Brothers Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand of the Discovery Channel’s show “Deadliest Catch” were at the Holmes Beach Walgreens last week, signing autographs and introducing their latest venture: Time Bandit vodka.
Time Bandit is the name of the commercial boat they launch every October from Kodiak, Alaska, for the king crab season.
The Hillstrands never dreamed they would become television stars when they began a life of crab and salmon fishing in the Bering Sea many years ago.
Thanks to the reality series about the dangers aboard the Time Bandit and other king crab fishing vessels, the brothers and their boat are known to millions of people around the world.
Looking for a way to take advantage of the reality show’s popularity, the brothers had an idea for a vodka named “Time Bandit,” and contacted an old friend, Ken Brand of Sarasota.
Brand was in the liquor distributing and marketing business in Sarasota for many years and took the Hillstrand brothers’ idea to reality.
The brothers visited the Holmes Beach Walgreens June 29 in their Time Bandit land vehicle to sign autographs, meet some local Cortez and Island anglers and pose for pictures. A Walgreens supervisor estimated more than 300 people attended the two-hour autograph session.
“We’ve been really amazed about this,” said Andy Hillstrand. “We had an idea and took it to Ken, and it’s worked out so far. The response has been tremendous.”
Johnathan Hillstrand said they’d like to do some local sport fishing, but there hasn’t been enough time on this trip. They’re due back in Kodiak in early September to prepare for the coming king crab season in October. Next summer, he said, the brothers hope to do some fishing when they come to the area.
The brothers are visiting as many Walgreens as possible that carry Time Bandit vodka before they return to Alaska.
Brand said Time Bandit rum will be introduced within the next 45 days, and Time Bandit products eventually will be distributed nationwide.
Time Bandit Liquors has its headquarters and warehouse in Sarasota.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has rated crab fishing in the Bering Sea as the most dangerous job in the country because it has the highest mortality rate of any occupation, ranking above law enforcement officer or firefighter in number of deaths per 100,000 workers.