Austin Evans and Richard Patrick became buddies in college at the University of Alabama. After discovering they both wanted to continue in a long line of family-owned businesses, the two hatched a plan to create a unique vodka brand that would reflect everything they loved about Southern culture. In 2010, they fired up their distillery, Mississippi's first legal one, and Cathead Vodka was born. Corn-based, distilled, and filtered six times through charcoal, Cathead is a smooth but whopping 80 proof. It is handmade in small batches using the still that Evans and Patrick transported and put together by hand.
Because the distillery is located in the Mississippi Delta, Cathead is invested in keeping the blues, and all live music, thriving in the Southern states. The brand itself references the nickname for blues musicians: cat heads.
"Austin and I wanted to showcase our state's heritage. But we're not blues specific, we just like that it's our only indigenous form of rock 'n' roll," Patrick says.
On top of promoting live music and the blues, Cathead donates $1 of every 750 mL of vodka sold to foundations that also support live music. That includes the Music Makers Relief Foundation, a nonprofit committed to helping New Orleans musicians recover from Hurricane Katrina. "Support live music" is printed on every label of Cathead.
Despite starting during a recession, Cathead is now sold in seven states and distributed regionally across the South. Patrick says the success of the brand is more than he or Evans anticipated. To expand their name, they are looking to put Cathead in places that support live and local music. "We started this company with one million bucks," Patrick says, "and we invested that predominantly in people."
In April, Cathead rolled out its newest flavor: Cathead Honeysuckle. So far, the honeysuckle flavor has sold extremely well, but Patrick says it will only be a seasonal offering. "We don't want to be a vodka brand that has a million different flavors," he says. "We feel that's insulting to the customer." The honeysuckle acts as a good mixer, but it's smooth enough to drink straight. "I like it on the rocks, with a little twist of orange and a splash of water," Patrick says. The sweetness of the honeysuckle makes it a great pair for anything a little tangy, like citrus. For Patrick's wedding in April, the Cathead crew marked the occasion with their newest creation. "We made a great cocktail with the Honeysuckle vodka, lemon, and basil simple syrup and called it Honeysuckle Lemonade," Patrick says.
Cathead Honeysuckle was recently released in the Charleston market. Over at Cypress, they've created a cocktail with it called the Hummingbird. Served in a chilled martini glass, the Hummingbird pairs Honeysuckle vodka with muddled cucumber and a dash of Prosecco.
Kathy Zimmerman, general manager of Cypress, was excited to start carrying Cathead Honeysuckle because she knew it would be the perfect ingredient for summer cocktails. "We went through an entire bottle, testing it with various things, trying to get an unusual cocktail, which let the honeysuckle flavor come through. We paired it with cucumber because it was light and refreshing and also complemented the subtle honeysuckle," she says. The Hummingbird has become one of their best-selling cocktails since they launched it in June.
• 1½ oz Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka
• Muddled cucumber
• Splash of lime
• 3/4 oz. Agave nectar
1) Shake, strain.
2) Top with prosecco.
3) Serve up in a martini glass.