Austin's Vodka King, What Hasn't This Man Done?"I decided that I was kinda tired of chasing the almighty buck. I'd rather be broke in Austin."
All the stages of Bert "Tito" Beveridge's adult life have contributed to the success of his handmade vodka, crafted in the first legal distillery in the state of Texas.
First he graduated from the University of Texas, with degrees in geophysics and geology. "That whole broad science background helped tremendously," he says.
Then he went to work in the oil business, part of an exploration crew in the jungles of South America. "People in Houston would tell me, 'Don't call us back, just get it done.' I did a lot of MacGyvering stuff together," he says, referring to the popular action-adventure TV character.
Those MacGyver skills would also come in handy down the road.
After a few years in the jungle, Beveridge was ready for a change. "I decided that I was kinda tired of chasing the almighty buck. I'd rather be broke in Austin," he says. Back in Texas, he first worked as an environmental engineer. "So I dealt with a bunch of bureaucrats, reading federal code, dealing with federal agencies." More skills he'd put to use later, as it turns out. "If you own a distillery, you have something like 237 permits: federal, state, local, county, city."
And the last job he held was as a mortgage broker. "I knew all about credit card companies and how they operate — and I ended up funding this thing on credit cards.
"This hodgepodge of occupations I've had that didn't seem related at all seemed all to come together." And when they did, they made vodka.
Not that it happened overnight, of course. "The first seven, eight, nine years were just brutally hard," says Beveridge. "But I've always loved the country, and every time I got a little discouraged, I'd get a Farm & Ranch magazine and look at that and tell myself, 'Someday I'll have a ranch.'"
And that's what he has today, plus a vodka distillery, wife and three kids, and Austin as his playground.
Beveridge's hard-partying days may be behind him, but he knows his way around the Austin scene. (He is in the liquor business, after all.) "I like places that are friendly, laid-back, where you can just chill out."
Of course he likes places that serve Tito's Handmade Vodka, like Peché and Eddie V's. When he's entertaining out-of-towners, he'll take them to Austin's most famous strip, Sixth Street, which attracts a young crowd. They might end up at Star Bar on West Sixth Street, the stretch west of I-35 that has its own growing scene.
To kick back, he likes Ranch 616. "It's kind of a restaurant and bar. They have a band there, it's a little place. It's got a good clientele, a little rowdy."
And he goes to see music, of course: "Stubb's, the Saxon Pub has great music all the time, Antone's is great, and the Continental Club. For country-western, I like the Broken Spoke."
Music. That's one more thing Beveridge has done. "I grew up playing guitar and I used to write songs and play with friends and stuff."
Though his family and business keep him too busy for much of that anymore, he does have a couple of his songs posted on his website. Accompanying him is Texas' favorite Western swing band, Asleep at the Wheel, minus frontman Ray Benson. "My friend Ray lent me his band," Beveridge says. "We call ourselves 'Asleep at the Still.'"
Check out Tito's Austin.