The label for Broken Trail craft distillery’s Holy Ghost vodka is a pale green topographic map. The first time I saw it I wondered: Is this named for Holy Ghost Creek? Some of my besties have a cabin on Holy Ghost Creek, near Terrero, where it pours into the Pecos River, and I’ve spent many a summer evening sipping cocktails and listening to its gentle burbling.
Broken Trail’s co-owner and head distiller, Matt Simonds, says his corn-based vodka is indeed named for the creek, where he likes to go fishing. All of the distillery’s products are named for places in New Mexico where he and his team go hiking, biking and fishing. The Horsethief rum alludes to two different places: a mountain bike trail near the Taos Ski Valley, and a meadow in the Pecos Wilderness.
“A lot of people don’t realize what an amazing place we have,” says Simonds, a native New Mexican. “Everything here, the environment, the people, the culture, the history, I love every part of it.” That’s why he wanted to incorporate a sense of place into the business.
The Holy Ghost vodka is made entirely with New Mexico-grown corn. The Horsethief rum isn’t made with local sugarcane—because duh—but Simonds created a variation called de Pacana that is made by steeping the rum in shelled pecans.
The result is better than you’d think. The pecans add only a faint aftertaste of the nut’s flavor but the steeping serves to mellow and soften the last of the rum’s sharp edges.
The distillery opened in an industrial area of Albuquerque in 2015 (originally it was called Distillery 365, named for a trail in the Sandia Mountains). Last fall, bottles of the rum and vodka started showing up in retail stores, including Susan’s and Liquor Barn here in Santa Fe and Kokoman in Pojoaque. This year the distillery opened a tasting room in the Green Jeans Farmery, a shipping container development not far from the Whole Foods at Carlisle and I-40 (at 3600 Cutler Ave. NE in Albuquerque).
Simonds has a background in chemistry and has long dabbled in home brewing. Years ago he decided to try his hand at home distilling. “I got a little barrel and I put it in my crawl space,” he recalls. “A year later I pulled it out and I got about a shot glass of the best bourbon I’ve ever had.” Evaporation had claimed nearly all of the rest.
But about five years ago, the idea came up again, and he started doing test batches. He makes a bourbon called Tres Pistolas, also with locally-grown corn, but it is still aging in its barrels and won’t be ready until 2017. There’s a gin in the works (named for Taos’ Bull of the Woods meadow), but it’s based on the distillery’s vodka, which has been so popular that there hasn’t been enough for Simonds to play with. And he still needs to tweak the gin recipe. So that may be another year off.
Meanwhile, a bottle of the Holy Ghost vodka or Horsethief rum would be right at home on your bar. Here are some ideas for what to do with them.
At the tasting room they make a custom bloody mary mix, but Simonds is very fond of Bloody Maria, a green-chile-tinged New Mexico-made mix. It’s available in grocery stores, liquor stores and behind the bar at restaurants like Coyote Cantina, Radish & Rye and Dr. Field Goods Kitchen.
- 2 ounces Holy Ghost vodka
- 4 ounces Bloody Maria mix
Pour the vodka and mix into a cocktail shaker with 1 cup ice. Shake and pour into a tall glass with a salted rim.
Pacana Prairie Bomb
At a recent tasting in Santa Fe, the folks from Broken Trail met the folks from Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales (prairieales.com) and had a “Your chocolate got in my peanut butter!” moment. Bomb! is an imperial stout aged on coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans and ancho chiles (look for it on tap at Rowley’s Farmhouse Ales and in Whole Foods stores).
- Heavy 1/2 pint beer
- 1 1/2 ounces de Pacana rum
You remember how to make an Irish car bomb, right? Fill a pint glass about halfway with the stout. Pour the rum into a shot glass and drop the shot glass into the pint glass.
Hot Buttered Pacana
Bartenders at the tasting room came up with this bone-warming drink last winter. Feel free to experiment with the spices. Apple pie or pumpkin pie spice works here, as does the addition of more adventurous flavors like coriander and cardamom.
For the butter mixture:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and spices. Put the mixture in a resealable container and keep refrigerated.
For the drink:
- 1 heaping tablespoon butter mixture
- 1 1/2 ounces Horsethief de Pacana rum
Drop the butter mixture into the bottom of a mug and pour the rum over it. Add 6 ounces hot water.
“There are only so many lemon drops you can make before you go insane,” Simonds says. This unusual, savory cocktail was designed to capture some of the idea of New Mexican food and to bring out the ever-so-slight corn flavor in the vodka. “It’s a little bit out there,” he says, “but I like it.” Chivato was one of Billy the Kid’s nicknames but it also hints at the fresh chives that flavor this martini.
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and chives
- 4 ounces Holy Ghost vodka
- Garlic salt
Put the herbs into the bottom of a pint glass or cocktail shaker and smash them with a muddler or long-handled spoon. Add the vodka and fill with ice. Shake and strain it carefully into a martini glass rimmed with garlic salt.
Where to find Broken Trail Spirits
Kokoman Fine Wines & Liquor
34 Cities of Gold Road, Pojoaque, 455-2219
Susan’s Fine Wine & Spirits
1005 S St. Francis Drive, 984-1582
2885 Cerrillos Road, 471-3960