by Anna Cooke
Earlier this year, THE NEW BARKER partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka to create a social media contest for adopted dogs. The contest post reached more than 15,000 people on THE NEW BARKER Facebook page. The top three dogs with the most votes received the honor of having a cocktail created in their name, using Tito’s Handmade Vodka, of course. In no particular order, the winners are (below, left to right) Taj from Boca Raton (photograph by Tina VaLant); Reggie from Tampa and Aggie from St. Petersburg.
We will share the refreshing drink recipes and more about these dogs in an upcoming blog. For now, a bit about the man behind the Vodka For Dog People.
Twenty years ago, in Austin, a geologist-turned-mortgage-man began a hobby with his trusted white German Shepherd mix, Jo, by his side. Tito Beveridge (his real name) began distilling vodka using hand-crafted stills he made himself. “Jo was the only contact I’d have with another life form in days,” said Tito, as he cooked batches of the product, then bottled and loaded it for distribution. During those early days, Beveridge often slept on a cot he’d set up inside the warehouse, his companion Jo curled up nearby. “She was with me the whole time. I still can’t talk about her without tearing up,” he says.
In 2001, Tito’s Handmade Vodka won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out 71 other vodkas. Even The Dude (aka Jeff Bridges) in the movie The Big Lebowski recommends Tito’s as the best vodka with which to make a White Russian. Tito has done something even more extraordinary than creating his handmade vodka. He launched VodkaForDogPeople.com to help save homeless dogs after noticing the many stray dogs wandering onto his distillery’s property. The distillery is located just outside Austin city limits, where feral dog packs had been a growing problem. Tito’s employees began to adopt or foster them. Today, employees’ dogs can be seen lounging around the marketing office, while the distillery has many dogs who live on the property full-time.
The distillery became an unofficial dog adoption center. Strays would come onto the property, where they were cared for and made available for adoption. Tito’s staff took many of the stray dogs to Emancipet, an Austin-based organization devoted to making spay/neuter and preventative veterinary care affordable and accessible to all pet owners. Once the animals received treatment, Tito began talking to people in the community about adopting the dogs. He has since found homes for more than 60 dogs through the distillery.
Tito’s, the brand, has officially partnered with Emancipet to reach communities outside of Austin, like Hillsborough County’s Vets 4 Pets Charitable Clinic in Tampa. You could say that, using Tito’s Handmade Vodka in your mixed drinks is the right thing to do. Ethical inebriation, as blogger Claire Cudahy calls it. Today, Vodka For Dog People sells leashes, collars, dog bowls, and clothing. All of the profits from the sales go directly to Emancipet.
“Google ‘Successful Failures’ and you’ll find that everybody that you think is a great success in the world has gone through multiple failures.” –Tito Beveridge
Jo, the German Shepherd mix who helped Tito start it all, is buried on the distillery’s property. Few expected Tito to succeed when he first began making his vodka. His successes and subsequent partnerships with Emancipet and other animal-rights organizations have become a way for him to support a community that helped him when he was a struggling entrepreneur. He may just see a bit of himself in the dogs he’s helped along the way. “My loyalty to those who believed in me shows in the consistency of those partnerships 20 years later. I believe you should dance with the one who brought you.”