Hotel Tango

Launched in 2014 by a collection of college friends, it’s both Indianapolis’s first artisan distillery and the first service-disabled veteran-owned distillery in the country.

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The barrel room of Hotel Tango.

Photo by Tony Valainis

First things first: Hotel Tango has a new cat. The four-year-old distillery lost its famed original mascot, Fletcher, in early 2018. Yet owners Travis and Hilary Barnes take pains to reinforce that the new cat, Fatty, is just passing through—he still belongs to his owner, who’s currently deployed abroad. (Yes, it’s actually Fatty. “He’s like the Chris Farley of cats,” Travis says.) Long story short, the cat belonged to a combat buddy in Okinawa before checking into the Hotel Tango and making himself at home. “He’s adopted us,” Travis says, smiling. “I’m not sure we adopted him.”

Fatty marks the latest evolution for the Fletcher Place hangout, which marks its fourth birthday on September 15. Launched in 2014 by a collection of college friends, it’s both Indianapolis’s first artisan distillery and the first service-disabled veteran-owned distillery in the country. (Barnes served three combat tours with the Marines in Iraq, and the distillery’s name is the military-alphabet translation for his and Hilary’s initials.)

The tasting room, which occupies a century-old former carriage house, serves spirits and cleverly named cocktails—we recommend the Goes Both Ways, a gin concoction that turns from purple to pink when its lemon juice interacts with butterfly-pea tea—amid pleasingly scattershot surroundings of repurposed wood, exposed brickwork, and an imposing collection of stills. (Today’s sample is called the Aloh-za, a spicy pie that mimics Hawaiian pizza. That sounds like it would be difficult to produce in liquid form, but Hotel Tango got creative with pineapple rum, lime, and a pineapple-bacon skewer.)

On the business side of things, Hotel Tango is expanding fast, shipping its wares to Texas and Florida; they’re also servicing the Navy, Coast Guard, and some Marine Corps bases. Locally, Hotel Tango also now comprises a production facility and events space at The Tinker House and a five-acre farm visible from northbound I-65. That last bit is part realization of a dream hailing from Travis’s northeast Indiana childhood and part shrewd business move: From its own land, Hotel Tango can grow produce for its summer cocktails two exits away from its tasting room. And it can splash its name in conspicuous letters on a barn roof in satisfyingly pastoral Indiana fashion, a signal of its commitment to the state. “The farm shows we’re not faking the funk,” Travis says. “And it ties us to town. We love Indianapolis. We’re not going anywhere.”

702 Virginia Ave., 317-653-1806, hoteltangowhiskey.com

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