When she first launched Pig Liquors twelve years ago, Anet Alaniz wanted to create a boutique — a place with art and fashion — that also carried liquor. A San Antonio native, Anet held a BFA from the San Antonio Art Institute, and she had been working for several years at Blue Star. She had decided she wanted to have her own business.
“I really wanted to have a boutique,” she says, “but I know it’s hard to make a living doing that, so I thought, well, if I sell alcohol, that will help pay the rent, and then I can do my fun stuff. But it just reversed itself. The alcohol took off and the boutique ended up being secondary.”
In retrospect, maybe that’s not surprising. The neighborhood already had boutiques, but it didn’t have a liquor store. So Anet made the best of it. “I didn’t really know anything about the liquor business,” she says, “but I thought ‘surely I can figure this out.’”
Pig Liquors is located in a house on South Presa, between South Alamo and César Chávez. Pig has occasional front porch tastings, like this one being set up by Fort Worth distiller, Silver Star.
WHAT’S ON THE SHELVES
Even though it ended up as a liquor store, Pig can still call itself a boutique. It has a funky personality and a carefully curated collection of liquors that offers plenty of choices and the opportunity for discovery.
The store has three rooms, stuffed to the ceiling with products and art (and pigs, lots of pigs). The main room is primarily liquor, a second room is devoted to wine, and the third room houses beer and mixers.
The store is small, so Anet has to be selective. She says that she picks items based on the two primary markets that she serves.
First, there’s the neighborhood. “The neighborhood is what I cater to — that’s my bread and butter,” Anet says. She stocks items that neighbors buy, and she’ll stock things on request, too, for a neighbor who purchases the item regularly.
Second, there’s the tourist and convention crowd.
“I’m close enough to some major hotels,” Anet explains, “and they’ll do a search and find me. The Pig logo makes them curious, and they come in and look around. That part of my customer base is harder to predict. A lot of times, they want something local, and I keep a lot of local products on the shelf. Sometimes they’ll explore the shelves and find something unusual or hard to get.”
“Bottles like this don’t sell very quickly,” Anet says, holding up a particularly expensive bottle of whiskey, “but eventually somebody comes in and buys it, telling me ‘You know, you can’t find this anywhere.’”
Anet keeps her eye out for interesting items. When she travels, she visits local bars to see what they carry; she tries unusual things suggested by salespeople; and, she admits, she picks things up because she likes how they look. “I’m a sucker for a pretty face,” she says.
Her first location was on South Presa, in a house across the street from the Taco Haven block. Anet thought the location would benefit from Taco Haven traffic, and she loved the idea of transforming a house into a boutique.
That corner of the neighborhood also inspired the name of the store. Out for a walk, she spotted the Pig Stand restaurant, by then closed and standing empty, across from what is now Southtown 101. “I hadn’t picked out a name for the store yet, and I thought, ‘Pig Liquors’ would be hilarious.”
She’s carried out the theme ever since, with a pig logo, pig signage, and a lot of pig puns.
Since her opening in 2010, the store has moved three times. First, into a building further up St. Mary’s (space that is now part of the Maverick restaurant). Then into a house on South Presa, almost directly behind Maverick. And finally, that whole house was picked up and moved one hundred feet or so down the street, to fit itself into the layout of the new Rosario’s restaurant and its parking lot. With the exception of that last move, each relocation was due to the building being sold from under her. (“If you want to sell your building,” Anet says, “bring me in as a tenant.”)
In its current location, the store is a bit hard to find (just a ‘wee’ bit, Anet would say). It’s on a stub of South Presa between Alamo and César Chávez, and it’s on something of an island, surrounded by the Rosario’s construction site. It also lacks major signage. Anet wants to wait until the construction is finished, so she can design a sign that fits the new surroundings.
Anet stocks a good selection of whiskeys — scotches, Kentucky bourbons, even a Japanese single malt.
In the neighborhood, Anet says, the popular scotches are Laphroig, Glenmorange, Lagavulin, and Glenfiddich, while Buchanan’s is big with visitors from Mexico. Other than that, she says “it can be anything, so I try to keep a variety.” And that she does. Her shelves include Johnny Walker Blue, Balvenie, Dewars, Talisker and more.
