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Placitas Thunderbird Bar gives way to new 505 Spirits

505 Spirits’ “real spirits,” Robert Houston and Anna Jones. Courtesy photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The spirit of the award-winning distillery 505 Spirits LLC rests in lovebirds Anna Jones and Robert Houston, husband-and-wife owners of the company.

505 Spirits has been a love story in the making. Houston and Jones met in 1994 and worked together in an art studio in Chicago.

“We had an instant connection and felt really drawn together, but then I moved away,” Jones said.

In their time apart, they had each carried on with their lives but knew their connection was something that doesn’t happen often, Houston said.

He had settled in New Mexico, but they stayed in touch. They decided it was time to meet again: Houston headed up to Chicago and the rest was history.

They later had a daughter and moved back to New Mexico, Jones said.

“I loved New Mexico and just wanted to come back, and I convinced her to do it,” Houston said.

The couple has been working on flavors in their distillery, and their experiences have influenced those flavors, they said.

They are eager to open the doors to 505 Spirits and can’t wait for the community to come together and enjoy each other’s company after these trying times, they said.

The two have been working since January of 2019 to bring a distillery and tasting room to Placitas, Houston said.

“The tasting room is going to be at the site of the original Thunderbird Bar, which is in the historic Placitas building right next to the post office, and it’s been sitting empty for the last 20 years,” he said.

The couple said they anticipate being able to open in July at 664 NM 165, but it depends on how quickly the quarantine passes and they are able to finalize their licenses with the state.

The location has a history as a blues and jazz club, a cafe and, since about 2000, a special-event venue.

Jones and Houston said the property is beautiful and the perfect place to open a tasting room to combine their love of good food, yummy drinks and socializing.

Jones is a formally trained chef and pastry chef, and has worked in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, according to a flyer by 505 Spirits.

They plan to have lots of local flavors, produce and meats from around the area, Jones said.

The two planned on serving not only their own liqueurs made at the distillery, but also other New Mexico beer, wine and spirits. Their tasting room will have a family-friendly and inclusive atmosphere, live music, poetry reading and more, they said.

They will feature four of their award-winning spirits from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, including a Cacao Liqueur, Jones said.

Houston said they feel as though their products are not competing with other local products, but complementing them.

In the distillery, they plan on coming out with a line of products, with four being liqueurs and three of those based on New Mexico ingredients, Houston said.

In New Mexico, the old question of “red or green” will once again be asked at 505 Spirits, as he and Jones have created a red and green sauce liqueur. 505 Spirits has a business plan to “keep it local,” they said.

Their local sourcing includes chiles, prickly pear fruit, wine grapes and meats, and construction work, according to a flyer.

Jones plans to add an educational component to the company with a cooking internship program for culinary students, pastry production and meal prep during non-business hours, according to the flyer. The opening of the tasting room and distillery will create about 14 new jobs, with plans to add four more the following year.

With Jones’s background as a chef, not only will she create tasty food, but she also has a specialty of combining flavors, she said.

“It’s not just sticking red or green chile in something and having those flavors; I have also added herbs and spices to enhance the experience,” Jones said.

Adding the extra ingredients contributed to the taste of the chile and supported its structure, she said.

They use sun-dried Hatch red chiles and local Wagner Farms roasted green chile. Both chiles are mild to having a slight kick, Jones and Houston said.

For more information, email info@505spirits.com, or call Jones at (312) 823-9640 or Houston at (505) 203-1857.

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