On a shelf of glitzy vodka bottles that look like they were designed specifically for making bad choices at a nightclub, Tito’s stands out. (Or actually, with its humble brown label and lack of whipped cream or cotton candy flavors, it tends to not stand out.)
A multi-billion-dollar “small batch” brand, Tito’s is now the best-selling vodka in the country. Its founder was just added to Forbes’ 400 richest people list (at No. 324, not too shabby). We’re mostly busy trying to get adopted by Tito, but meanwhile, here are some interesting facts about Tito’s you should know.
There is actually a Tito, and his last name will blow your mind.
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The smiling, “I-kinda-wish-he-was-my-uncle” guy behind Tito’s is named Bert “Bertito” Beveridge. Yep. His last name is Beveridge. Ironically — right, Alanis? — his surname isn’t what led him into the drinks business. (Historically the name “Beveridge” was used to describe “a man who made a practice of getting free drinks by entering into bargains which he did not keep.” AKA the smartest guy in the room.)
There were horses and rocks before there was Tito’s.
Tito Beveridge had a variety of pursuits that came before the booze biz. He grew up in San Antonio, played polo, and wanted to train horses professionally. He studied geology and geophysics in college, tried his hand at oil drilling, and dabbled in the mortgage business — all the while distilling vodka for his friends as a hobby. And you thought knitting was going to be lucrative.
Love Tito’s? Thank Dr. Pepper.
The now-megabrand originally began with a homemade 16-gallon pot still that was fashioned out of “two Dr. Pepper kegs and a turkey-frying rig.” Today, the distillery covers about 26 acres.
Tito’s began in a pot still, which is uncommon for vodka.
Vodka tends to be made in column stills, which means putting any starch-containing distillate content (potatoes, corn, old shoes, etc.) on the top of a massive column and flushing it with incredibly hot steam. This rips out the alcohol and leaves all the non-fun stuff behind. But Tito’s began with a pot still, which is squat and more, well, pot-like, and they’re sticking to this more labor-intensive method.
Tito’s is very intentionally made from (all-American) corn.
Vodka can be made from just about anything, and it’s debatable whether you can really taste the difference after so many distillations. But Tito chooses corn for a very specific reason, essentially because he believes corn retains some of its smoothness after distillation (Tito’s distills its corn mash six times). And with vodka, where flavor is relatively absent, most character comes from the body.
Because it’s very intentionally made from corn, Tito’s is gluten-free.
It’s on the bottle, and certified by an angry-sounding (but probably nice) council called the Gluten Intolerance Group, where we assume members take turns punching loaves of bread. We’re not sure if it’s an attempt to jump on the trend bandwagon, but Tito’s chooses corn for its body. The company could add the corn mash back into the mix after distilling for added flavor and unctuousness, but it chooses not to.
Tito hates cats. Just kidding. He just really, really loves dogs.
The Tito’s brand has curated partnerships with dog charities like Emancipet, a non-profit spay/neuter organization, as well as the ASPCA. A page on the company website sells merchandise for charity and pledges itself to be Vodka for Dog People. (In case you’re curious, Tito’s also supports veterans through Operation Homefront.)
A vegetarian and an art student are responsible for the label.
According to Tito, “I was dating this vegetarian girl at the time and she went with me to the printer and insisted I use a recycled paper.” That wasn’t the end of the hipsterism that would guide the Tito’s brand. “I ran into an art student at the University of Texas and said, ‘Hey, if I pay you $25 will you design some labels for me?’” That is some real-time analog crowd-sourcing.
The proof is in the alcohol.
Like Prairie Organic Vodka, Grey Goose, and Belvedere, Tito’s is 80-proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume.
Just like your comparative literature degree, Tito’s was built on ridiculous debt.
To the tune of about $90K. Or 19 credit cards. And it’s worth billions now, with $190 million in sales already and 58 million bottles projected for 2017. Which, in a 52-week year, means more than 1 million bottles of Tito’s being sold per week. Which makes me, and everyone, want an aspirin and some Gatorade right now.