Tahoe Blue Vodka: Good booze travels fast | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Blue Vodka: Good booze travels fast

It's like being on the groundfloor and watching the elevator shoot through the top of the building. It's grape, grain and sugar cane. It's also wheat- and gluten-free. Of the many reasons to drink Tahoe Blue Vodka, perhaps the most important is the taste. Tahoe Blue Vodka has won eight awards in less than two years, taking top honors internationally. Tahoe Blue has been selling well in the Reno/Tahoe area and expanded its sales into Sacramento and the Bay Area, including 60 BevMo stores. "It was shocking how fast it was selling," Co-owner and founder Matt Levitt said. "People have been very accepting." Levitt, of South Lake Tahoe, said the first batch consisted of 90 cases, which initially made him nervous, but the demand kept growing and the batch size was doubled in the first year. He continued to work his full-time job while Blue's business boomed. By the beginning of the second year the demand grew to triple the cases of the doubled batch amount from the first year. Levitt took his first paycheck about two weeks ago, pouring all the profits into the business and giving to the community. In the bottle is a blend of three vodkas as clear as the lake it is named for, and as "Green" as the region it represents. A percentage of its proceeds are donated to preserve The health of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Spirits, Inc. is the parent company and brand owner of Tahoe Blue Vodka headquartered in South Lake Tahoe. In Nevada, Southern Wine & Spirits carries Tahoe Blue Vodka. The vodka is distilled in Mountain View. A cross-country roadtrip after college graduation landed Matt and Melody in Lake Tahoe. With $40 in their pockets, they instantly knew Tahoe was home. As most young couples do, they scrimped, saved and worked hard. That was 2001. They got married in 2004 at Round Hill Pines Beach. The Levitts now have three children and a philanthropic vodka label that is flying off the racks and winning awards hand-over-fist. "We love this community," Matt said. "We are involved with the Education Foundation and the PTA." Matt is the co-owner and founder, Melody is the office manager and their friends and business patrners Chris and Kristen DeMay lead sales efforts in the Reno and North Tahoe region. Tahoe Spirits, the parent company behind Tahoe Blue Vodka, has made donations to the following non profit organizations: St. Theresa's Parish, Nevada Family Physicians, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, Bread & Broth, South Lake Tahoe Canine Association, Live Violence Free, Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation, Christmas Cheer, League to Save Lake Tahoe, Blue Ocean Foundation, Soroptimist International of Tahoe Sierra, Barton Foundation, Between Horses & Humans, Junior Diabetes of Reno, South Lake Tahoe Police Officer's Association, Nevada Diabetes Association, Squaw Valley Institute, Tahoe Parents Nursery School, Tahoe Senior Plaza, ALS, Rotary of Douglas County, Tahoe Safe Alliance, Douglas County Schools, El Dorado County Schools, Reno High School, Shane McConkey Foundation, The Tahoe Fund, The North Tahoe Historical Society and the Boys and Girls Club. To learn more about Tahoe Blue Vodka visit http://tahoebluevodka.com.

New business intro: New vodka hits shelves

Tahoe Blue Vodka, a new product, was recently launched by Tahoe Spirits, a South Tahoe-based small business. It has been on store shelves and in bars since March 1 and has been well-received by Tahoe, Sacramento, Reno, and Bay Area markets, according to a press release from the company. What sets Tahoe Blue Vodka apart from the competition is three key factors: It comes in an elegant package, the business donates a portion of proceeds to help preserve the lake, and the vodka is a blend of three fine and separately distilled vodkas formulated for maximum smoothness. Tahoe Spirits is the sole California distributor of the product, Encore Beverage of Reno handles the Nevada side distribution. Tahoe Blue Vodka is distilled by a small-batch artisan distillery in Mountain View and is currently available in most Tahoe area restaurants, liquor stores, and grocery stores.

