Food News

Deep Eddy Vodka Keeps Tapping New Flavors While Trying to Keep it Pure

Deep Eddy pool in Austin is the oldest man-made swimming pool in Texas. According to the Friends of Deep Eddy site, in the early 1900s locals flocked to this natural pool where a large boulder in the Colorado River created a natural eddy. Springs from the banks of the river pushed in fresh cool water. In 1915, it was concreted in and by 1920 it was a resort. More than 100 years later, Austinites still use the spring-fed watering hole to cool down. While it's not weird, it's a true Texan landmark.

When co-founder of Deep Eddy Vodka Clayton Christopher was trying to think of a name for his spirit brand in 2010, he wanted something that was truly Texan, and the swimming spot was eternally cool.

This wasn't Christopher's first foray in the drinking business. After high school, he traveled around the world, working short and intense periods to save up money for the next journey, where he'd manage to backpack on about $15 a day. Eventually he was ready to start his own business, but wanted something that was pure and good. Sweet Leaf natural tea was born, developed, and eventually sold to Nestle in 2008.

"My vision for Sweet Leaf was that people in New York City could enjoy a product made with real tea and good ingredients," Christopher says. "We created that, but honestly for that level of mass production and distribution, we had to sell it."

Soon Christopher started chatting with friend Chad Auler, who is the founder of Savvy Vodka, about a vodka tea. Together the two co-found of Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka to challenge the growing segment with what they considered to be a superior product.

"We thought we'd spend two months tasting vodka and tea, we spent six," explains Christopher. "But it was essential that our drink was made with products from Texas and with good ingredients."

The vodka is distilled in a 3,500-square-foot warehouse on Congress Avenue using aquifer water. Even the token pin-up girls are relics of decades-old advertisements for the Deep Eddy pool.

After launching with the Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, then straight vodka, they are now in the flavored vodka business. Before you wince in extreme pain, rest assured there are no plans for cookie-dough vodka.

"It's really important to our company that we only use products that grow in Texas," Christopher says. (Tea, which doesn't grow so well in these parts, is an exception.)

Last year Christopher met a kid named Bo DeWees at a charity event in San Antonio. The cute 10-year old wanted a bike. When he asked his dad for one, he got a beehive instead. His dad told him to sell honey and buy his own bike.

The bee business has gone well for DeWees, particularly after Deep Eddy started using it for their sweet tea vodka. The bottles are only available in San Antonio and are noted with a special label.

Now Deep Eddy has created a new line, Ruby Red Grapefruit, sourced from orchards in south Texas.

"We played with a variety of recipes using different essential oils, some from the skin and pulp to get the perfect flavor," Christopher says.

They can't keep it in stock. They're working on a building a larger distillery, but until then have had to scale back on orders. They seem intent on staying in the game this time. While many labels are slurped up by bigger companies, Deep Eddy's founders take a "this is our baby" approach to their vodka line.

In terms of other flavors, Deep Eddy wants to keep it a Texas thing. There are limits to that, which is probably a blessing. Asked explicitly if there are any candy-based flavors on the horizon, a silence falls across the table; my joke has grown old by now. They're serious about pure ingredients, vodka, and keeping things not weird but Texan, they say. Well, maybe a little weird. Never hurts.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.