Tito's Handmade Vodka
by john heinz
Black gold, yellow roses, big hair… Texas is known for many things, but superpremium vodka certainly isn’t—ain’t?—one of them. Not yet, anyhow. Enterprising entrepreneur Tito Beveridge (yes, that’s his actual name) is looking to add a footnote to the state’s colorful drinking history with the fruit of his considerable labor: Austin’s own Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Crafted and bottled in the state’s first and only licensed distillery, the spirit of Mr. Beveridge’s homegrown operation harkens back to the more geographically relevant Prohibition-era endeavors of yore, when homemade whisky and moonshine flowed freely from Amarillo to Corpus Christi. Framed black-andwhites, in fact, adorn the walls of the distillery, illustrating his commitment to authenticity and a respect for the bootlegging traditions of days gone by. Besides the legality of Tito’s operation, however, there are a few notable methodological differences that warrant mention, as well as some interesting facts about his vodka that you might not expect.
For one, Tito’s Handmade is just that—unlike the high-priced and mass-produced fad vodkas that are ubiquitous these days, it’s microdistilled in small batches in an old-fashioned pot still, a technique that, for the care and labor it requires, tends to be reserved for liquors with a lower output, like expensive cognacs and single-malt Scotches. And unlike its Russian and Polish forebears, Tito’s isn’t made from wheat or even potatoes, but rather all-American yellow corn, resulting in a vodka that’s not only gluten-free, but genuinely unique.
Now despite all this, I have to cop to some pre-sampling cynicism at the outset. My first thought went something like this: Texan corn vodka made in the bootlegging tradition? Pass. But then I noticed the formidable list of accolades that have been thrown Tito’s way. Beveridge’s brew may be concocted in cow country, but it’s won some really outstanding awards, like multiple four-star rankings from The Spirit Journal and a rare unanimous Double Gold Medal at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco, where it beat out 72 more chichi brands like Stoli, Ketel One and Belvedere. My interest thus piqued, I gave it a shot, and my doubts vanished instantly. Tito’s is as smooth as any vodka on the top shelf and far less expensive. And the novel corn fermentation process has a subtle, pleasant effect: The taste is curiously, mildly sweet. Clean. Tito’s is by all means a sipping vodka, best savored ice cold and neat.
So consider me converted. Tito Beveridge has applied homegrown tradition to a modern favorite, with stellar results. Forget the limestone-purified Austin water and innovative use of corn over wheat. The magic ingredient here as far as I’m concerned is sweet, old-fashioned irony: The best vodka on the market might just be purely, proudly Texan. 750ml, $22.50
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.