The first alcoholic beverage ever consumed in Texas. Sotol. The Desert Spoon. Texans have been moonshining the plant for hundreds of years, but the real history goes back long before that. There’s thousands of years of history in its roots.
Long before this state was known as Texas, sotol was a fixture in these lands. Tribes made use of the abundant, resilient plant for ceremonial purposes, and to craft food or weapons. Remote rock shelters in Texas parks depict the importance of sotol to natives, through detailed paintings that they even used sotol to create.
800 years ago, the plant started being fermented into a type of beer, until the spanish came and taught the natives how to distill it into a powerful spirit. More popular spirits emerged and left sotol to be sipped in the shadows, seen as a less desirable drink since the plant grew mostly in the hills.
For the past year, this small group of people has been the driving force behind the sotol movement in the United States. With Desert Door as the only domestic producer, the movement may be small, but you would hardly know that if you live in Austin. The distillery sits right outside of the city in Driftwood, on the eastern edge of sotol country, standing ready to process the load of fresh plants just wild-harvested by the group in Iraan. The sotol plant will be the sole flavor component of the finished booze, with only water and yeast added during the fermentation and distillation processes.
Out of the shadows and into the glass, some 10 days after harvest the plants are in the form of a pour in the tasting room so travelers can discover the alluring nuances of sotol.
Relegated to mountain tribes and desert recluses, sotol has for centuries existed in obscurity, until now. This spirit is expanding beyond the vast rural landscape of Texas and Mexico, and bringing rich stories along with it.
When you drink sotol, first it tells you what it is – which may be earthy, herbaceous, sweet, or even spicy – and then it tells you where it’s from. You get a sense of the land where the plant lived for 12, 15, maybe even 20 years, and that’s what makes it unique. That element of terroir, along with it being a completely natural drink, will make you wonder why you haven’t met before and have you dreaming of your next encounter. You might just not know it yet.
Open Desert Door