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Treaty Oak’s Ghost Hill Restaurant lights a fire

Written by Lori Moffatt.

Treaty oak photo by Lori

If visiting a distillery doesn’t strike you as a family-friendly activity, then let Treaty Oak Distilling Ranch in Dripping Springs smash that preconception.

Check the Treaty Oak website for details about events, hours, and recipes, such as these:

Austin Tea Party

2 oz. Graham’s Texas Tea Vodka

2 oz. Fresh squeezed lemonade

Lemon wheel

Mix well and pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel or lemon peel.

Velvet Hammer

2 oz. Starlite Vodka

1 oz. White crème de cacao

¾ oz. Paula’s Texas Orange or Cointreau

2 oz. cream

Nutmeg for garnish

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and shake vigorously with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini-style glass. Dust with nutmeg.

Tejas Libre

2 oz. Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum

8 oz. Dr Pepper

Angostura bitters

Lime wedge

Combine Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum, Dr. Pepper and dash of bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stir gently. Squeeze lime wedge and drop in glass.

Yes, there’s a distillery here making world-class gin, whiskey, and other spirits; and yes, there’s a brewhouse cranking out three styles of delicious beer. And you can tour the facilities, sample the goods, and geek out to your heart’s content about barrel-aging, hops, and mastering the mash bill. Yet a visit on any give Saturday reveals that the 27-acre ranch makes a great place for families, too.

There is live music here every weekend, and both dancing and running around freely are encouraged. Kids can play beanbags near a fire pit, holler as they whoosh down a slide, and climb one of the many mature oak trees that gleam with lights once the sun sets. Meanwhile, parents can work on two-stepping skills or relax at a picnic table with a cold one.

The ranch’s well-rounded appeal is sealed with the recent opening of its Ghost Hill Restaurant, now open Thursday through Sunday for chef-driven bites like duck confit tacos, bourbon-glazed pork ribs, and brisket banh mi sandwiches.

Chef Chris Andrews photo Treaty OakHead Chef Chris Andrews, who started his culinary career at Austin’s Driskill Hotel, accepted the gig at Treaty Oak after working his magic in the kitchens of the city’s Carillon, Second Bar and Kitchen, and Boiler Nine. “I have a fine-dining background, but I’ve always loved to cook outdoors,” Andrews says. “We use our smoker for a lot of things— briskets, of course—but also onions for sauces, meatballs, and maybe some chicken wings in the future. We’ll change things.”

The ranch’s main grill guy, Lee Fenner, knows fire and how to make it work for him: He even has a degree in ceramic engineering and worked as a potter in a previous life. The bourbon-glazed spare ribs, crispy duck tacos with pickled onions, and the nuanced brisket in the restaurant’s Vietnamese-inspired sandwiches all benefit from a kiss of smoke.

Chef Andrews notes, “I always want to have a balance of fat and acid and umami, even though I don’t like that word much. I like to get hit with a bit of fattiness that coats your tongue, a contrast of texture—something crunchy, soft, or chewy—with acid at the end, usually from citrus, as we juice a lot of lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges around here.”

He nods at the bar, where the ranch’s beverage director, former US Army combat veteran Anthony Gonzales, runs a tight ship. Post-Iraq, a bartending class in Waikiki lit the flames of a new passion for Gonzales, who relocated to Austin in 2016, and eventually joined the team at Treaty Oak.

Current libations on the menu include a magnificent Mai Tai—made with the ranch’s Treaty Oak Rum, house-made orgeat, and freshly squeezed juices—a nod to Gonzales’ time in Waikiki.

From the October 2017 issue.

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