SAN ANTONIO – The cactus is the official state plant of Texas and at least one company hopes it might someday be the official state beverage.
Spike Vodka is the only vodka in the world made from cacti, and the prickly process takes place in San Antonio.
From the first pop of the Lone Star liquor, the makers of Spike hope to shake up the vodka market one cactus at a time.
"There's a method to this,” master distiller Rachel Price says as she whacks a cactus with a machete.
Price and her fellow master distiller Nick Spink harvest the cactus fruit themselves.
"I like the greener ones,” Price says. “Once they get brown they get too woody and too thick. It changes the flavor."
Russians make vodka from potatoes because they’re overabundant, kind of like how cacti grow like weeds in Texas.
The fruit is no longer part of our diet but is still edible, despite the job hazards.
"It'll go through the leather,” Price says while pulling cactus spikes from her leather boots.
That’s how they thought up the name Spike.
"Being spiked too many times by the cactus,” Spink says. “They don’t go into the bottle.”
They take the fruit back to the distillery and chop them into much smaller pieces.
"That's what we want,” Spink says while pointing to the neon green fruit. “The outside is like leather. It doesn't do much. It's the inside that's good."
The pieces need to ferment in barrel water and yeast for at least 20 days.
Remember when Spink said the spikes don’t go into the bottle?
"All the points and everything drop to the bottom [of the barrel],” he explains.
The fermented cactus then gets heated and distilled.
"This is pure vodka,” Spink describes the distilled liquid.
It’s so strong, the distillers can only “finger test” it.
"That's good stuff,” Spink says after dipping his finger in the distilled vodka and trying it. “My tongue's numb now."
Afterward, the vodka is diluted with well water and ready to be bottled.
"This is the final step before putting it in the box,” Spink says while capping the bottles.
He spent four years perfecting the recipe.
"A lot of it is like an artist debuting his piece,” Spink describes watching people try the drink for the first time.
He hopes customers are curious if a cactus can spike their shots.
Spike Vodka is being sold in South Texas. More information is available at the company’s website
and Facebook page