Friday, July 10, 2020 12 mins read
Friday, July 10, 2020 12 mins read
How a restaurateur and a famed Austrian dynasty led to the United States’ first certified sugar free vodka
He holds a degree in hospitality and tourism. He’s worked in casinos. He’s been a restaurateur. His name is Thomas List.
“I cannot see myself doing anything else,” Thomas says smiling.
Thomas has always been pushing forward into new ventures, defining himself as “self-driven, focused on success and a people person.”
Thomas quips, “If you ask my wife, that may be different.”
No part of Mr. Tom’s Spirits, or his restaurant for that matter, would be possible without his wife and co-owner, Renate. And Thomas knows it.
He and Renate hail from Austria. Thomas noted, “Renate comes from the Bauer dynasty in Austria. They are a traditional business and were the original founders of Jägermeister.”
Not only are Renate’s roots soaked with a rich distilling legacy, she was actively learning the craft from her great-uncle Franz.
Together with Renate, Thomas owned and operated a beach-front restaurant in Fort Myers.
Thomas said, “We owned that restaurant for several years before deciding to get back to Renate’s roots and begin distilling our own spirits.”
Thomas and Renate did just that in 2015.
They opened the doors to their very own independent, family owned and operated distillery.
Thomas laughs, saying that the two distillers and brand manager at Mr. Tom’s Spirits aren’t related to him and Renate, “But being a small company, they have become our extended family!”
Reminiscing on all their ventures, Thomas thinks of Mr. Tom’s Spirits and says, “It’s our only passion.”
Florida flavors and a first in American sugar free alcohol
“Being in South Florida,” Thomas explains, “We let our surroundings be our inspiration.”
The oceanic breeze that blows over Fort Myers inspires “a lot of tropical flavors.”
To capture the tastes of The Sunshine State, Thomas says Mr. Tom’s Spirits “strives to use a lot of local ingredients, like our citrus and corn from local farmers.”
But there’s more to Mr. Tom’s and their spirits than the delicious tastes of beachside sunshine.
“All of our products are certified gluten-free,” Thomas points out, “as well as very low in sugar.”
Organic alcohol might be the only distinction you don’t see on a bottle from Mr. Tom’s!
But there’s only one offering from Mr. Tom’s Spirits that can call itself an American first.
The perfect setting to enjoy a cocktail mixed with Mr. Tom’s Certified Sugar Free Vodka.
Thomas exclaims proudly, “We also have the USA’s first certified 100% sugar-free vodka!” Mr. Tom’s Certified Sugar-Free Vodka is made from 100% high-grade, locally grown corn.
Thomas explains, “Our repetitive high distillation runs and our unique charcoal filtrations process” helps make this craft alcohol with no sugar.
Every batch of the pristine craft vodka is distilled through their eight-column still 48 times!
Craft, sugar free alcohol and something for everyone around the table
Thomas calls himself a “pretty classic guy.”
“I tend to go for bourbon and gin.”
Freedom Rings Bourbon packs notes of oak, smoke and delicate corn into every bottle. But it’s the craft bourbon’s underlying kick of rye that makes Freedom Rings an unforgettable new classic.
Mr. Tom’s Spirits’ guilt-free version of another classic favorite, Mr. Tom’s Certified Sugar-Free Gin, has all of the London Dry flavors, with none of the sugar.
Grab a bottle and start mixing and shaking sugar free cocktails!
Thomas’s favorite cocktail? “A gin and tonic with Mr. Tom’s Gin of course!”
But this isn’t just about Thomas’s favorite drinks.
“We for sure have something for everyone.”
For whiskey fans, Mr. Tom’s Spirits distills their White Whiskey. This unaged corn whiskey is populated by brilliantly bright notes of orange and robust hints of tobacco leaf.
Their sweeping collection of craft spirits doesn’t even end there.
Mr. Tom’s Spirits’ line has so much more than just sugar free craft spirits.
“We have a wide range of unique flavors in our product portfolio.”
In addition to the Florida-inspired Coconut Rum and Key Lime Pie Rum, Mr. Tom’s Spirits offers the Americana-influenced Apple Pie Rum. Every glass of Apple Pie Rum drips caramel, honey, cinnamon and apple across your tongue.
Tourists and locals meet for sugar free spirits
“It is challenging to get people to stray away from their go-to brands,” Thomas admits.
But thankfully for Thomas and Mr. Tom’s Spirits, “We had a lot of support, and a customer base, from being in the restaurant industry.”
There’s also year-round tourism to the “City of Palms.”
“When we opened,” Thomas remembers that not only did the restaurant customers show up, but they had “all the tourists coming to visit as well.”
Pair loyal regular customers with year-round sunshine-seeking tourists. That’s a winning combination for any distillery.
Mr. Tom’s Spirits at a celebrity charity golf tournament, ready to pour some sugar free cocktails.
But being a part of a community like that is about more than just distilling great craft spirits.
Thomas reflects on his neighbors saying, “We have a very give and take relationship with our community.”
He’s almost created a small ecosystem with the local farmers. The corn they’ve sourced doesn’t go to waste once it’s been spent on making their craft whiskies and vodka.
“We donate the discarded parts of our corn mashes to a local pig farm so they can use it as feed,” he explains.
“We also work with various local organizations on events and donations throughout the year,” Thomas says with a sense of pride.
Thomas toasts the Fort Myers community, “A lot of our success is credited to them and their continuous support.”
The art of distilling innovation
Thomas pauses to reflect on what he’d like the legacy of Mr. Tom’s Spirits to be.
“We would like to put a stamp on the map,” he says, “for all people who love good handcrafted spirits and support local businesses.”
He speaks passionately about the importance of independent distilleries, saying, “Independent distilleries are a key element in keeping the liquor industry innovative.”
“Without smaller craft distilleries, everything would become mass produced and the same.”
But it can be difficult for an independent distillery to break out, Thomas admits. “It takes smaller brands a little bit longer to get fully established in the market.”
“Our biggest challenge is the distribution process. Being a smaller brand, it is hard to get new accounts to take a chance on us.”
But nonetheless, Thomas has three pillars of advice for all those who want to try their hand at becoming the next great independent distillery.
“Have a lot of patience, do research and ask questions.”
He adds one more.
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!”
Thomas’s education and experience could set Mr. Tom’s Spirits apart from other distilleries.
Renate and Thomas List, the team behind Mr. Tom’s Spirits, and their sugar free spirits.
So could Renate’s storied family history.
But for Thomas, it’s something else.
“We are always coming up with new flavor combinations,” he reveals, “and that really sets us apart from other distilleries.”
“Distilling is an art form that wouldn’t be as unique without independent distilleries coming up with new things!”
When people experience one of those new intricate creations for the first time, that’s the most rewarding thing for Thomas.
“It never gets old!”