South Shore vodka company wins international competition

When Matt Levitt, director of operations for Tahoe Blue Vodka, entered his product in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge this spring, it was David versus multiple Goliaths. The South Shore liquor company, just 1 year old, was competing against behemoths like American Harvest Organic Spirit Vodka — a product from the same company that developed Grey Goose — in the prestigious New York tasting competition. Even becoming a finalist would be a feat. "We sent it off thinking, 'If it's as good as everyone says it is, maybe it will come back with an award,'" Levitt said. Tahoe Blue Vodka not only won an award, it took home top honors in the unflavored vodka contest at what Levitt calls the "most widely recognized" spirits competition in the U.S. The New York City-based Ultimate Beverage Challenge picks journalists and buyers for the judging panels, according to the organization's website. The experts blind taste the products and then score each one on a 100-point scale. The category's highest scorer takes home the Chairman's Trophy — an award Tahoe Blue Vodka can now call its own. "Winning a Chairman's Trophy is huge for a fledgling brand on many fronts. One, the Chairman's Trophy signifies that for this year's competition, that brand showed the best qualities under totally blind and therefore fair and unbiased conditions," Judging Chairman Paul Pacult wrote in an email. Levitt and his business partners began developing Tahoe Blue Vodka in early 2011. He and his wife, Melody, were vacationing with another couple when they started talking about launching a brand that would embody what they loved about Tahoe. Levitt Googled ways to start a private label liquor company and quickly realized that no comprehensive guide existed. So he continued using the Internet to find sources for items like corks, glass and, of course, vodka that he brought together to form the product. The three-blend vodka is now distilled in Mountain View, Calif., and distributed to locations around California and Nevada. The Tahoe Blue brand speaks to the clarity and smoothness of the liquor, according to Levitt. "You ever wake up with a product idea? This was one of the ideas that just came out of the blue," Levitt said. "Everything that we love about Tahoe, we wanted to relate through this brand … The business was never about making the product in South Lake. We're headquartered here, we pay taxes here, we donate money here." While Tahoe Blue Vodka is Levitt's side job — he pays the bills by selling paint — he said he wants to keep expanding the company. He hopes to have Tahoe Blue Vodka on shelves throughout California and Nevada by next year and transition to running the company full-time. "We're one year into it and it's selling really well. It's a lot of work, a lot of door knocking, and it's just a matter of spreading the word," Levitt said. "It is what they do in (the competitor's) case, while this is just kind of a hobby for us. That's what makes the award all the more remarkable."

Steamers Bar & Grill to host battle of bloody marys at Tahoe

A battle of bloody marys returns to the South Shore this Sunday, when Steamers Bar & Grill hosts the 5th annual Tahoe Blue Vodka Bloody Mary Contest. "This is the only Bloody Mary competition in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and we have hand-selected the 12 best bartenders from around the lake," said Mike Peron of organizer FNCTN, in a press release. "From what they've shared with us so far about their recipes, our guests are going to be blown away!" A $500 cash purse is on the line for bartenders. Last year's contest included garnishes including homemade bacon straws, cheeseburger sliders, lobster tails, ghost peppers and more. "If you enjoy drinking a cold Tahoe Blue Vodka beverage in the sunshine with live music and good friends, you're going to love this," Peron said in the release. "Tahoe Blue Vodka is one of the most recognizable brands in the basin and we're proud to be partnered with them again this summer!" The Connor Party will provide music at the event, and a raffle benefiting the League to Save Lake Tahoe will also take place. The event is free and open to all ages, with $10 tastings for attendees 21 and over. Steamers Bar & Grill is located at 2236 Lake Tahoe Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe. Learn more about Tahoe Blue Vodka at http://www.tahoebluevodka.com. More information is available at http://www.facebook.com/fnctnmusic. — Lake Tahoe Action

Triple Crown of Bartending

FNCTN and Tahoe Blue Vodka teamed up to present the Triple Crown of Bartending starting on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. with the fourth annual Bloody Mary competition held at Steamers Bar & Grill. "I'm excited to sample all of the fabulous creations that stem from the stiff competition of very experienced and experimental bartenders," Matt Levitt of Tahoe Blue Vodka said. The Triple Crown of Bartending will include a series of three events designed to test the skills of South Lake Tahoe's top bartenders while raising money to Keep Tahoe Blue. There is a $500 cash purse up for grabs. In addition to live outdoor music from Ike & Martin, guests can taste a variety of custom-made Bloody Mary's with chances to win great prizes from a charity raffle benefitting The League to Save Lake Tahoe. The event is free-of-charge and open to all ages, with $10 tastings of 10 samples for attendees 21 and older. "If you enjoy drinking a cold Tahoe Blue Vodka beverage in the sunshine with live music and good friends, you're going to love this new event series," Mike Peron of FNCTN Productions said. "Tahoe Blue Vodka is one of the most recognizable brands in the Basin and we're proud to be partnered with them again this summer and give back to a great organization." The remaining events in the series include a Style & Flair Competition with live music from Black Star Safari on July 26, as well as Cocktail Concoctions with surprise ingredients and live music from Big Sticky Mess on Aug. 23. There is a $500 purse up for grabs for each event. To sign up for one of the limited bartending spots contact FNCTN via info@FNCTNmusic.com. For the most up to date information on FNCTN events, connect on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat @FNCTN_Music.

