Alibi V.28 No.30 • July 25-31, 2019 

Bar Review

Gold Houses Clever Safe House

Safe House Distilling Co. is raising the bar for craft liqour

The Ghosted Cassidy
The Ghosted Cassidy is clean, sublime and worth a test sip no matter what day or time.
Dan Pennington

We pride ourselves in many things here in the Southwest. In particular, we have a very vibrant and strong craft brewing scene that has pushed us to be one of the better states for locally brewed beer. It was only a matter of time before people would get bored and move forward with new projects, expanding into ventures and experimenting with new taste profiles. Craft beer is easy, with a turnaround time of two weeks. Looking at craft spirits, wherein something like a whiskey is required to age for three years, making the idea of turning it into a business model just shy of terrifying. Thankfully, everyone can skip the whiskey production cycle in favor of craft liquors that have a significantly reduced turnaround time, meaning we’re now in the age of proper craft liquors and the resulting opportunities are going to be exciting.

Safe House Distilling Co. popped up in Downtown without a ton of fanfare or excitement. One day it was there, and the people started coming. Aesthetically, it’s very similar to many craft breweries. A minimalist interior with tables for groups, a bar for singles and couples, a small back patio and space for a food truck to do its thing. It’s a comfortable familiar feeling that you’ll instantly vibe with if the craft brewing scene is your style.

Currently, the only liquor offered here is vodka, though I’m told gin is right around the corner. Additionally, they make their own ginger beer, and if you’re a fan of Moscow mules, you’re going to be in heaven. The vodka is simple and sublime, as it should be. The ginger beer has that spicy tang that gives it the pop your system is craving. My general feeling after drinking it was super-refreshed (especially after walking in this cursed heat) and ready to take on the second half of my day (being food editor means getting to drink for lunch; don’t judge me).

The specialty house cocktails are the real stars here, ranging from $8 to $10 apiece, Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm, you can snag them at $2 off during happy hour. There are a lot of choices to get involved in, most of them bold reimaginings of drinks that make them feel truly worth the investment. For example, the Ghosted Cassidy. Named after Butch Cassidy, this drink encompasses the feeling of being spirited away from your responsibilities to somewhere cool and relaxing, if only for a few minutes. Made with Teller Vodka, a mint-vanilla simple syrup, white chocolate and half-and-half served up in a martini glass; think of a mintier and more elegant White Russian. When I say mintier, I don’t mean biting into a piece of wintergreen gum and having your whole taste system taken offline by an overbearing mint, but more a subtle note to let you know there’s freshness in your future. It’s gentle, and it works. I was informed by the staff that the all ingredients used in Safe House Distilling’s drinks are made in-house, giving them better control over taste profiles and creations.

Another creation I tried was the Candice Rose. Named after infamous bank robber Candice Rose Martinez—the college girl who robbed banks while on her phone, such a millennial move—this drink features Teller Vodka, a house-made hibiscus simple syrup, rose and lime with a mint-rose garnish. The ice in this drink is hand-cut, adding an extra bit of flair and design to the look. Slightly sweet, the hibiscus and rose fuse together to create a floral taste that is gentle and relaxing, truly the energy of the so-called Cellphone Bandit herself is on display in this drink.

Why all the thief names you might ask? Think of it as a tongue-in-cheek joke. Safe House Distilling is located in the same building as the old National Cash Register Company. The idea that all past criminals of yore have drinks based on and named after them inside a place that carried many a cash register that would one day be robbed is exactly the kind of dry, dark humor I love. Additionally, there’s something about vodka that just feels like you’re safe. Maybe it’s just personal experience, but all the cool aunts and uncles in my family were the vodka drinkers, sipping away at translucent drinks that helped them give away nothing about their inner most thoughts, until the drink was finished and they would tell you everything on their mind.

Hungry but don’t feel like walking to another part of Downtown for food? Have no fear, food trucks are here. Partnering with the absolutely amazing Urban Hotdog Company, whose food truck is in operation at their location, with slight menu alterations that work as additions to an already complex and intriguing menu. With an average price of around $6 to $8, you’ll be able to snag some really solid food. A ton of their hot dogs are already on the menu, but they also have savory bites, including Beijing Style wings (six for $10.99), an Italian grilled cheese ($8.99) with mozzarella, goat cheese, pomodoro and fresh basil with a side of chips, or their Sous Vide Pork Belly Wrap ($12.99). The options are pretty varied and give you the opportunity to really explore any taste profile you like while drinking. Don’t forget one of their dessert churros. I’m especially partial to their s’more version ($4.99).

With growth in their future and a solid setup in operation, there’s little reason to think Safe House Distilling Co. will be vanishing from the city anytime soon. We’ll one day look back at their humble start and remember when they were one of this city’s craft liquor pioneers, and to see how much it’s grown since then. Get in on the ground floor, because you don’t want to be the last one of your friends to hit this spot.