Tito’s Handmade Vodka is America’s Original Craft Vodka. In 1995, Bert “Tito” Beveridge obtained the first legal permit to distill in Texas and created Tito’s Handmade Vodka. We batch distill our corn-based vodka using old-fashioned pot stills and the vodka is naturally Gluten-Free. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is distilled and bottled by Fifth Generation Inc. in Austin, Texas on the very same land where the whole venture started.
Tito Beveridge wasn’t always known as “the vodka guy.” Born and raised in San Antonio, Tito went to Vanderbilt for a year before returning to Texas to attend UT (University of Texas at Austin), where he graduated with degrees in geology and geophysics. After college he got into the oil and gas business. He did that in Texas, and then found himself down in Venezuela and Colombia running heli-portable dynamite seismic crews. He came back to Texas, again, and started a drilling company in Houston. Eventually he got “tired of chasing the buck,” and decided to move to Austin.
In Austin, Tito got into ground water geology, and then thought he would give the mortgage business a try. It was around this time, in ’92 or ’93, when he started making flavored vodka as gifts for friends. One night he was at a party and a stranger came up to him and said “Hey you’re the vodka guy,” and he said “No, contraire, I am the mortgage guy. “ But, that really got Tito thinking…
When mortgage rates went up a couple points, he started going to liquor stores to ask the owners and managers if they would buy his flavored vodkas. They all turned him down saying, “No, go look at all the dust on the shoulders of those bottles there!” But then they told Tito that if he could make a vodka that was so smooth you could drink it straight then he might have something.
So, naturally, Tito, who had never distilled anything in his life, asked them how one might do that. They said, “Well I don’t know, you’re the guy who wants to get in the vodka business!”
So Tito set out to learn about how to distill. It was the mid-nineties, and pre-internet, so there really wasn’t any information readily available, and it almost seemed as though there had been a book burning at the library on any subject matter related to spirits and distilling. Eventually, through his research, Tito uncovered a bunch of pictures of old moonshiners and prohibition-era busts. He started building stills based on photos using copper pipe and a simple outdoor fryer for heat, and started cooking. He just kept messing with the still and the recipe until he found a process and a recipe that his friends seemed to like. “I basically just kinda kept working at it and working at it. We bought every vodka that was on the shelf, we put them in little mason jars and tasted all of them and came up with the two best ones. When mine consistently beat those two then I figured that I had my formula right.”
I figured if I could make a vodka so smooth that you could drink it straight, I’d really have something
Once he had “a vodka that was so smooth you could drink it straight,” Tito tried to get some financing, but hit a wall. Investors turned him down again and again, convinced that he would never get his permits, as there had never been a legal distillery in Texas, and they said he would never get a distributor. So, he ended up just taking the money he had saved up while working overseas, and racked up 19 credit cards to the tune of about $88,000. Tito built a one-man distillery, fought to re-write the laws in Texas, setting the precedent for the microdistillery movement, built a production still, and just kinda got himself into business.
Early on, Tito worked day and night in the one-room shack, cooking vodka and catching sleep sporadically. He spent his days hand-bottling vodka, screwing caps on bottles, and putting Elmer's glue on paper labels. He would canvass Austin, meeting with local liquor stores and bars, and taking his vodka around to parties, introducing his brand and building up a cadre of loyal followers. Tito would head home exhausted and exhilarated; then, he would wake up, and do it all over again. “I’d go out and make it and sell it and come back and make some more and you know, I was sleeping next to the still and you know just kind of boot-strapped it up.”
It took the company more than eight years to really find its legs. Today, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of the most successful distilleries out there and remains one of the cleanest spirits available. Tito unknowingly started a revolution, and has stayed true to those upstart roots even today.