New ‘gay water’ looks to avoid Bud Light disaster

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A new canned cocktail called Gay Water is looking to attract LGBTQ drinkers and avoid the pitfalls of Bud Light’s disastrous marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

The mixture of vodka and soda water, long known informally as “gay water” in the LGBTQ community, is the brainchild of 30-year-old gay entrepreneur Spencer Hoddeson. It went on sale Thursday in 35 states, he announced in a post on LinkedIn.

He noted that the concoction aims “to destigmatize the word ‘gay’ by bringing representation to spaces that have not traditionally featured queer products, such as bars, liquor stores, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and more.”

“With this launch, we take the first step toward creating a more inclusive, colorful and joyous world,” Mr. Hoddeson said.

A consumer boycott sent Bud Light sales tumbling by nearly 25% after Ms. Mulvaney, who was born male, briefly appeared on Twitter as a spokesperson for the beer this year.

Responding to the backlash, Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, distanced itself from her without comment and launched new ads lacking LGBTQ content. Ms. Mulvaney is no longer promoting the beer.

According to Mr. Hoddeson, who is financing Gay Water with his own money plus backing from family and friends, his brightly colored cans are leaning into their gayness instead of avoiding it.

“The key issue that Bud Light tapped into was the fact that they didn’t understand their core audience and know enough about them,” Mr. Hoddeson told CNN on Thursday. “They just went silent and I think in 2023, you have to be communicating because people communicate themselves if they’re not hearing from you.”

Videos posted to social media showed Ms. Mulvaney drinking Bud Light in a bubble bath and advertising the beer’s March Madness promotion.

Conservatives ravaged the campaign on social media with the refrain: “Go woke or go broke.”

Mr. Hoddeson says he is also responding to the flap by avoiding the stereotypical rainbows-and-unicorn imagery that often adorns LGBTQ products.

He told CNN that he worked with a queer designer to base Gay Water’s red, purple, green and orange color scheme on pop art and 1990s television shows from Nickelodeon, a cable network for children.

“I wanted to build something that is queer and part of the community, but isn’t necessarily rainbows and unicorns that you see all around Pride,” Mr. Hoddeson said. “Gay is an umbrella term and the idea behind the brand is to be as inclusive as possible, which means we want allies, we want straight people to be part of this community we’re building.”

Advertising for the 12-ounce cans employs quirky and sexually suggestive messaging, including references to their 6.1-inch height.

A statement on the Gay Water website notes that the word “gay” appears in barely any products outside of Pride Month each June.

According to the statement, the new cocktail reclaims the idea that “gay means happy.”

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