Blending Family and Business to Craft the Perfect Cocktail
It’s not often that a conversation makes you want to have a drink, but a chat with Kim Reese Azar definitely puts you in the mood for a cocktail. But don’t blame her: she’s just doing her job. As Co-owner and Director of Public Relations for Azar Family Brands, Azar’s life is bubbling with Cinco Vodka and Seersucker Gin, the company’s popular—and award-winning — creations. Add a side of Azar’s honest, easy manner and infectious laughter, and it’s impossible not to picture sharing stories over cocktails.
And Azar has quite a story to tell, but first, the cocktails. Distilling was a business she knew nothing about until she met now-husband, Trey Azar. On their first date, she asked what he did for a living. Trey explained that he’d been in the oil and gas business, then said, “I think I’m going to make my own vodka,” explaining what he had in mind: creating a high-quality vodka that didn’t have to be imported.
A vodka drinker, Reese was intrigued. Their relationship grew and so did the plans for Azar Distilling and Cinco Vodka, handmade in San Antonio. As Cinco Vodka was being created, Trey and Kim, whom Trey calls Kimberly, got married. The vodka’s full name, Cinco Five Star Vodka, is a nod to their family of five children, the five “stars” in their blended universe.
Of course, like the vodka, building that blended family didn’t happen overnight. Azar’s path to today’s family and business success wasn’t as smooth as sipping Cinco. Azar left her first husband when her oldest daughter, Sloane, was two and a half. She was three months pregnant with her younger daughter, Grey. “That’s a story that when I tell other women — even men — they’re like ‘What?!?’ They can’t even imagine it.
“My parents were divorced and that was the last thing I ever wanted. All I wanted was a successful family, a big family. I wanted more kids. But I’d been married five years and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I have the same exact marriage my parents had’. And I thought, ‘I’m not going to do that to my children. I can’t.’”
Through marriage counseling, Azar hoped to change things, but it became clear that it wasn’t going to work. “I had to make a tough decision. It was two years until I finally realized I needed to go. Being pregnant almost motivated me more. I thought, ‘I don’t want my girls to be raised like that, in a home where their mom is not respected and honored.’ So I left.”
That sounds shocking, but Azar’s life journey hasn’t been typical, including buying a restaurant right out of college. “It was the cutest little sandwich and ice cream shop in Hondo. When I was living there, I’d go to lunch there every day. That restaurant was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. It was such long hours. My girlfriend was my business partner. Our dads co-signed a loan so we could buy it.”
They ultimately sold the restaurant after about a year of ownership. “I learned so much, including how to cook. I still love to cook. It makes my heart happy.”
Hondo might not seem like the place to jump into the culinary world, but thanks to Azar’s father’s dream of having his family enjoy life in the country, they’d moved to Hondo from San Antonio the summer before she started high school. What was supposed to be a summer home turned into a permanent address when her father sold the family’s San Antonio home. “I don’t think I talked to him for more than a month because I was so mad.”
“But it was the best experience. I hated it at first, but I was so glad that we made that choice. It was a really great way to grow up.”
After the restaurant, Azar’s next career move took her to the cosmetics industry, where she worked her way from make-up artist to a statewide position with Estee Lauder, where she was ultimately promoted to be the youngest account executive in the country. Chanel then came calling. “At the time, it was the pinnacle of the industry. If you reached that position, you’d arrived. I loved it so much.”
While she was still based in San Antonio, she was interested in moving to another market and Chanel gave her the opportunity to interview for a spot in Los Angeles. When she was offered the position, she went out with friends to celebrate. That night, she met the man who would become her first husband. They dated long distance, but after some time, she left Chanel to get engaged and married.
When she realized she needed to end the marriage, her journey brought her back to San Antonio, and back to family. She lived with her mother while she was getting on her feet. After she had Grey, she bought her home in Alamo Heights and moved her life forward as a single mom. Until she met Trey Azar.
The couple has been together for nine years and married for eight. As happy as she is now, Azar doesn’t regret her years as a single mother. “I’m proud of being so independent, how my girls see that. They really gleaned a lot from that. They learned what it’s like to be independent and take care of yourself. I didn’t grow up with that. My mom was a stay at home mom, my dad was a successful businessman and entrepreneur.”
“My mom was strong, but my dad wore the pants and everyone knew it. They divorced when I was a freshman in college. Then her real independence and strength started showing. She went out and started conquering everything she could. I think that’s been good for the girls to see.”
Her mother, Ann Reese, suggested that she pursue a career in real estate, working with her to learn the ropes. Azar got her license while living with her mom, but her training took a different path. “The twin bed I was sleeping in was in her office, so there were days I would just hang out and listen to her on the phone. She was a very successful agent. I learned more from her through osmosis, listening to her, handling different problems for people or negotiating, whatever it was. I never had to work with my mom because I was ready to hit the ground running.”
Her success in real estate is proof that her unorthodox training paid off. A multi-million-dollar producer, Azar’s been a licensed realtor with Phyllis Browning Company for 18 years, where her client-focused service and work ethic earned several honors, including Platinum Top 50 recognition, Phyllis Browning Company’s Platinum Circle award and Rookie of the Year for top sales in her first year.
Looking back, Azar is proud of the perseverance she’s shown. “I literally started over again. My girls have gotten to watch me be financially independent, working hard. They grew up knowing what that meant. I was raised by a strong woman and I’ve raised strong daughters.”
“I feel like your strength comes to the top, especially in difficult times when you need it. So when I look back and people say, ‘How in the world did you have the strength to leave your marriage when you were pregnant and had a 2-and-a-half-year-old?’. I just did what I thought was right. And I didn’t look back. I knew it was the right thing and I wanted to do it for my kids. I didn’t want to repeat history.”
“The best thing I can tell anybody is to follow your dream. I know that sounds cliché, but don’t be afraid. Don’t let fear stand in your way of stepping outside and doing something that really makes you smile or that gives you butterflies. Let that be your motivation.”
That motivation helped Azar Family Brands launch another spirit, crafting Seersucker Southern Style Gin. “We wanted to focus on Southern flavors and make a gin that was user-friendly. So many people want a cocktail, but don’t want to make their own because they’re intimidated. With Seersucker, it’s easy. Pour it over ice, add a mixer, maybe a garnish, and you’re done.”
Seersucker is available in Original, Limeade, Lemonade and the newest flavor, Grapefruit, though another flavor is already on the horizon (and still under wraps). “We reverse-engineered cocktails. That’s what’s in the bottle. It’s the only gin made with real juice. We introduced it 18 months ago and the flavors less than a year ago, but it’s now in 14 states.”
That number continues to grow, something Azar is focused on as they work to build the brand and she looks to the future. “I’d love for this to be an international brand. And perhaps have one or two of our kids working with us.”
As important as the business is, Azar has no problem keeping things in perspective. Losing her mother to cancer in 2016 put things into clearer focus for her. “You start realizing what the important things are in life. Life is really short — another cliché — but it really is true. We need to just soak it up and live each day to the fullest.”
For her, that means a bucket list that includes learning to play the baby grand piano she inherited from her mother and making time to enjoy San Antonio’s red-hot food and cocktail scene, with drinks that include Cinco Vodka and Seersucker Gin, of course.
And spending time with friends, who she credits for helping her weather her journey. “My female friendships have been crucial throughout my life. Along with family, friendships have gotten me through the most difficult times of my life. We’ve been through weddings, marriages, divorces, helping raise each other’s children and now watching our grown children leave the nest. I’m not sure what I would have done without my tribe!”
That’s definitely something to toast over cocktails.
By Dawn Robinette
Photography by Jason Roberts