixes well but can also be “sipped” for its unique & subtle vanilla flavor. The cassava gives the vodka a hint of sweetness, which many described as “subtle vanilla” or “morning dew.”

Those who don’t ordinarily drink vodka, may find solace in traditional Western vodka. Once sold as “table wine,” and again in the early 1900s as “white whisky” – authentic vodka has no taste, no smell.

This appeals to a broader customer base because “white whiskey” can be mixed into any beverage, and many love to drink it on the rocks.

, The Making of An Old West Vodka

Honoring Our Wild West Roots

The Wild West was not for the faint of heart. It may look like fun and games, but your day-to-day activities were a matter of life and death. You only got one shot in life, and everyone knew that.

Sometimes the only difference between the outlaw and the sheriff was that one person was wearing a badge. Yet, the ultimate difference was reflected in who could “draw” faster.

Long cattle drives through Indian country required strong, fearless men and women. Thus, they worked hard and drank harder. They knew that each day could be their last, and every person left behind would likely become a ghost – never to be seen again. After a long day on the trail, they wanted something “strong” but needed something “smooth” – as life was already hard enough.

This vodka was designed with a flavor profile that appeals to everyone, reminding us all about our wild roots. As our culture moves away from challenges of the past, and toward comfort and security, this brand intends to keep the rebel spirit alive in all of us, reminding us of how far we’ve come. “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time, it’s a state of mind.”  ~ Tom Mix

Our Favorite Cocktail Recipe

Here’s one of the most unique drinking experiences out of the West. Merging Latin & American flavors, with a hint of spice – this beverage is timeless.

It’s called, “It’s High Noon” and here’s the recipe:

  • 2 oz. HHA 1885
  • 3/4oz. Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Pom Pomegranate Juice
  • 1 oz. Tobacco Syrup
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