Kahle adult softball results, standings

Co-ed division, May 27 Where My Pitch Is At, 13; Red Rocket Vodka, 12 Third Place, 17; Anytime Fitness, 16 Audibles, 14; Tahoe Blue Vodka, 13 Current Standings: Where My Pitch Is At: 3-0 Red Rocket Vodka: 2-1 3rd Place: 2-1 Audibles: 1-2 Tahoe Blue Vodka: 0-2 Anytime Fitness: 0-2  

Spirited competition: Big Blue Cocktail Contest comes to South Lake Tahoe

Start Thanksgiving week with a bang — the first-ever Big Blue Cocktail Contest hits the South Shore on Saturday, Nov. 19, so gather your friends and get out on the town. Ten bartenders, each from a different location, have crafted brand-new, unique cocktails and will compete to claim the title of Tahoe's best vodka cocktail. This competition has only one rule: each drink must be crafted with Tahoe Blue Vodka. Everything else is fair game. With no other restrictions, these one-of-a-kind submissions range in flavors and are hard to find anywhere else. Upon entry, attendees will receive 10 tickets — to be redeemed for drinks — and one voting ticket, given to whomever they think should claim the title and $1,000 prize money. But that's not all — the party also features a live DJ, prize giveaways, food and classic games like corn hole. And that's not the best part — experience the fun for only $20! All who attend get to sample 10 drinks, and also receive a wristband that grants free access to the after-party — an Arden Park Roots concert inside Vinyl at Hard Rock. Enjoy cocktails from 3-7 p.m., and head to the gig straight after — keep the party going all night! Guests are strongly encouraged to dress in blue to keep in theme with the event. The more you get into it, the more fun it will be. Here are the drinks you'll be enjoying throughout the party: Dirty Cowgirl Ace High Saloon & Smokehouse bartender Karin Priou has crafted this cocktail that, in addition to Tahoe Blue Vodka, features strawberry meyer lemonade and ginger ale and is rimmed with a house-made barbecue rub. Lychees Kiss Bartender James Olson created the blend of lychee liqueur, fresh pineapple and lemon juices, ginger beer and Tahoe Blue Vodka for the event. The drink is topped with a pineapple/ginger garnish and is sure to please your taste buds. Pomegranate Shrub Fizz with a Holiday Spiced Air Phillip McElvain, the bartender at Gunbarrel Tavern & Eatery, has made a cocktail that will get you excited for the holiday season. With allspice, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, eggs, vinegar, pomegranate, sugar, lime, soda water, heavy cream and Tahoe Blue Vodka, it's a unique drink you won't find anywhere else. Kipera West Shore Café's cocktail, prepared by bartender Amber Skallerud, is a simple blend of vodka, fresh lime, Serrano chili, pear and agave. Sweet, but with a spicy kick — yum! Blueberry Minted Mule Fire & Ice bartender Daniel Hart has prepared a simple twist on a classic drink. This minted mule features blueberry-infused simple syrup, aromatic bitters and homemade ginger beer, and is topped with a mint, blueberry, lime and candied ginger garnish. Lani Ho'oilo "Heavenly Winter" Brandon Cambron at Kalani's mixed a concoction of Tahoe Blue Vodka, coconut cream and milk, pineapple pisco, muddled pineapple and nutmeg. The drink is complete with a sugar pineapple wheel and lime zest garnish that will transport you to your favorite beach. Tahoe Blue Piranha The Loft's blend of vodka, blueberry pomegranate juice, organic simple syrup and fresh lime was prepared by bartender Lauren McMillin. The drink is fruity and refreshing, perfect for any party. Big Girls Don't Chai Bartender Jacob Craig over at Cold Water Brewery has combined Tahoe Blue Vodka with cinnamon bitters, orange zest, chai tea, caramel, cream and pear-infused simple syrup. Topped with a cinnamon stick and chai-spiced poached pear garnish, the drink truly represents what fall is all about. Hard Rock The host location is supplying two drinks from different venues within the establishment. Bartenders Ken Newbold and Bryan Suechting were still preparing their concoctions at the time of writing this article, so the final two drinks will be surprises! The 21+ event, a collaboration between Lake Tahoe Action and Tahoe Blue Vodka, takes place on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 3-7 p.m. inside the Graceland Banquet Ballroom at Hard Rock. Tickets are available online at bit.ly/bigbluetix, as well as at the door. Learn more on the Big Blue Cocktail Contest Facebook event page — and don't forget to wear blue!

