We’ve been living in Indy since around the first of August and have been settling in quite nicely. It’s been great getting to know people in the LGBTQ community and making some new friends.
Since moving to Indianapolis, a few things have changed. I have taken a step back from the day-to-day operations of the newspaper because I am now a full-time Culinary Arts student. While doing my facility research for which school to attend, I was given a list of several food and drink establishments to visit. The list is a pretty good size and looks as if I have my work cut out for me!
There wasn’t any particular order to follow on my recommended list, but the first place I visited was a quaint place called Hotel Tango Whiskey. We accidentally drove past it because it sits back from the street in the Fletcher Place neighborhood. After our U-turn, I sat with Tasting Room Manager and Event Coordinator Andrea Panico, who gave me some interesting information about the local artisan distillery.
Hotel Tango first opened its doors on Sept. 15, 2014, and recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Its uniqueness comes from several fronts. It is the first small-batch artisan distillery in Indiana and the first combat-disabled veteran-owned distillery in the country. The renovated mid-1890s carriage house once served as a mortuary and stabled the horses that pulled the horse-drawn hearses. Because of its history, Master Distiller and owner Travis Barnes coined the phrase, “There were spirits then and there are spirits now.”
With a production warehouse next door, Hotel Tango offers a comfortable tasting room where you can come in and taste, sip and buy bottles of the six various spirits they have in production. Originally beginning with the distilling of Romeo Rum & Victor Vodka, it wasn’t long before they added Golf Gin, Lima Limoncello, Mike Moonshine and now Whiskey. The unique names of their spirits draw from Travis’ military background as a three-combat-tour Recon Marine.
During our meeting, I became aware that Hotel Tango, the owners and the employees are big allies of the LGBTQ community. Andrea told me a story about an event they were invited to participate in and where they had an opportunity to advocate for the LGBTQ community. The event happened to be the Indy 500 and an invitation by Visit Indy to serve spirits there. Hotel Tango accepted the invitation and later found out it was for Governor Pence’s suite and they were also invited to his home for brunch. After finding out who they were serving and where the brunch was, there was some debate between the employees whether they should attend the breakfast or whether they should back out of the Indy 500 event.
Hotel Tango spoke with the owners and asked if it would be okay if they wore T-shirts displaying the popular “We Serve Everyone” logo. With owner approval, Andrea and crew attended brunch and served Hotel Tango liquors at the Indy 500. I’m sure you can imagine there were some blank stares and open mouths as the crew worked the guests and the room. A few days later, Andrea received a phone call stating the representatives from Gov. Pence’s camp wanted an apology for wearing the offensive shirt. From what I understand, the representatives are still waiting for that apology.
The next room over has three in-production stills; one is a 150-gallon big batch pot still and the other two are 50-gallon batch pots, one of which is solely dedicated to gin. Huh. How about that? Gin. One of my top five liquors has its own dedicated distillation process at this small batch distillery!
Around nine months ago they started distilling whiskey (another liquor on my top five list). It’s still very young and has only been out for four weeks or so. The only time they have it on hand is when they test the batches. It’s only been out about four weeks and it’s already creating a buzz because of its smoky and peaty flavors (pun not REALLY intended). Andrea was tasting-testing a drink called Get Low: whiskey with simple syrup and a cinnamon swizzle stick.
While I watched Andrea stir her cocktail, she told me about a tradition among distilleries that I wasn’t aware of. They have mascots. Usually cats, because the grains used in the distillation process attract rodents. Hotel Tango’s mascot is Fletcher Pickles, a polydactyl cat, meaning he has extra toes. Fletcher is a Pixie bobcat and was born without a tail. He is a cross between a tabby and bobcat and he came from a “cattery up north.” He is a very friendly and lively cat. So lively in fact, he escaped one Saturday night and didn’t return until late Sunday night. He is now under house arrest and monitored closely. There’s an Instagram mugshot of Fletcher that can be found with #whiskeywhiskers on @hoteltangoindy’s Instagram page.
After the tour, we sat down with HTW’s bartender Thomas and he made a couple drinks to sample. Of all the choices, we settled on the Gin Bravo, a nice concoction of gin, muddled blackberry, green tea and simple syrup garnished with a fresh basil leaf and blackberry. Our other cocktail was The Battle of Old Charlie and was made of Limoncello, lemon, simple syrup and angostura bitters. Both were really delicious and completely different. The Gin Bravo was a refreshing tart flavor finished with a slight hint of basil. The Battle of Old Charlie was smooth with a nice balance of lemon and angostura bitters. It’s no wonder they are among the top sellers.
If you are ever searching for a great venue to hold your event, the distillery offers private and semi-private rentals. A private venue gives you certain perks like procuring all of your party needs (including catering).
If you can’t make it into their tasting room, you can find their bottles distributed throughout Indiana and in Cincinnati.
Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery
702 Virginia Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46203