A clear bottle, a brown paper label, and a copper cap: It is a sight as iconic as the Texas flag and nearly as beloved state-wide. It is Tito’s Vodka. In 2022, the brand that has become a household name across more than just Texas celebrated 25 years of bringing good times and good deeds far beyond Austin’s city limits.
Not the Original ‘Dream’
But the brand that has become a staple in home liquor cabinets and cocktail bars worldwide was hardly an overnight success. Indeed, the brand that jokingly brags about being a “20-year overnight success” was born out of a whole heap of failure.
See, Bert “Tito” Beveridge never planned on being “the vodka guy.” On the contrary, his professional life consisted of working on oil rigs before majoring in geophysics to score a job as an industry geologist. When he was laid off from his first job, he started his own oil business, which went bankrupt shortly after. So he worked for a few years as a seismic data processor in South America before returning to Texas to start another oil company, which also tanked when the oil industry took a significant hit for the second time in his career.
So Beveridge abandoned the oil industry and started selling mortgages instead. He was good with numbers, so it seemed a natural fit. But in the meantime, in an effort to make gifts for friends and family on his meager post-bankruptcy budget, he started buying cases of cheap vodka and infusing jars with ingredients like black cherry and strawberry-raspberry. It was not long until he became known as “the vodka guy.” And that inspired him to take action.
A Transfer of Energy
After all, he enjoyed vodka, was good with numbers, and felt driven to do something that straddled the line between what he loved to do and what he was good at. Making liquor seemed like the perfect fit. So, he got to work inspired by craft microbreweries, fine single malt scotch, French cognac distillation methods, and the process involved in using a copper pot still.
“In his mind, failure and success are simple physics equations,” said Taylor Berry, vice president of brand marketing at Tito’s. “If you use up all your energy on what you’ve failed at, it gets expelled as lost heat. But take that knowledge and energy from your last failure, put it into your next adventure, and there’s nothing lost, just perpetual energy transfer.”
Beveridge transferred that energy, bought a plot of land outside of Austin, built little more than a shack and got to work building a still with little more than photos of old prohibition-era moonshine stills and spare parts, including a turkey frying rig and a 16-gallon Dr Pepper keg.
The Name was Born
But learning to make high-quality corn vodka in an old-fashioned pot still was only half the battle; the other half was getting investors, which proved difficult at best—not even his best friend lent him startup funds—and permits.
See, as of 1995, there had not yet been a legal distillery in the state of Texas; Beveridge was pushing to be the first as he read through legislation and fought for a distilling permit. He succeeded, becoming the first in the state to make vodka legally under the name “Fifth Generation, Inc.” (humorously, he found out soon after from his mother that he is actually a sixth-generation Texan).
He called his vodka “Tito’s” after a nickname given during childhood (his mother called him Ber-Tito, or “little Bert,” which soon became just “Tito”). And so, what some might call his destiny based on a last name like Beveridge, began.
A Staple Across the World
There was still lots of work as the self-taught distiller single-handedly bottled, labeled, distributed, pitched, and sold his vodka for years before hiring help. However, 25 years later, the brand is firmly established as a smooth, sippable, vodka-flavored vodka, not just in Texas but across the world, a once inconceivable accomplishment.
“Tito never thought he’d get his vodka out of Texas,” Berry said. “Out of Austin, even. His goal was to make a good product people liked and earn a living. Never in his wildest dreams did he think we’d be where we are today.”
Tito’s Does Good
But Tito’s does not just taste good; it does good, a fact that has been baked into the business from the start.
In the early days, when Beveridge was using Elmer’s glue to paste labels on bottles by hand, an Austin nonprofit asked if he would donate some vodka for a fundraising event. The answer was a resounding yes, and he showed up to serve and auction off vodka to benefit the cause. It brought Beveridge joy, but his generosity and support got people talking. Not many folks think it is a coincidence that 1997, the year of that first nonprofit event, was also the year Tito’s sold its first case of vodka.
From then on, philanthropy was a part of the business as liquor. And to this day, you can spot the Tito’s flowing at countless charity events across Texas and beyond. In fact, the brand even has a “Joyologist,” Amy Lukken, who leads Love, Tito’s, the brand’s give-back program that supports thousands of nonprofits a year.
In addition to events, the brand also donates 100 percent of net proceeds from retail sales on the web store and the downtown Austin Love, Tito’s store (dog toys, golf accessories, ugly holiday sweaters, and more) to nonprofits.
The brand also celebrated its anniversary by teaming up with Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) to support entrepreneurs with grants to uplift and open doors for their businesses. Small business owners applied, and “We couldn’t be more excited to give their vision a little boost,” Berry said.
Vodka for Dog People
But the good does not stop with supporting humans. After all, Tito’s is “Vodka for dog people.” But the brand does more than sell Titos-branded dog toys; they have rescued over 115 stray dogs that found their way to the distillery, worked with thousands of animal-focused nonprofits, and hosted countless “yappy hours.” Pups are part of the culture at Tito’s, and they are proud of it.
The “Facilitator of Fun”
But there is also a discernible spirit of fun between making exceptional vodka and giving back to the community. “Tito’s is the facilitator of fun, the catalyst to a good time with your favorite people,” Berry said.
That spirit shines brightly through in, among other things, the recently released “Tito’s in a Can*,” a double-walled, refillable can that does not contain a drop of vodka. Instead, it is meant to serve as a reusable vessel and a tongue-in-cheek jest at unpalatable hard seltzers.
Because even after all these years, Tito’s specializes in one thing: award-winning vodka-flavored vodka. “We are who we are and haven’t budged to meet the times or trends,” Berry explained. “Our goal has always been, and will always be, to work alongside our supporters to bring joy, do good, and mix a great cocktail,” Berry said. And what does the next 25 years hold? “To continue distilling the Tito’s our fans know and love.”