Kahle softball results (June 3-7)

ADULT COED DIVISION June 7 results Opal Knights 21, Lakeside Lighting 4 Anytime Fitness 23, Woody Warriors 9 3rd Place 9, Tahoe Blue Vodka 3 Bye: Where My Pitch Is At June 3 results Where My Pitch Is At 14, Opal Knights 4 Anytime Fitness 16, 3rd Place 8 Tahoe Blue Vodka 17, Lakeside Lighting 8 Bye: Woody Warriors Standings: Where My Pitch Is At 4-0, Anytime Fitness 4-1, 3rd Place 3-1, Tahoe Blue Vodka 2-2, Opal Knights 2-2, Woody Warriors 0-4, Lakeside Lighting 0-5

Steamers Bar & Grill to host battle of bloody marys at Tahoe

A battle of bloody marys returns to the South Shore this Sunday, when Steamers Bar & Grill hosts the 5th annual Tahoe Blue Vodka Bloody Mary Contest. "This is the only Bloody Mary competition in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and we have hand-selected the 12 best bartenders from around the lake," said Mike Peron of organizer FNCTN, in a press release. "From what they've shared with us so far about their recipes, our guests are going to be blown away!" A $500 cash purse is on the line for bartenders. Last year's contest included garnishes including homemade bacon straws, cheeseburger sliders, lobster tails, ghost peppers and more. "If you enjoy drinking a cold Tahoe Blue Vodka beverage in the sunshine with live music and good friends, you're going to love this," Peron said in the release. "Tahoe Blue Vodka is one of the most recognizable brands in the basin and we're proud to be partnered with them again this summer!" The Connor Party will provide music at the event, and a raffle benefiting the League to Save Lake Tahoe will also take place. The event is free and open to all ages, with $10 tastings for attendees 21 and over. Steamers Bar & Grill is located at 2236 Lake Tahoe Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe. Learn more about Tahoe Blue Vodka at http://www.tahoebluevodka.com. More information is available at http://www.facebook.com/fnctnmusic.

Triple Crown of Bartending

FNCTN and Tahoe Blue Vodka teamed up to present the Triple Crown of Bartending starting on June 28 from noon to 4 p.m. with the fourth annual Bloody Mary competition held at Steamers Bar & Grill. "I'm excited to sample all of the fabulous creations that stem from the stiff competition of very experienced and experimental bartenders," Matt Levitt of Tahoe Blue Vodka said. The Triple Crown of Bartending will include a series of three events designed to test the skills of South Lake Tahoe's top bartenders while raising money to Keep Tahoe Blue. There is a $500 cash purse up for grabs. In addition to live outdoor music from Ike & Martin, guests can taste a variety of custom-made Bloody Mary's with chances to win great prizes from a charity raffle benefitting The League to Save Lake Tahoe. The event is free-of-charge and open to all ages, with $10 tastings of 10 samples for attendees 21 and older. "If you enjoy drinking a cold Tahoe Blue Vodka beverage in the sunshine with live music and good friends, you're going to love this new event series," Mike Peron of FNCTN Productions said. "Tahoe Blue Vodka is one of the most recognizable brands in the Basin and we're proud to be partnered with them again this summer and give back to a great organization." The remaining events in the series include a Style & Flair Competition with live music from Black Star Safari on July 26, as well as Cocktail Concoctions with surprise ingredients and live music from Big Sticky Mess on Aug. 23. There is a $500 purse up for grabs for each event. To sign up for one of the limited bartending spots contact FNCTN via info@FNCTNmusic.com. For the most up to date information on FNCTN events, connect on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat @FNCTN_Music.