ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — Since its founding in 2014, Hotel Tango Distillery has made a name for itself in central Indiana.
And as great as their spirits are, what you may not know is that their backstory is even better.
The name Hotel Tango comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet. It honors the distillery’s founders Hilary and Travis Barnes. H for Hilary translates to Hotel and T, for Travis, translates to Tango.
Travis is a Marine veteran who served three tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He earned several combat action medals and citations before becoming injured by multiple IEDs and being honorably discharged.
His new chapter in life– alongside his wife, Hilary– is Hotel Tango: the first combat-disabled, veteran-owned distillery in the United States. And thanks in part to the exacting standards instilled in him as a soldier, business is thriving. With locations in Fletcher Place and Fort Wayne, the Hotel Tango team realized it was time expand to an untapped market on the city’s north side.
On January 14th, the new Hotel Tango Zionsville tasting room opened their doors at 10615 Zionsville Road (in the former site of the Village Station Pizza King). According to the website, Hotel Tango Zionsville is a “lively craft cocktail lounge for spirit lovers” with an industrial vibe and a heart for honoring our servicemen and women.
We’re checking it out on this trip In Your Neighborhood.
“One of the main things we get asked about most is the cats on the back wall,” said General Manager Zach Stewart. “Those are our military cats. Each represents a different branch of the military.”
At Hotel Tango, showing support for our military isn’t just a decorative theme. It’s the backbone of everything they stand for as a business.
You’ll see photos of their employees who are also servicemen and women the moment you walk in the door, a special “Wall of Honor” with picture frames to feature local veterans and prominent references to Hotel Tango’s core values.
“Our spirits are distilled with discipline,” he noted. “You’ll hear that and see that threaded through everything.”
Their distilling operations are still based in Fletcher Place but here at the tasting room, it’s all about good food, drinks and a portfolio of great spirits.
“In addition to that, we’ve got some exclusive single cast releases going on for sale here that you can only get at the tasting rooms…which is going to be a nice feature for 2021,” said Stewart.
Cocktail favorites include the Gin Bravo and the classic old fashioned. But their most popular cocktail right now is is called the Bohemian Rasp-Sody, made with made with Orangecello, raspberry rosemary simple syrup, aloe water, lemon and orange bitters.
“That was actually created by Matt Dunn, a bartender up in Fort Wayne, which is another really cool aspect of Hotel Tango,” Stewart said. “Our bartenders get to create [and] develop unique cocktails…If they’re a great cocktail, you’ll probably find them on every menu at all locations which is really cool.”
For a sweeter option, there’s The Cure. It’s made with gin, lemon, Aquafaba, raspberry rosemary simple syrup and cherry liquor — which helps give it a vibrant pink color.
“When people are carrying it around the restaurant, people are like, ‘What’s that?’ which is kind of cool,” said Stewart.
One thing he does note, however, is guests should not expect the fastest cocktail of your life here… but for good reason.
“It takes a minute to get a cocktail here,” Stewart noted. “Not because of service, but because we’re taking the time to build a great craft cocktail. We’re using spirits that we distill. [And] we’re using ingredients that we traditionally only make on site.”
That’s right, in addition to distilling, Hotel Tango actually grows much of its own produce on its farm— which is visible off northbound I-65 near Rural Street near downtown.
“We’re trying to be as self-sustainable as possible so utilizing our farm is very important to us,” he added.
The farm’s produce is used to make the tasty infusions that are incorporated into the cocktails as well as the food in the tasting rooms. For instance, the cherry liqueur is used to make a delicious reduction used on top of the baked brie and as the sauce for their popular Chesty’s Cherry Pizza (which also features fontina cheese, arugula and prosciutto.)
They even find ways to incorporate the spirits in their food, like with their warm Bavarian pretzels served with melty house-made gin cheese and local Batch No. 2 yellow ballpark mustard.
Four Things You Need to Know About Hotel Tango Zionsville:
- Hotel Tango is the first combat-disabled, veteran owned distillery in the USA. Founded by Travis and Hilary Barnes in 2014, Hotel Tango now has multiple locations including Fletcher Place, Ft. Wayne and their newest addition—the tasting room at 10615 Zionsville Rd. in Zionsville, which opened in January.
- They are all about sustainability! They make most of the purees and infusions which are used in both their cocktails and food items. While driving into downtown Indy on northbound I-65, you may have spotted their barn with a deep green roof and white “Hotel Tango” lettering, which is a staple of the Hotel Tango Farms property. On this site, they grow their own produce and offer a farmhouse Airbnb. They also partner with Indy Urban Acres each summer.
- There’s plenty of seating inside Hotel Tango Zionsville but just beyond the side doors, there’s another semi-outdoor space with clear vinyl walls and heaters for a cozy indoor-outdoor vibe. In the warm weather months, visitors will also get to enjoy their big dog-friendly patio.
- You’ll see lots of homages to the military inside the tasting room– like the photos of cartoon cats that represent each military branch and framed photos of their employees who have [or still do] serve. Right now, they are asking for veterans in and around the Zionsville community to come visit and bring a photo of themselves in uniform (preferably 4X6 or 5X7) so they can be displayed and honored on their “Wall of Honor.”
For hours and more information about Hotel Tango Zionsville, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect on social media via Facebook and Instagram.
Hungry for more of what Zionsville has to offer? Check out these other nearby hot-spots: