Jose Calderon had traveled the world, but when he decided to start his own business, he did it right in his hometown of Immokalee. Everglades Distillers opened in June near Immokalee Airport, producing a line of vodkas called 25*80 (roughly the longitude and latitude of the town).
The venture is new, but the idea to make his own liquors had been brewing for quite some time. “I was always looking to start something for myself,” Calderon says.
After high school, he joined the Army and went abroad. He spent time with indigenous tribes in Latin America, watching how they fermented spirits. That’s when the idea first was planted. A 20- year career in the military resulted in a stint in the business world, serving as a consultant for companies in Latin America. As he was preparing to open his own business, he got training far and wide, attending a distilling school in Washington state, taking bartending classes in Miami and learning about liquor flavoring in Mexico City.
Calderon’s extended family remained in Immokalee, so starting the business there made perfect sense to him. His vodkas now have a flavor of Southwest Florida with locally grown oranges, cucumber, watermelon and jalapeño.
Right now, it’s just his wife and son who help with the business, and the vodkas are only available in his tasting room. But he has plans for expansion in the upcoming months, placing his product in retail stores locally and then throughout the state. He also plans to release a whisky this winter. He’s hoping his liquors can catch on among tourists and locals looking to capture the Sunshine State vibe. “We’re not just representing Southwest Florida,” Calderon says, “but the greater Florida adventure.”