Blackland Distillery founder Markus Kypreos, who has built one of the best bar programs in Dallas/Fort Worth, shares the brand’s background and cocktail recipes worthy of serving patriarchs everywhere.
Founded in 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas, by lawyer-turned-chef-turned-distiller Markus Kypreos, Blackland Distillery blends a modern, tech-focused approach with traditional distilling and aging processes to produce clean, vibrant new tastes in its small-batch spirits.
Located just west of downtown Fort Worth in the Foundry District, the distillery produces rye whiskey, bourbon, gin, and vodka “from grain to glass,” partnering with Fort Worth’s TexMalt to source locally grown unique Texas grain as a foundation of its spirits. Blackland Distillery also offers a full-service upscale cocktail bar and tasting room.
Owner-founder and former attorney Markus Kypreos left the law to initially put on a toque. After culinary school, he followed his passion for wine to a master sommelier certification and then got deeply into spirits and eventually started his own distillery and bar in his Texas hometown.
We talked to Kypreos about life and liquor and why drinks you make at home won’t taste like the ones at his bar.
Bonus: Check out Blackland Distillery’s recipes for fabulous Father’s Day drinks — Hemingway gin and tonic, old fashioned, grapefruit punch, and pineapple sour — and the tomato soup in puff pastry that transformed a young Kypreos into a devoted foodie.
Cowboys & Indians: What’s the story behind your distillery’s name, Blackland? Does it allude to the rich-soil region of the Texas Blackland?
Markus Kypreos: Yes, that’s the genesis of the name. It’s one of the seven regions stretching from north of Fort Worth down to San Antonio in Texas. The region got its name because hundreds of years ago wildfires came through and burned the area to black and gray soil. In nature, that fire is a regenerative process. And there’s a parallel in distilling. Charring is how whiskey is aged — the barrel is charred on the inside. Growing up in Fort Worth, I don’t think people know about the blackland prairie. By design the name could be anywhere where there’s good rich soil — so the name is not confined to one certain region or one specific state.
C&I: We’re talking during the pandemic. You transformed your operation to meet the need for ethanol for sanitizer. …
Kypreos: We jumped on that pretty early. We pivoted and are still making that to fulfill orders in response to people and organizations needing hand sanitizer. It was a need we could meet. We’ve donated and sold a lot to try to help out other businesses. Now we are in phases of reopening for bars and restaurants. With the bigger companies like Purel, all their stock was going to FEMA, which left a gap for essential workers and local communities and that’s where local distilleries have been able to step up and help out. Eighty percent of distilleries don’t make their own ethanol. But we make our own. When the world has no ethanol — none for drinking or hand sanitizer or cleaner — if distilleries don’t make it to drink, they can’t make it for hand sanitizers. We completely reconfigured our manufacturing line to make ethanol. It’s different from distilling food-grade. You take base ethanol and then mix in ingredients for hand sanitizer; it’s denatured so it’s not drinkable. We were provided with the directions, and then we worked out logistics, bottling, labeling, distributing. It’s a completely different business.
C&I: As a kid you had tomato soup in puff pastry that turned you on to food. What was the later-life revelation or turning point that made you want to switch from law to liquor?
Kypreos: Law is incredibly stressful. Food was so important to me and was a creative outlet that I was always interested in. I went to culinary school at night, then got interested in wine and was studying for the master sommelier exam. Spirits are also part of that exam. Distillation of spirits was like cooking. I thought about doing it a little differently and saw a business opportunity because there weren’t a ton of craft distilleries.
C&I: Tell us a little more about distilling being like cooking.
Kypreos: Distilling is cooking. You take the grain and cook it. It’s all about flavor. You take it away or infuse it — like a gin with a botanical. Everyone had been approaching distilling like a home brewer. I got into the science of it. For me it was what grains, how they were being cooked, how they were being finished. It was cooking. It wasn’t a hobby. I thought I could do something really different if I approached it right.
C&I: Everything about your product — the lovely apothecarylike bottles and graphics, the tasting room — is sophisticated. When you say you’re not for everyone, do you mean that this is a high-end product? Who is Blackland for?
Kypreos: If you look at our tasting room, we don’t have a lot of college kids in here. Our audience is 30 to 35 and up. It’s a great place to come have a drink before and after dinner.
C&I: You’ve said you have the best bar program in DFW. What should we order if we want to taste the best cocktails we’ve ever tried?
Kypreos: I always say it’s the best bar program not just because the bar functions as marketing for the spirits. If you come in the bar and have the best cocktail you’ve ever had, you’ll relate to the spirits and buy.
We make all our own spirits; we squeeze all our juices daily. We make all the simple syrups, bitters, sherbets. Everything is fresh. And we switch the menu continually. If watermelon is in season, we’ll have some watermelon drinks. Freshness of the produce is imperative. That emphasis comes from my culinary background.
