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Towleroad Gay News: Gay Water — Cynical, Paint-By-Numbers Virtue-Surfing Start-Up? Or Beverage Industry Unicorn With Gift of Gay Rights?

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Urban Dictionary, “Gay Water” is “A vodka soda water with lemon or lime. A gay man’s perfect gateway to a good buzz and a small waistline.” In a sentence: “Bar goer: “Can I get two gay waters please?”

Sounded like a nice story to get behind today. 

Splash with Gay Water

“Gay Water”, a canned vodka soda brand launches today.  The company release announces:

“For many years, the term ‘gay water’ has been known within the queer community as a colloquialism for a vodka soda. As of today, the brand Gay Water officially launches to bring that phrase to the mainstream as one of the first alcoholic beverages founded and grounded in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Gay Water press release

The pitch is cute, making the case for the brand as an already established generic term for vodka sodas in the gay market it seeks to find adoption. To someone without legal training, that sounds a kind of like a good argument for the Trademark office to use when denying one. But, i’m sure it’s been covered.

@hoddsuspenders I love drinking so I started @gay water | coming july 14! #gay #smallbusiness ♬ Makeba – Jain

Gay Water: A Lighter Choice

Pitched first as a branding mission that  “creates positive change in the industry” and “sparks joy every time you see and taste it,” Gay Water “also aims to appeal to folks trying to make healthier lifestyle choices, but still want to enjoy alcohol.”

Made of three ingredients, the release says the drink is gluten-free, sugar-free, and has 80 calories with 4% ABV. It is launching with four flavors: watermelon, lime, peach, and grapefruit.

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A Look at the Past: LGBTQ+ Beverages

Gay Water is not the first attempted launch of a gay beverage. Not by a long shot. No one i’ve heard of has ever been literally or figuratively been burned at the stake for starting a business.  That said, It’s not a welcoming or easy industry for anyone with 40% of all beverage brands unable to establish a real business
LGBTQ distilleries date back to the 1970s. Pride Beer made a splash 30 years ago, and that wasn’t even the first….  Provincetown Brewery has been serving up brews in Massachusetts for the last few years, with a focus on how their beer tastes and the meaningful commitments they’ve made and lived up to in the community. And there have been many more doing the same. 

Recent Queer-Owned Beverage Launches: A Growing Market

Today there are LGBTQ breweries and distilleries all over the country and the world. Lesbian vitners, Italians making gin from Juniper berries they grow themselves, (In fact here’s a list of 6 queer gins and here’s another long list of LGBTQ distilleries and another long list. ).

This is good. It means there might be a market.

The rise in queer-owned companies, among them Republic Restorative, Mother Road Brewing Company, Gay Beer, Supergay, Tribini, Kings County Distillery, Dominio de Punctum, Tolago Hard Seltzer, and Flying Panda Specialty Beverage Co are all LGBTQ+ owned beverage companies that have made their mark.

In addition to this growth there has been increased representation at all levels of the beverage industry for decades, it’s a topic that is discussed formally and informally, and I’m sure will be relieved to hear this brand is coming to make that all happen. The founder says Gay Water will fill the “distinct lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the alcohol industry”.

“Head Gay In Charge” and How Did This Happen?

@hoddsuspenders lmk 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽 #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #couldipullyou ♬ Originalton [Fergie – L.A.LOVE (la la)] – vanessa

Launched by a gay influencer @hoddsuspenders, calls himself “Head Gay in Charge” with 120K followers on TikTok, work experience posting socials for Yahoo corporate and a long list of impressive marketing positions.

He’s a Swiftie who does paid posts for skin care, makeup, and condom brands among others. His tiktoks tell the story of how a millenial with no discernable affinity for or experience in the beverage business othr than as a than as a comitted privileged consumer came to launch an innovative vodka soda suite. And that — as i understand it — is the way most independent alcohol brands get launched, though typically with some bartending experience. 

@hoddsuspenders life hack for millennials #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #foryourpage #millennials #getrich #finance #moneyhack ♬ busy doin hot girl ish – Chelsea

@hoddsuspenders silly ppl doing silly things for @gay water | coming july 20! #gay #smallbusiness #gaywater ♬ Rush – Troye Sivan

“More Than Just a Beverage”: A Community Symbol?

More from the press release:  Gay Water is not just a beverage company; it’s a brand that “represents the LGBTQ+ community all year round”. The company’s mission is to “reclaim the word by making it visible every day and for everyone – at local bars, restaurants, liquor stores, grocery stores, and in peoples’ homes”. 

In 2023, visibility is a bit of a hard sell as your community-impact.  Claims that the mere existence of your product–assuming you get it past the competition for shelf and fridge space and the juggernaut out to scuttle Bud Light ignores you–will somehow destigmatize the word ‘gay’ might have been true decades ago. Now? Folks need better. than nonspecific future collaborations with non-profits, better than claims to somehow impact a minor problem with no accounting for how.

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Gay Water is diverse. 

Unless i missed something and “diversity” became a joke outside the Supreme Court this strikes me as in poor taste and not gaining much business. 

@hoddsuspenders i wanted to say thank you to all of because YOU made this happen. i was fortunate enough to build an amazing community online and that is the only reason gay water could exist today. check out @gay water | now available!!! ♬ original sound – hoddsuspenders

Gay Water PressKit

Marketing Campaign in press kit

I’m assuming this to be an early draft included in the media kit is surely a first version, but it’s hard to imagine it making any mainstream impact, let alone “visible every day… at your local bar, restaurant, liquor store, grocery store, and of course, in your own home.” it’s a strong indication that this is not for lesbians and not sure how this takes the straight market or the market of adults. It makes me a little nervous that the packaging will attract kids. But i’m sure they’ve tested that and gotten the right approvals. 

Availability and Pricing: Quenching Thirst Nationwide

Gay Water single flavor packs will contain six 12oz cans for $18.25, and variety packs will contain twelve 12oz cans for $36.50. This works out to approximately $3.04 per can for the single flavor packs and $3.04 per can for the variety packs. Gay Water is available online and at retailers across the US.

There is no bad press. We’ve been there launching a new product to an audience that wasn’t born yesterday and we wish Gay Water all the success it deserves. The pre-canned Vodka Soda market is crowded but also growing, and after the Bud Light pull out we should be wary of supporting companies who are not clear about how deep their real commitment is? Otherwise White Claw.

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This isn’t the quick short piece i set out to do. A fun, welcome-to-the-market type of thing. I’ve been an entrepreneur over and over and there are always idiots to tell you that you will fail. I found some  satisfaction in proving them wrong. But they aren’t wrong by definition. Many have real information. Read the room.  Do some research. Cull your social. 

I’m humbled by a few memories, including the time we were offered one of the now biggest and most beloved authors to write for us before he broke out. I loved the work but underestimated our audience and didn’t think they would “get” it.   Gay Water, we wish you great success. Seriously.

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