When master distiller Jerrod Henry puts horchata or jamaica in his moonshine, he isn’t just mixing flavors, he’s mixing culture.

“I switched things around from a traditional kind of Southern thing to more kind of Mexican thing,” said the founder and owner of Rio Grande Distillery, newly relocated to Port Isabel.

“I still have apple pie, peach, strawberry, but I also added horchata, jamaica, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, stuff like that, flavors that people here like in their aquas frescas,” Henry said. “As far as I know I’m the first guy to ever make aguas frescas moonshine. What the hell. Why not?”

Jerrod Henry holds out a rendering on his phone of what the finished storefront will look like Tuesday at the newly relocated Rio Grande Distillery in Port Isabel. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

His credentials are solid: Henry, originally from the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri, took first place in the mescal category of a Master Distiller competition on the Discovery Channel hit show “Moonshiners” in 2019. The episode, which first aired in March 2020, can still be viewed on the Discovery Channel, Discovery Plus and the Travel Channel.

Rio Grande Distillery began selling legal, high-proof corn liquor under the Magic Valley Moonshine label in September 2020 on State Highway 100 in Los Fresnos. Things were going well until the Texas Department of Transportation tore out the intersection a mile west at Four Corners to build a new one, creating major traffic bottlenecks, Henry said.

“It just basically killed our business,” he said. “I started looking for another place … because they were saying it was going to take three months. Then it was six months, then it was nine months, then it was 16 months. So it was like, OK, I’m not staying here.”

The former Sea Life Center at 110 N. Garcia St. on Lighthouse Square in Port Isabel happened to be vacant. The property owner, Scott Friedman, invited Henry to remodel the 2,500-square-foot space as the distillery’s new home. Henry anticipates a Feb. 3 opening.

“It’s better for me than the other place,” he said. “More square footage. I think it’s a better location all the way around. I think it’s a real draw. Mr. Friedman kind of felt the same way.”

On the menu will be straight and flavored moonshine (technically moonshine liqueur) along with gourmet hot dogs, paninis and pulled pork. The new location has a different look — “Victorian-industrial” as Henry puts it, and some nautical features.

“I managed to save a lot of pieces out of the Navy ships they’re cutting up over there in the Port of Brownsville,” he said. “I got the opportunity to get a bunch of stuff off of those and hang it up in there and use it as décor.”

Nautical memorabilia and items from Jerrod Henry’s career as a Master Distiller are displayed Tuesday at the newly relocated Rio Grande Distillery in Port Isabel. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The distillery is also soliciting framed photos of veterans and/or loved ones to hang on the walls.

“We’re trying to honor our veterans, just trying to make a place that’s interesting and of course have moonshine and good food,” Henry said. “I’m trying to get everybody used to coming down here instead of Los Fresnos. I don’t think it’s going to take a whole lot.”

The pandemic has presented its share of challenges, he said. Mason jars have become unobtainable, for instance, so Henry is using wine bottles instead. He had to settle for the flooring he could get rather than the flooring he wanted. When Henry learned he’d have to wait 11 months for windows for the new location, he built them himself.

“It’s hard to get corn sometimes, or barley or different things,” he said. “But we just have to roll it and work with what we’ve got when we can get it. I’m not able to have peach cobbler (moonshine) because I can’t get nectar. Next time we go to the store there might be 50 cases there and I’ll buy it all.”

Henry runs the business with his wife and two sons and one employee who comes in to help. Once the new location opens he’s planning to host an opening party, with other master distillers from the “Moonshiners” on hand to help christen the place.

“We’re happy to bring some of our culture here and kind of blend it together with what we’ve got, from the Ozarks and Appalachia to here,” Henry said. “We just want to welcome everybody to come try us out.”