The old fashioned is our No. 1-selling drink. Again, this goes to our philosophy: 100-proof rye, turbinado, orange bitters, and aromatic bitters we make in-house. We’re happy to share our recipes, but it’s hard to make these things at home and have them compare to the level of freshness we’re doing at the bar. Just one example, the pineapple sour: The sherbet takes a day to make. Our second most popular drink is the grapefruit punch. Again, that’s fresh grapefruit juice, and our own handmade sherbet that takes a day to make.
Father’s Day Drinks From Blackland Distillery
Hemingway Gin & Tonic
Directly into a chilled double old fashioned glass, place:
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- ½ ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce green coconut water
- 2 ounces Blackland Gin
- Add ice and top with Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic Water. No garnish.
Into a stirring vessel, add:
- 1 teaspoon 2:1 raw sugar syrup (like Sugar in the Raw)
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 4 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 ounces Blackland Rye
- Fill with ice and stir for 100 seconds.
- Strain into a chilled double old fashioned glass and add fresh ice.
- Garnish with properly expressed lemon and orange peels.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1 ounce fresh grapefruit syrup*
1½ ounces Blackland Vodka
2 ounces water
- Combine into a cocktail glass and stir lightly over ice.
- Garnish with a fresh grapefruit peel.
- *Grapefruit syrup: Equal parts water and grapefruit sugar**
**Grapefruit sugar: Allow grapefruit peel to macerate with sugar for 90 minutes.
2 dashes orange bitters
1 ounce pineapple sherbet*
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
1½ ounces Blackland Bourbon
- Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until combined.
- Strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with 1 sage leaf.
*Pineapple sherbet: Equal parts sugar and fresh pineapple juice. Pineapple must be peeled before juicing. Macerate the peels with sugar for a minimum of 90 minutes, preferably overnight. Remove peels and add the freshly squeezed pineapple juice to sugar mixture.
More about Blackland Distillery
Blackland uses Texas grain, implementing a carbon-filtered process to remove all impurities from the final product. The soft undertones of the local wheat are the centerpiece of this supremely smooth, slightly sweet, clean-finished spirit.
Made from grain to glass using 100-percent Texas-grown wheat, Blackland’s gin is complex and subtle. It balances floral, citrus, and earthy notes resulting from 12 botanicals consisting of juniper, coriander, orris root, grapefruit peel, licorice root, galangal, grains of paradise, orange peel, lemon balm, angelica root, chamomile flower, and lemon peel.
Blackland’s small-batch proprietary young whiskey is a blend of 80 percent Texas yellow corn and 20 percent Texas Triticale. Corn, barley, and a wheat-forward blend provide hints of vanilla and creaminess with the finish of a classic bourbon.
This proprietary young whiskey is a blend of 80 percent Texas-grown rye grain and 20 percent Texas Triticale, bringing out the maximum fullness and body that highlights the natural piquancy of the grain with warm, spicy undertones. Blackland’s rye whiskey embodies a classic rye spirit but with a blend of creaminess and spiciness that creates a unique and modern flavor profile.
Cream of Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry
We hunted down the recipe for the soup that steered a young Markus Kypreos to a culinary career.
Philippe Jeanty, Chef, Bistro Jeanty, Yountville, California
[From The National Culinary Review, May 2011]
Makes 24 servings
10 ounces unsalted California butter, divided
1 pound yellow onions, sliced
12 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
½ cup tomato paste
5 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, quartered
2 quarts California heavy cream
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Salt, to taste
4 pounds puff pastry
2 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
In large stockpot over medium-low heat, melt 8 ounces of butter. Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme. Cover; cook about 5 minutes, or until onions are soft (do not let onions color). Add tomato paste; lightly “toast” to cook out raw flavor. Add tomatoes and 2 cups water, if needed (only if tomatoes are not ripe and juicy).
Simmer over low heat 30 – 40 minutes, or until tomatoes and onions are soft. Purée through food mill. Return soup to stockpot. Add cream, pepper, and remaining butter; season with salt. Bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat; refrigerate until completely cooled. Divide soup among 24 (8-ounce) soup cups or bowls.
Roll out puff pastry ¼-inch thick. Cut into 24 rounds slightly larger than cups. Paint rounds with egg wash; place, egg wash side down, over tops of cups. Press overhanging dough against sides of cups, pulling lightly to make a taut lid (do not let dough touch soup).
For each serving, to order: Lightly paint dough with egg wash without pushing down. Bake in 450-degree oven 10 – 15 minutes, or until dough is puffed and golden-brown. Do not open oven in first several minutes of cooking to prevent dough from falling. Serve immediately.
Consumers can buy Blackland spirits from liquor stores in DFW such as Total Wine & More, Spec’s, and Goody Goody Liquor, or online at Reserve Bar (products ship within Texas only). To find a list of liquor stores for availability, visit blacklandfw.com/contact.