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Houston’s first black-owned hemp based vodka distillery prepares for National Vodka Day

Filled with rich family history and community service initiatives

HOUSTON – Highway Vodka is the first black-owned hemp based vodka distillery in Houston and has an amazing family lineage of great entrepreneurs including the famous Lucille B. Smith who many refer to as the first African American businesswoman in Texas. Co-owner Ben Williams has been following in the steps of his grandmother along with his brother Chef Chris Williams. They decided to give Houston something different when it came to vodka and achieved that through their amazing hemp based product.

Houston Life Reporter Joe Sam checks out Highway Vodka
Houston Life Reporter Joe Sam checks out Highway Vodka (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Their vodka is a unique strain of hemp, locally sourced corn, and water from our artesian aquifer round out the grain bill of our mash that took them nearly eight years to perfect. After mashing, it is then transferred to the fermentation stage where it will sit for a period of one to one-and-a-half weeks. During that time, the hemp acts as a super fuel to the yeast, performing the conversion from sugars to alcohol. At the same time, a thick layer of hemp oil forms at the top of the fermenter. Finally, they throw everything in the fermenter into the still!

The use of hemp at The Highway Distillery helps provide a nuanced, balanced, unique spirit with a character unlike any other in the world. By using the plant from the very beginning of their process in the grain bill, the plant helps them throughout the entire process of producing their spirit. The myriad benefits derived from the use of hemp change throughout the process as the form of the plant changes. Meaning, depending on where they are in the process of making their spirit -- be it mashing, fermenting, distilling, or even filtering -- hemp is there doing something unique to create something unique. And most importantly, helping to create a phenomenal, easy drinking spirit unlike any the world has ever seen.

After moving back to Houston, Williams put his business and fiscal strengths to use in the private education sector, serving as Business Development + Financial Director at The Imani School — a private, Christian elementary and middle school in Southwest Houston which his mother, Patricia Williams, founded in 1988. In August 2012, Williams partnered with his brother Chef Chris Williams to open Lucille’s restaurant in a 1923 Mission-style home on a quiet, tree-lined street in the Museum District. The restaurant serves as a tribute to the culinary tradition began by their great-grandmother, Lucille B. Smith, an educator, culinary innovator and successful entrepreneur who has been called “the first African-American businesswoman in Texas”. From there, the brothers helped form the new non-profit Lucille’s 1913. The foundation mimics the ethos of the restaurant, Lucille’s, and its namesake — functioning as a conscious community collective that combines food philanthropy and development to further nourish Houston’s most vulnerable communities. Williams serves as a founding board member of the organization, which has fed more than 60,000 Houstonians in need during COVID-19. Williams has led the company through robust expansion, with his Houston-based distillery now distributing product throughout the state of Texas and forthcoming distribution into Georgia, Louisiana and beyond.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS RECIPE:

-1 1/2 oz. of Highway Vodka

-1/2 oz. of Lime Juice

-1 oz. of Pineapple Juice

-Splash of Red Bull Tropical

To find out more about Highway Vodka and where you can get their product or help with any of their community initiatives, click here!


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