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Tito’s Handmade Vodka Scores Points with Mobile Movie Theater
Saturday, March 25, 2017


No one knew quite what to expect when Tito’s Handmade Vodka cinematransformer rolled into Ketchum the morning the 2017 Sun Valley Film Festival was to start.

Would moviegoers be smashed like sardines watching a movie? Would they get claustrophobic? Would the sound be tinny or canny?

The mobile movie theater rolled in under the cover of darkness setting up outside Rico’s Pizza. Workers set out railings and even a red carpet. And a few movies later the movie theater was the darling of moviegoers.

Its 91-seats sat on an incline so those in the back could see the screen just as well as those in front. And, yes, it had restrooms—restrooms that a few people confessed to getting locked in until they figured out how to bust their way out.

Nothing fancy, mind you. No washcloths like the Limelight Hotel offers. None of that marble in Sun Valley Resort’s restrooms. Instead, they resembled airplane restrooms right down to the foot flush. But they worked.

And the theater provided one more venue for the organizers of the Sun Valley Film Festival to show films.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka has been on board with the Sun Valley Film Festival since its inception six years ago, thanks to the friendship between Tito Beveridge (yup, that’s really his name) and one of the film festival’s board members.

Tito’s first name is actually Bert, but became known as Tito when family members shortened the Bertito moniker his Latin nanny gave him. He supplied a few cases of vodka for the film festival the first year, then added more in the way of sponsorship each succeeding year..

This year Tito’s not only provided the cinetransformer but it put up $10,000 for two teams of filmmakers to finish their films as part of The Film Lab.

And it gave away a couple snowboards as an incentive to get moviegoers to vote for their favorite film.

Supporting the film festival dovetails with Tito’s love of the arts as a musician and playwright.

“Tito wants to support up-and-coming filmmakers who may have been told, ‘You can’t do that,’ or ‘Get a real job,’ ” said Tito’s Northwest territory manager Brendan Byass. “He wants to support those who are 90 percent there—they just can’t get over that one last hurdle.”

That’s because even Tito’s own family tried to dissuade him when he decided to shuck his career in the oil and gas industry to open the first legal distillery in the Lone Star State.

He knew he had something worth pursuing—after all, his friends loved the flavored vodkas he crafted for them as Christmas presents. But the fifth-generation Texan maxed out his credit cards over a three-year-period as he tried to raise money and get permits for the distillery.

During that time he slept and ate next to the copper-plated still as he experimented with various ways to turn gluten-free yellow corn, rather than more commonly used wheat or potatoes, into a vodka that his testers liked better than the others.

“People told him: Give up. You’ll never do it. But finally in 1997 he opened his doors,” said Byass.

By the time Tito opened his doors, he had a winning recipe in hand, having tested his product against popular high-end brands. He even poured his vodka into competitors’ empty bottles to make sure his friends weren’t saying they liked something because they thought it was his.

He distills his mildly sweet vodka exactly six times in old-fashioned stills, taste testing every batch. Some of the undesirable flavors are still present after just five distillations. It loses some of its flavor with seven distillations.

Sales boomed in 2001 after his vodka won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out 71 high-priced vodkas. It since has won plenty more awards and certainly earned brand name recognition at the festivals around the country.

“Tito likes that the Sun Valley Film Festival brings community together and brings people into town,” said Byass. “He likes the fact that it’s small. And he likes the way the community has embraced it.”

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