Billings Man Invents World Famous Pickle Vodka
Pickles are hot right now. There is pickle flavored cotton candy, like this example from Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop:
Pickle flavored ice cream seems to be a popular fad and at least one company is making pickle flavored freeze pops. Van Holten's says their pickle pops are "real Van Holten’s Pickle Brine packaged in portable 2 oz pops." Plus, they have electrolytes and are sugar free.
A New Jersey deli became Insta-famous after posting a picture of their sandwiches featuring large pickles substituting the place of bread or a roll. It makes sense that it was just a matter of time until someone decided to make a pickle flavored booze. And that someone is Billings native, Austin Chesser.
I caught up with 30-year-old Chesser on my radio show today and we talked pickles, vodka and where he plans to take his company next. Austin grew up in Billings, attending elementary school at Arrowhead, middle school at Will James and graduating high school at Billings Senior. Shortly after high school he moved to Colorado, taking a job as a merchandiser for a liquor distributor in the the Denver area.
After moving up to various sales positions in the liquor business, Austin was inspired to create his own flavored vodka. He sold his house and dumped all the proceeds into crafting and selling his first (and so far, only) product, World Famous Pickle Vodka. It was not an overnight success story. He shared with me that he was hit by countless closed doors when attempting to sell his product to bars and liquor stores, recounting stories of traveling two hours to sell one bottle of booze to a bar. Not a very profitable business model.
Eventually, persistence paid off and his product was picked up by a distributer in Denver (ironically, the company he previously worked for as a salesman). Now, sales are exploding and he says people just can't get enough of his World Famous Pickle Vodka. Some drinkers like to shoot it, chilled with a slice of pickle. Like tequila shots, only instead of a lime, you chase it with a slice of dill pickle. Others like using the World Famous Pickle Vodka as a mixer in Bloody Mary's or Caesar's.
So how does it taste? Well, like pickles. I tried some of the 60 proof (30% ABV) beverage straight from the bottle and it's good. Cracking the cork delivers a somewhat powerful dill pickle smell, but the flavor profile is not overwhelmingly pickle. It's certainly got a little more kick than say, a 15% peach schnapps. I've yet to make a cocktail with the liquor, but the World Famous Pickle Vodka website lists a number of tasty sounding recipes, including the High Country Martini, which I intend to make this weekend.
World Famous Pickle Vodka is now available at 30+ locations around Montana, including a number of liquor stores and bars in the Billings area. See where you can find it HERE. The product is currently available in two states (Montana & Colorado). Austin plans to expand into Wisconsin and Idaho before the end of the year and is working on breaking into the Canadian market as well.