When Tradition Meets Modern
● By Jessie Monsivais
There’s nothing quite like locally crafted alcohol. Taking a sip of something you know was crafted right here in the Coastal Bend adds a certain element to your experience that just hits the right spot. We have various breweries and a couple of distilleries, and that number is increasing. The Coastal Bend is adding Aerodrome Distillery to the list. With an overarching aviation theme, that presents mid-century modern design elements with a rustic touch, Aerodrome will feature handcrafted, small-batch vodka, gin, single-barrel bourbon, and rum.
Owner, world-traveler, and Naval Aviator for the past 25 years, Nathan Bitz is the man behind the business. Soon to be retired, he shares how this idea came to fruition: “I would joke when I retired, I’d have a still (short for distillery) somewhere. The question was always, ‘How big?’ My friends gave me the advice to start out as big as I could possibly go from the beginning, because my demand would instantly outpace my supply.”
Located at 401 Aviation Drive in Flour Bluff, Aerodrome Distilling transcends any typical liquor tasting experience. “Past the décor, the design mirrors my distilling philosophy,” says Bitz. “There’s this tension I want to display between tradition and modern. My distilling techniques are similar to pre-prohibition days, but all the equipment is modern, state of the art.”
The distillery will offer tours and tastings, and eventually Bitz hopes to provide week-long distilling courses where patrons can make their own batch of bourbon. Along with the distillery, Aerodrome will be set up as a full bar, offering mixed drinks that patrons can enjoy at the vintage airplane wing bar top. Bitz says his end goal is to be able to make all the classic cocktails with in-house ingredients.
“I’m going to focus on all the classics; the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Boulevardier, McCrory, Daiquiri, Gin and Tonic, and of course my own special margarita – what makes it unique is one thing: simplicity,” he says. “They’ve stood the test of time because they are balanced and straightforward. That is the key to making the best cocktails.”
Patrons can look forward to sipping on house-made vodka and gin, 4-year old Venezuelan rum bottled at Navy strength, a 5-year-old and 14-year-old straight bourbon, and 5-year straight rye.
Aerodrome’s gin highlights global flavor profiles of three Naval fleet concentration areas – areas within the Fleet where the highest amounts of Navy units are. Nathan says he wants to go global and capture the essence of the individual fleets. He shared his experience of walking through the spice markets in Dubai, and hopes to capture moments like that in the bottle. “Gin is like the Wild West, there’s only one law – you have to add juniper. You can tell a great story with gin, and that’s what I intend to do.”
The Third Fleet, located on the West Coast and Hawaii, holds botanical flavor profiles with notes of rosemary, purple sage, and cilantro. The Fifth Fleet, located in the Middle East, will be heavy on spices from that region, and the Seventh Fleet, located in Asia, includes a mix of different spices you’d find in Japan and Korea: shishito pepper, Buddha’s hand, kaffir lime, and cherry blossom.
“The global flavor profile of each one will be very different from the others, and different from what you can find on the shelf. There will be nothing else on the shelf that will be even close,” Bitz says confidently.
From Texas grains, water, and wild yeast in the area, Aerodrome’s bourbon will be full of Texas terroir. “With my bourbon, I want to capture the terroir of Corpus Christi,” says Bitz. “My belief as the distiller is that I should have as little influence on the product as possible. I want the water, the grain, and the barrel to speak.”
Everything Aerodrome offers is single-barrel, cask strength. Each barrel produces different taste profiles and carries an individual flavor from the spirit; there will be no proofing water added at all. “I want a unique and flavorful spirit. I’m focused on quality rather than quantity. I want a small amount of product at very high quality,” Bitz says passionately.
Built to be military friendly, Nathan says, Aerodrome will offer a hefty military discount, along with free tastings to first responders, public servants, and military.
Aerodrome promises to be family-friendly, too, with a huge playset out on the half-acre of land alongside soft grass, picnic tables, and a fire pit. All of these elements combined come together to create a new and unique drinking experience for locals and visitors alike.
401 Aviation Dr. | aerodistilling.com | 831.241.1987