She also carries a lot of bourbons, such as Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Old Granddad, Wild Turkey 101, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Jack Daniels, and more. Of course, she carries both Devil’s River and Alamo bourbons, since they have distilleries here in town. “I like to tell visitors that they can go to the distillery for a tasting.”
If you’re a drinker of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, you’ll find several varieties, including Black Barrel, Caskmates, and Cold Brew, or you can choose one of the other Irish whiskeys, such as Powers or Slane.
Tequilas and Mezcals
This is Texas, so you’d expect to find some good tequilas and mezcals — or, more generally, ‘agave spirits’ — and you won’t be disappointed.
Both tequila and mezcal are made from agave. Each is a regional variation, with some differences in the process by which they’re made. Mezcals are often produced by cooking the plants in earthen mounds, which lends a smoky flavor to the resulting liquor.
Anet carries about seventy different agave spirits, including some unique items, like a mezcal, Quiereme Mucho, that comes in bottles that have been individually handpainted, and a relatively new item, SOTOL, that is distilled in Marfa.
“Rum has been getting more popular in the last couple of years,” Anet says. For the most part, rums aren’t expensive liquors, although Bacardi makes a higher-end ten-year-old rum, and Anet carries a twelve-year-old Dictador. There are also very high-end, small batch rums like Foursquare, from Barbados. That one, says Anet, “is meant to be sipped with a big block of ice. And savored.”
Gins and Vodkas
It’s summer, and there are a lot of refreshing cocktails made from gin and vodka.
Anet carries all the major names in gin, including Boodles, Plymouth, Bombay (and Bombay Sapphire), Beefeater, and Seagrams. She also carries a few gins that are made in Texas, Spain, and India.
She carries plenty of vodkas, including the major names, like Grey Goose, Ketel One, and Smirnoff. And she carries a locally-distilled vodka, TLC. ‘Robert Tatum designed the logo for TLC,’ Anet says, mentioning a San Antonio muralist and painter.
Wines and Beers
Anet’s collections of wines and beers don’t match the variety of her whiskeys and tequilas. She carries them because she wants to be a ‘one-stop-shop’, where people can get beer, wine, liquor and mixers, and can do it conveniently.
She carries the basic beers that her customers buy regularly — Lone Star, Shiner, Pabst, Dos Equis, Modelo, Corona, Leinenkugels, Bud and Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Guinness, and Stella — and she also stocks seasonal beers and a few quirky choices, like Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA.
Pig Liquor has one room for wine and sparkling wines. With that space limitation, I asked Anet what governs her choices of the wines she includes. “During the summer,” she told me, “I do more ‘everyday’ wines, but during the holiday months, I include things further up on the price scale, because people are buying for gift-giving and entertaining.”
“Personally,” Anet says, “I like bubbles. I like Cavas. I like Prosecco. I like Champagnes and sparkling wines.” So she keeps a selection of those.
As a nearby neighbor, I confess that I typically go into Pig with something very specific in mind. I don’t explore.
Preparing this article made me realize that I’m missing out by that approach, and going forward I plan to spend time looking around and making discoveries. It’s an approach I recommend.
DAYS AND HOURS
Pig Liquors is open Wednesday through Saturday.
Prior to the pandemic, the store was open six days a week, closing only on Sunday. “During the pandemic, I lost my staff,” Anet says, and it’s too difficult to keep a six-day-a-week schedule on her own, particularly since she cares for an adult brother with special needs.
The store is open from noon until 8:00 PM on Wednesday and Thursday and from noon until 9:00 PM on Friday and Saturday.
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Pig Liquors is located in a repurposed house, and it is densely packed with interesting inventory.
A few bottles on the shelves at Pig Liquors.
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
There's a new place in town
Lavaca has a new tapas bar and restaurant, Hola!, from Azuca's Chef Rene Fernandez.
Friday, December 17, 2021
Jim's eggnog recipe
What is Christmas without eggnog? And this is the world's best eggnog recipe, tested by experts in severe winter weather.