Tina Karras is a multi-talented force to be reckoned with. A singer-songwriter, she has become a thriving entrepreneur and the driving force behind the success of Tina's Vodka. With her roots firmly planted in North Carolina, Tina's extensive experience in the food and beverage industry - specifically in bars and music venues - has given her a unique insight into the world of drinks. Her unwavering dedication to using only 100% organic, non-GMO corn from regenerative agriculture farmers, who focus on maintaining and improving soil health, has firmly established Tina's Vodka as a brand that stands out from the rest. We had to catch up with Tina to learn more about this women-led brand.
Tell us about the backstory to Tina’s Vodka and how it came about.
It’s actually a story that began before I was born. I’m Greek-American and my maternal grandfather and father emigrated to the US and owned restaurants including the Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach. I grew up working in the family restaurant and began bartending while I was in college at UNC-Chapel Hill. I moved to Los Angeles pursuing a songwriting career and supported myself working in the music industry, and bars & restaurants. The music led me to The Roxy Theatre where I performed a few times and then through a chance meeting, ended up getting a job there working in the box office. That job evolved into several positions including management, special events, and then the liquor buyer. That’s really where my spirits career began as I had the opportunity to meet every brand supplier and distributor. Through so many tastings and trainings, I realized there wasn’t an American owned vodka that was also non-GMO, organic, great tasting, at a great price and female owned. Looking back, I realized that every job I had was preparing me to create my vodka and launch my album.
What makes Tina’s Vodka unique and how is it made?
There are many things that make my vodka unique. We use organic, Non-GMO corn grown in the USA. While we know most corn is GMO, we chose to use organic non-GMO corn because it gives the vodka a clean taste and smell and a very subtle sweetness from the organic corn. After we distill it up to 6 times, depending upon what that particular batch of corn needs, we filter it using a proprietary filtration method we came up with that involves organic coconut shells that removes any impurities and gives the vodka a different mouth feel. As a spirits buyer, I knew I would need to do something truly unique to stand out in the vodka category and my vodka is in a class all its own. You can taste and feel the difference, especially the next day since it’s so clean. I’ve had several people tell me they feel great the next day and haven’t gotten a headache from my vodka.
What is your partnership with Kiss the Ground about?
I loved the Kiss the Ground documentary film and was so inspired by it, I reached out to them to see how I could get involved in the regenerative agriculture movement. I’d love to buy farmers their no-til plows and whatever else they need to convert away from pesticide use to regeneration farming with my vodka income. It is a must see and will leave you in an optimistic place about our planet and our future. It’s all about the soil health and going back to the way farming was done before pesticides were so widely used. The healthy soil naturally pulls the CO2 back into the ground where it belongs. I play the trailer for buyers when I’m pitching my vodka and you can see the relief wash over them in those 2 minutes. Included in my partnership, I have passes to the regenerative courses on their website and I’ve gifted them to bartenders, buyers, friends, and co-workers to further spread the good news of regeneration.
How do you think being from North Carolina, has shaped both you and the brand?
I’m so appreciative that I was born and raised in North Carolina and especially as Gen X. When I was a kid, we were always outside enjoying parks and creeks and were almost never inside and that’s where my appreciation for nature began. I got a great education with the Open school program that prepared me for getting accepting to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I had a wonderful college experience and was lucky enough to go when college was affordable and before the internet was so accessible. I earned a degree in Music and RTVMP (Radio, Television, Motion Pictures) and my internships in Chapel Hill were the bridge that helped me move to Los Angeles. I was originally going to work in radio in Raleigh while I lived in Chapel Hill but Hurricane Fran changed all of that and I moved back to Charlotte. I was planning to teach guitar, write, and work in radio in Charlotte and took a teacher training course in the Suzuki Method of Classical Guitar that happened to be in Los Angeles. During that same week in LA, the UNC internship was hosting an event and I ran into fellow graduates that showed me around the city and by the end of that week, I decided to move there and pursue songwriting and work in radio. I had no idea at the time that I would eventually leave LA with an album and a vodka! The NC influence was ever present while I was in California. The NC ABC approved my vodka for sale here and has been great to work and I’m back to launch my vodka in my home state. Specifically to the vodka formula, even though I grew up in a Greek family, we also ate a lot of southern cooking including grits! That was a major influence in choosing the corn as the base for my vodka.
Will there be new products lines in the future?
Yes, I plan to do a version of Tina’s Vodka with a shelf-stable 10ph alkaline water.
What's your favorite Tina’s Vodka Summer cocktail?
My favorite summer cocktail is the Watermelon Frescatina. It’s fresh watermelon, basil, mint, with a touch of apple cider vinegar garnished with basil and mint. (Click Here for Recipe).
Favorite place to sip?
I love sipping my vodka at the end of the day - preferably in one my accounts. It’s so nice to walk into a bar or restaurant and see my bottle behind the bar. I love to sit at the bar and order appetizers and enjoy Tina’s Vodka with friends and the wonderful bartenders.
Three songs on your playlist to sip to.
I love all of my songs, but I love to sip to these three that are classical guitar based as they’re very soothing to the ear and the soul:
The Magical Ones - it’s about how meditation, lifting your eyes to get into the alpha brain state, helps you tap into your higher self and power.
This World Gives Me It All - it’s a very relaxed paced guitar song contemplating how you create your life.
Kinetic Energy - has the string quartet featured prominently with the classical guitar and lyrics about how feelings and energy are intertwined.
Tina's Vodka is now available in North Carolina ABC Stores.