hotel tango whiskey next to stalks of rye

Hotel Tango: Your Expert Guide

Originating from a veteran’s hobby, Hotel Tango is a liquor brand that has recently earned acclaim for its affordable price and quality taste. The Hotel Tango liquor line encompasses several spirits, including bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, and even rum. Regardless of your palette, Hotel Tango has a bottle with your name on it.

Keep reading to learn about the veteran-owned and operated distillery and what went into creating the brand. The following sections will cover everything from their spirits and history to how to enjoy their liquors and what Hotel Tango products pair well with.

Hotel Tango: An Introduction

Hotel Tango is a distillery that got its start creating bourbon and has prided itself on several worthwhile whiskey releases over its decade-long existence. The brand prides itself on being the first disabled veteran-owned distillery and has made the precision and training needed to excel in the Marines a valuable part of their company’s work ethic.

Their collection of bourbons is their biggest selling point and a constant point of pride for the brand, with accolades and awards regularly showering their flagship bourbon. Their bourbons will have a traditional bourbon taste with whiffs of caramel, rye, and corn on the nose. While the bourbons won’t be poured from a gilded decanter, they are considered a quality beverage.

The bottles of Hotel Tango are one of the more interesting quirks of the brand, being labeled and made to recreate the look of MREs (meals ready-to-eat) from the military. The labels all have simple, straightforward lettering and rudimentary designs that sacrifice flare for a distinct impression of authenticity.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Hotel Tango?

The company produces several spirits that differ wildly in alcohol by volume (ABV). Their bourbons all sit at 45% or 90 proof except for the Shmallow release, which sits at 30%. Their American Straight Rye Whiskey is a palpable 50%, the heaviest of their brown liquors.

Hotel Tango has an 80-proof bottle (40% ABV) known only as Vodka Distilled From Grain. Keeping with tradition, the appropriately named Gin Distilled From Grain and Wild-Fermented Rum both have a 45% ABV.

What Is the History of Hotel Tango?

The story starts on April 14, 2002, when Travis Barnes decided to enlist in the Marines after experiencing the attacks of 9/11. The process of boot camp and the Marines transformed Travis, who was notably changed by the routine, efficiency, and precision required from military training. Travis excelled in his career and served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Unfortunately, the life of a soldier is a dangerous one. On his final tour, Travis would be in the proximity of several exploding IEDs, resulting in brain injuries and PTSD. Travis was soon honorably discharged and returned home, searching for a new direction in life.

Before long, he meets his eventual wife and business partner, Hilary. After tying the knot in 2012, the two started creating whiskey in their free time and giving it to friends. It wasn’t long before they saw the potential success of a whiskey distillery, and in 2014, they made the leap to open Hotel Tango.

The name Hotel Tango is a reference to the NATO phonetic alphabet and is a combination of Hilary (hotel) and Travis (tango.)

Where Is Hotel Tango From?

The company has built itself up and flourished in the midwestern city of Indianapolis, where its main distillery sits today. While the frequent awards and praise showered on the company speak to rapidly increasing demand, they still manage all orders in their Indiana distillery.

When Was Hotel Tango Created?

Hotel Tango was created in 2014 by the Barnes family after Travis and Hilary had begun creating whiskey as a hobby. The passion resulted in quality spirits, and after the recommendation of friends and family, Hotel Tango was created. The distillery has grown substantially since its inception, now employing over fifty people at the time of this article.

What Types of Hotel Tango Are There?

There are quite a few spirits to choose from when looking at the different bottles of Hotel Tango available. Let’s look at their releases to better understand what you can get from the veteran-owned brand.

American Straight Rye Whiskey

At 50% ABV, Hotel Tango’s Rye Whiskey is a spicy treat with a surprisingly mild pop and enjoyably smooth sip throughout. The drink has taken awards in the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the 2022 Sip Awards, and the 2021 American Distilling Institute International Spirits Competition.

‘Shmallow Bourbon Whiskey

‘Shmallow is a wonderful bourbon to throw into cocktails or mixed drinks that won’t sneak up on you or turn your stomach with an overly boozy taste. It has an ABV of 30% and one of the most agreeable price tags on their roster, making it a great introduction to their bourbons.

Reserve Bourbon 004

Dark, deep, and complicated, the Reserve Bourbon 004 is a golden-brown bottle of quality bourbon hidden underneath a minimalist label. The drink is great by itself and gives off hints of caramel, brown sugar, and spices while smelling like aged oak wrapped in Italian leather.

Red, White & Bourbon

While some would argue it is their best drink, Red, White & Bourbon is certainly Hotel Tango’s most patriotic. The bourbon comes with a guarantee that a portion of the proceeds will go to the Be The One campaign to benefit suicidal veterans. It has won several awards for its exceptional taste and comes in at 45% ABV.

American Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Simple, delicious, and to the point, American Straight Bourbon Whiskey is exactly as advertised. Do you want a quality bourbon made by the book and intended for clean sips? American Straight Bourbon Whiskey is here to help. The bourbon regularly wins awards for its fantastic flavor and has become one of their more popular products today.

Vodka Distilled From Grain

When an adult beverage comes from the fertile soil of the Midwest, you can expect a heavy fusion of corn in just about every bottle. So when Hotel Tango released its Vodka Distilled From Grain, no one was surprised to see the heavy addition of corn.

