Tito's Vodka is among the top-selling Vodka brands in the United States, right in line with big international names such as Grey Goose, Belvedere, and Absolut.
While all the aforementioned put their bets on modern bottles, expensive-looking labels, and luxury branding, Tito's is just the opposite and keeps things basic. Of course, Grey Goose and Belvedere are prominent top-shelf products, so they better make that effort.
Tito's, in comparison, is more affordable but by no means the cheapest option on the market. So, what's behind the success of the Vodka from Austin, Texas?
- Type: Grain Vodka
- Base: 100% Corn
- Region: Texas, United States
- Producer: Fifth Generation, Inc.
- ABV/proof: 40% / 80 proof
- Calories per ounce: 65cal
- Bottle sizes: 50ml, 750ml, 1l, 1,75l
- Respective Prices: $2, $16, $22, $30
What grain is Tito's Vodka made from?
That consequently makes it a perfect choice for people suffering from gluten intolerance. Unlike most other grains, corn is naturally gluten-free. And so are water and yeast, the two other elements needed to make Vodka. Therefore, Tito's Handmade Vodka is naturally -and certified- gluten-free.
Tito's Handmade Vodka is available in 4 different sizes: the miniature (50ml), the standard size (750ml), the 1l-bottle, and the magnum size (1.5l). All are priced very competitively (see fact sheet).
On pouring, you can see that the clear spirit forms some legs but not too many. Further, you are immediately greeted by the scent of sweet corn and only a little bit of an alcoholic bite. The taste is smooth enough but with a bit of a burn in the back of your throat.
Overall, the spirit tastes relatively neutral, as Vodka should. It is distilled six times for purity and filtered through charcoal to achieve that neutral taste. However, it's still bold and less smooth compared to other -slightly more expensive- brands like Grey Goose or Belvedere. Consequently, I do not recommend it for neat drinking, but it's a good value option in many Vodka Cocktails.
Also, the handmade part certainly is up for discussion with a sales volume of about 100 Mio liter per year, it is no wonder production is not as "handmade" as it would be for true microdistillers. Some turned away when production volumes increased. -Nonetheless, you get good value for money.
Is Tito's Vodka really handmade?
In the early days of Tito's Vodka, it was produced in a self-made 16-gallon pot still cobbled together by owner Bert Beveridge. For that, according to him, he used two kegs of Dr. Pepper, a turkey-frying rig, photos of prohibition-era stills - and surely a lot of creativity.
He named it Mockingbird Distillery after the Texan state bird for good luck. And he produced, filled, sealed, labeled, and distributed every single bottle for a long while.
Even though those days lie in the past, Tito's Vodka is (allegedly) still produced in old-fashioned pot stills. And that is pretty uncommon for Vodka, as the majority of brands use column stills for their production.
Details on the production process are a well-kept secret. They only reveal that their gluten-free 100% corn mash gets distilled six times. And the method is supposed to be similar to Single Malt Scotch or French cognac.
But based on the large production volumes, experts assume they now use a combination of pot and column stills. The brand never confirmed this, though.
The story behind the brand
Tito's Vodka is a creation of Bert (Bertito) Beveridge. And as with most success stories, it started with some failed businesses.
In the early 1990s, while still working in the mortgage business, Bert began making homemade flavored Vodka for fun and to give to his family and friends. That soon earned Beveridge the nickname "Vodka Guy".
When mortgage rates went up, Beveridge decided to introduce his flavored Vodka to liquor stores in the area and was turned down by all of them. However, not without giving him some advice on how he could try tackling the spirit market instead, which was with a self-distilled, quality product.
Following this advice, Beveridge taught himself how to build stills and distill spirits with books and photos and a lot of try and error. -Remember, it was the mid-90s, so there was no youtube to help him out. Also, he made the decision to use a very popular US produce as a base for his Vodka: corn.
Once Beveridge was satisfied with his product, he tried to find investors. But no one was interested. Not least because, at the time, there was no legally approved distillery in Texas. Determined to get his spirit on the market, Beveridge took his savings, maxed out 19 credit cards, managed to get the permit, built his one-man-distillery, and went into business.
During the first eight years, Bert hand-bottled his Vodka, glued the labels on, and drove around the state to introduce it to bars and liquor stores.
Today, Tito's is the bestselling Vodka in the United States and made Beveridge a billionaire. In 2020, it was the highest-selling distilled spirit by volume, with over 10 million nine-liter cases sold.
Tito's in Cocktails
Tito's is not as smooth as some other brands and has a slightly more detectable harshness. So here are some recommendations for cocktails with Tito's that can handle that edge well:
Moscow Mule is a classic and refreshing Vodka cocktail. The lime juice and ginger beer go well together with the sweet notes of corn and the subtle bite.
The French Martini is an elegant riff on the classic Martini that brings in some fruity notes with the addition of raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice.
Long Island Iced Tea: If done right, a Long Island Ice Tea has nothing to do with the cheap versions you get at student parties with the sole purpose of getting wasted on a budget.
Caipiroska: The Caipiroska is a Vodka-based version of the famous Brazilian Caipirinha cocktail. Compared to the original version, it is a little bolder.
Lawsuits considering the Handmade-tag on the label
Since 2014, multiple lawsuits got filed against Tito's Handmade Vodka, claiming that the handmade tag on the label is giving false information about the nature and production of the product.
It started with Gary Hofmann, who accused Fifth Generation Inc., the company behind the brand, of deliberately lying to their customers about their signature product. He sued them on behalf of all customers for false advertising, among other claims:
There would be nothing handmade about Tito's Vodka under any definition of the term. Commercially manufactured neutral grain spirit, trucked to the facility, would be distilled in a large industrial complex with modern, technologically advanced stills in massive quantities.
In 2015, Trevor Singleton filed a lawsuit against Fifth Generation Inc. with similar allegations.
Considering the tremendous quantities produced each year, the handmade tag certainly seems dubious. But then, what does handmade even mean in the context of Vodka distillation?
Tito Beveridge defended himself and his company and argued that he applies the same method now as he did during the early years. Only, he has more stills now.
Also, a federal agency approved his label, which displays the handmade loud and proud. Therefore the law would back him regarding his product being handmade. However, a judge informed him that federal review does not protect him from claims in any way. Still, so far, all cases got settled outside court.
Tito's is the bestselling Vodka in the United States, and there's a reason. It's good value for money. With USD20 to USD25 for a 750ml bottle, Tito's absolutely is one of the more affordable options.
Tito's is made from corn instead of the more common wheat or rye bases. It gets produced at the first legally approved distillery in Texas. Plus, Tito's uses pot stills instead of the more common column still.
Tito's is a Vodka of good quality, so the chances of a hangover are fairly average. Also, it is a clear spirit, which further reduces the potential for day-after headaches. But then, it also depends on how you mix it. High sugar content in a drink increases the probability of a hangover the next day.