Tito’s sets its sights on European bars

Texan brand Tito’s is on a mission to replicate its US success in Europe by targeting drinkers with a premium vodka offering.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of the world’s biggest-selling vodkas, with a strong base of drinkers in its home market, the US. Vodka remains the best-selling spirit in the States, accounting for 30% of all spirit volumes in 2023 and generating US$7.2 billion in sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the US.

Now the category leader is aiming to take on the European market, which is dominated by big-sellers such as Smirnoff, Absolut and Grey Goose.

Tito’s is available in European countries such as the UK, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

“Ireland is the best market in Europe for Tito’s in terms of sales,” according to Mattia Cilia, European brand ambassador for Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “Lots of Americans come to Ireland.”

Vodka has also been one of the most buoyant categories within spirits in Great Britain, accounting for nearly a third (29.2%) of all spirits purchased in the on-trade.

Cilia, who also runs a bartending academy in Sicily, said the brand is “growing very fast” in Italy. “We’re working in the best places – in many five-star hotels or Michelin-starred restaurants, you can find a bottle of Tito’s.” He adds: “Greece is another great market, as well as Croatia.”

The brand is also aiming to increase its presence in Eastern Europe, Cilia said.

Across Europe, Cilia is recommending that consumers drink Tito’s with soda water and a slice of lime as a key serve. Cocktails are also an important part of the drinks strategy in Europe, with Cilia citing drinks such as a Bloody Mary and Espresso Martini. “It can be mixed in lots of ways,” he says of the vodka’s versatility.

In the US, Martinis have grown in popularity, now surpassing the vodka-based Moscow Mule for the second spot in CGA’s top 10 cocktails in the final quarter of 2022. In the UK, vodka is the most popular spirit base for cocktails (CGA data), with the Pornstar Martini being the nation’s biggest-seller.

On how consumers are drinking Tito’s across Europe, Cilia said: “One of our best-selling cocktails is a mix of Tito’s with agave syrup, pink grapefruit soda and a rim of salt. In Eastern Europe, they serve it in a Dirty Martini.”

Tito’s is “building the brand slowly” in the on-trade, and is aiming to secure listings in bars as a house pour. “We focus on venues that want to upgrade their vodka,” he says, citing five-star hotels in Italy that tend to be popular with Americans, and “Tex Mex places”.

Cilia is also developing a new project, called Bartender Exchange, which will see the brand work with 10 bars that use Tito’s. The idea behind the project is to experience new cultures and ideas, sharing them with other people working in the hospitality sector. It will be launched in the Italian market next year, but details are being kept under wraps.

Tito’s will also host a masterclass next week in London, delving into the history behind the brand, followed by a tasting and cocktails. To sign up to the masterclass, click here.

The rise of the ready-to-drink market has vast potential to recruit new generations to the vodka category.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers