Things I love: Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Tito's VodkaProbably three or four years ago, there were tall Bloody Marys in my future, so I was walking through Woodman’s liquor store on a hunt for vodka. If you’re a Wisconsinite and have had the luxury of shopping for liquor at a Woodman’s grocery store, you know the selection can be deliriously overwhelming. It’s an adult beverage paradise. So, I’m scanning the shelves, noting the usual suspects like your Absoluts and Ketel Ones, and skipping over the overpriced, overhyped boutique brands (you know, the stuff that rhymes with “Spray Moose”).

And there on the top shelf was an aesthetically plain bottle with a fairly aesthetically plain label that said…um, Tito’s? Seriously? TITO’S? Yep, Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Produced out of Austin, TX, which made my ancestrally Texan heart get slightly twitterpated. And the 1.75 L bottle was like $22. I remember thinking, “This is either a glorious hidden treasure, or a huge joke of a mistake which I will regret with much regrettableness. I must buy some!”

And I did. And it was good. Oh man, was it good. And now I’m hooked. I admit it, I’m an unrepentant Tito’s snob. It’s ruined me for all other vodkas.

Tito’s is the kind of vodka you could drink straight, if you were inclined to do so. It’s smoooooooth, and with good reason, as it’s micro-distilled in an old-fashioned potstill just like single-malt scotches and high-end French cognacs. Oh, and it’s distilled SIX TIMES. It’s pure as the driven snow. In 2001, it unanimously won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out 71 other higher-priced vodkas.

Tito's Vodka

Tito himself. I'd like to shake this man's hand.

The story of Tito’s is pretty awesome, too. It’s Texas’ only legal distilled spirit, and is the brainchild of Austin’s Tito Beveridge (yeah, that’s his real name…awesome, right?). He started off making flavored vodka for friends in college, only to find out he had zero chance of selling a flavored vodka to liquor stores, as they had it coming out of their ears already. He learned from the liquor store owners that a high-quality plain vodka would be a better investment, specifically one that appealed to women. So, he started making his brand of plain vodka in his potstill and set out to find financing. That was a problem. There were no legal distilleries in Texas at the time, so nobody wanted to back him. So, he put everything on credit cards. Lots of credit cards. When the introductory finance rate on one would expire, he’d transfer that balance to another. He racked up about $88K in credit card debt. Thankfully, Tito was right about Texans rallying behind a home-distilled product, and he sold 1,000 cases that first year. He’s selling enough vodka now (well over 250K cases a year) that the credit cards are nothing but a distant memory.

So, that’s my vodka recommendation. I highly recommend you give it a shot, if you haven’t already. And Tito, I raise my glass to you — you’ve changed my Bloody Marys forever, and I thank you for it.

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