What initially started as a passionate love for gin is now one of the most revered spirits on the Austin market. Genius Liquids, the brainchild of business graduates and fervent food and spirit lovers Mike Groener and Charles Cheung, is not only changing the mindset of gin naysayers across Texas, but also single-handedly creating buzz for the classic spirit.
Genius Gin was birthed in the “perfect storm of handmade farm-to-table cuisine and cocktail culture” that Austin has seen in the past few years, Groener says. “We’re always concerned about natural and defined flavors in food. Genius was our attempt at making the highest quality, yet detailed gin on the market.”
For the duo, gin symbolized inspiration, innovation and conversation.
The homegrown spirit is so much more than a product of the Austin foodie scene though. For the duo, gin also symbolized inspiration, innovation and conversation. Gin was a sexy and characterful liquid that spoke to them; it had a colorful legacy spanning hundreds of centuries (James Bond is an appreciator of the spirit).
So the men decided to take their love for gin and do something crazy with it: turn it into a tangible product. Two and half years later, the hard-working duo now enjoy seeing the fruits of their labors scattered throughout Austin and San Antonio restaurants and bars. The demand for their gin was immediate, but their meteoric rise wasn’t always an easy ride.
Believe it or not, there is no “Spirit Making for Dummies” guide available, so the twosome used their wits, determination and passion to develop their unique gin from the ground up. It took two years of experimenting with different herbs and refining the
distilling process to perfect the taste they were looking for. Groener and Cheung pride themselves on creating their alcohol base from scratch, when many others often import alcohol and add their flavoring later. Though creating the distinct taste of Genius was a learning process for the team, there were no accidents. There is sort of a mad scientist aspect to their craft, and Groener has even been called the Walter White of gin by his friends.
the twosome used their wits, determination and passion to develop their unique gin from the ground up.
The beauty of Genius Gin is that it converts the “Ugh! I don’t drink gin after a bad episode in college!” individuals and makes them newfound fans of the classic spirit. The most common remark from patrons who try it say that it has a light and natural taste that rolls smoothly down the palate.
Genius Gin Standard Strength is at 45% alcohol; however, if light isn’t your thing, the boys have you covered; they’ve also created a Navy-strength gin that is 12% higher in alcohol.
Before Genius even hit the market, Groener and Cheung did an impressive job of creating buzz around the product. Immediately the gin was picked up by Austin businesses such as Contigo, Jeffrey’s, Midnight Cowboy and Drink.Well and San Antonio hotspots like The Brooklynite and Hotel Valencia. Come this holiday season, Genius Gin can be found in Costco and at Austin-area Alamo Drafthouses.
Groener and Chueng have no time to bask in their epic rise, though; the twosome have plans to take their concoction to Houston and Dallas in the immediate future, as well as Colorado. Groener is particularly excited about Houston: “Being from Houston, I’m excited to see how much it’s actually changed. There are great scenes in both [Dallas and Houston], but I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the creativity in these spots.”
With the growing trend of artisanal, hand-crafted food and beverages in Austin and beyond, Genius Liquids fits in perfectly with DIY spirit culture overtaking the culinary world. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing the spirit’s ornate bottle popping up in bars and restaurants all over the country. Gin is back and it’s here to stay.
This article originally published in The Wander Issue of Citygram Austin Magazine.
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Culture & Lifestyle Columnist
Lauren is a freelance writer and screenwriter from Austin, Texas.
She was born in Central NY during the Reagan administration and as a child enjoyed wearing suits and fantasized about being middle-aged Jewish men, most notably four out of the five Marx Brothers, Rod Serling and Woody Allen.
She co-wrote and co-produced the feature film Loves Her Gun. Her work has appeared in several outlets including The Guardian, and xoJane.
Photography: Chris Perez