Hotel Tango’s product is a welcome mat to a wondrous new world of corn-centric spirits for those who have yet to try their vodka.

Gin Distilled From Grain

While their Gin Distilled From Grain is less widely recognized and celebrated than their other products, it is a quality release worthy of any person’s time. The drink is incredibly refreshing and invigorating, with a sharp, delightful flavor that brings in tastes of juniper, spearmint, and pleasant snaps of citrus throughout.

Wild-Fermented Rum

They may be a thousand miles away from the nearest ocean, but it hasn’t stopped Hotel Tango from making their very own brand of rum. A gentle drink, the rum is tingly and dry, with a touch of sugar to balance the taste. An exotic twist on a familiar classic, it may be the company’s first foray into the spirit, but Wild-Fermented Rum has already won a few awards.

What Ingredients Are in Hotel Tango?

Considering the emphasis on Bourbon in their lineup, most of their products will feature a healthy handful of corn. Like all bourbon, Hotel Tango has to adhere to 51% or more of their fermentation mash being corn, with other grains thrown in to add to the flavor. Most darker liquors from Hotel Tango will use a mixture of corn, barley, rye, or wheat.

For their clearer liquors, more unusual ingredients will be present. For their gin, you can expect a juniper-heavy flavor with a large splash of citrus in every sip. For their vodka, the familiar corn flavor comes forward in an interesting midwestern twist on vodka.

How Much Does Hotel Tango Usually Cost?

The price of a bottle of Hotel Tango will depend on what you get, though they are one of the more consumer-friendly companies when it comes to price. For most products in their regular roster, the price will be anywhere from $30 to $80, depending on what type of spirit you get and how long it has been aged.

For an affordable and easy-to-drink bourbon, the ‘Shmallow is a cheaper bottle of bourbon with a manageable ABV and an easy finish that doesn’t upset the senses.

What Is the Best Way to Enjoy Hotel Tango?

Hotel Tango sits in a great spot for the conservative consumer. It is affordable enough to mix into drinks while being tasty enough to enjoy neat, on the rocks, or with a drop or two of water. For their bourbons, there is no shortage of old fashioned’s, manhattans, and other creative cocktails to enjoy.

The whiskeys are adaptable and can be enjoyed in a shot glass, Glencairn glass, snifter, or even from the bottle if you trust the dental hygiene of your drinking companions. For enthusiasts, each bottle except for ‘Shmallow (a better fit for cocktails) can be enjoyed neat and without additional mixers.

Their drinks pair well with a large dinner of smoked meats, cheeses, and expensive cigars. For their sweeter spirits, enjoy with a sweet dessert or a light, refreshing lunch of salad and salmon.

How to Choose a Good Hotel Tango Spirit

When choosing from Hotel Tango, knowing what kind of liquor you are looking for and what purpose it is meant to serve is essential. ‘Shmallow is a fantastic bourbon with a mild ABV and an excellent potential for mixed drinks, but its sugar-heavy flavor makes it a poor choice for an evening of sipping whiskey.

If you are in the market for a great-tasting whiskey, their Reserve Bourbon 004 is excellent, easy to enjoy, and incredibly complex for a seventy-dollar price tag.

When it comes to their other products, several of them may be different than what you are used to. Their vodka, heavy on the corn, is a delightful twist on a well-known flavor and may surprise the most stalwart critics of vodka. For sweeter liquor, try their rum for a spiced caramel taste with a pleasant kick.

Where Can You Find Hotel Tango?

Hotel Tango is available in select liquor stores and bars, with more bottles popping up in obscure locations daily. While the brand is more challenging to find than Jack Daniels or Jim Beam, Hotel Tango is present in dozens of liquor suppliers along the East Coast and southern United States. Digitally, their products can be purchased through Speakeasy and other online retailers.

Hotel Tango FAQs

While the liquor brand has gotten a bit of renown in recent years, they are still largely unknown to most casual drinkers and enthusiasts alike. Let’s answer a few common questions to clarify confusion around Hotel Tango and the liquors they create.

Where Does the Name Hotel Tango Come From?

Hotel Tango cleverly uses the NATO phonetic alphabet to create a name based on the Barnes family that created it. Hilary is the Hotel, and Travis is the Tango. The company bases its success and quality on the discipline and training that Travis had to undergo while in the Marines, and the name reflects the brand image.

What Is the Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon?

Whiskey is a liquor with many variations and is defined as any alcoholic liquor that employs grains in the fermentation process. What makes bourbon different from whiskey is that of the grains used in the fermentation process, 51% or more has to be corn. Bourbon is also regularly aged in charred oak barrels, which give it its trademark color and taste.

Are Hotel Tango Liquors Worth The Price?

To answer this, you have to judge each bottle on an individual level. While their Reserve Bourbon 004 might be more expensive than the average bottle, it makes up for it with an incredible taste that is worthy of a nice occasion or casual evening with coworkers. Similarly, their ‘Shmallow is very cheap, though it will not beat any top-shelf offerings.

Last Call on Hotel Tango

glass of whiskey on the rocks

The veteran-owned and operated distillery shows no signs of slowing down, which is a genuine treat for bourbon lovers. Hotel Tango is an excellent choice if you want a new brand to expand your cabinet of quality whiskeys. Contrarily, If you long to waft the aroma of a triple-digit liquor into your discerning, upturned nose, there may be better alternatives in other brands.

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