Spencer Hoddeson
Photo provided

The dream started with a drink order and a quip. Out to dinner with one of his girlfriends, Spencer Hoddeson ordered a vodka soda, and asked his dining partner if she ever heard of the term “gay water.”

Her response gave him the inspiration he needed. She said she thought so, but even if she hadn’t, she would’ve guessed it.

While gays love to drink, they don’t love putting down calories–especially on a night out. That’s where the vodka soda comes in.

It has a lot of alcohol, and basically nothing else.

In other words, it’s…gay water!

The next day, Hoddeson trademarked the moniker. Eighteen months later, Gay Water is now on store shelves, and can be shipped to more than 30 states.

For Hoddeson, it’s a gay dream come true.

“The idea is there are not a ton of businesses out there with ‘gay’ in the title,” he told Queerty. ” At its core definition, gay means happy, which I know sounds kind of cliché. But gay and queer people are happy, and just trying to live their lives.”

As INTO covered Thursday, Hoddeson is presenting his company as the anti-Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch tried to placate outraged right-wingers, and pushed out two execs over the brand’s partnership with TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney.

Then they went silent, leaving the LGBTQ+ community without support in the wake of disgusting attacks.

Bud Light wanted the rainbow dollars, but was unwilling to stand by the rainbow flag.

Gay Water, meanwhile, is unapologetically… gay!

It’s literally in the title.

“The key issue that Bud Light tapped into was the fact that they didn’t understand their core audience and know enough about them,” Hoddeson told CNN. “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.”

It’s hard to stand out in the now-$2.2 billion canned cocktail industry. But Hoddeson is counting on two things: eye-popping neon designs, and a real connection with his customers.

“We want to put the product in those traditional spaces and put the word ‘gay’ there, because that’s the most pervasive form of representation,” he said. “Having the word out there, and confronting people who may be living in their bubble.”

Photo provided

So far, Hoddeson is blaring his message on social media, where Gay Water enjoys an ever-growing following. The brand has nearly 80K followers on TikTok, and more than 12K on Instagram (Hoddeson has almost 80K on his personal Twitter page).

Those numbers are an indication of Gay Water’s target demo: young, gay and online enough to know the main character of the day.

Each week, Hoddeson posts roundups of Gay Twitter™ and Gay TikTok™ for those who want to catch up.

“[Other brands] don’t capture the zeitgeist,” said Hoddeson. “It’s very much brands talking to a community they’re not part of, or they hired someone who’s part of it, and then they’re tasked with the monumental task of, ‘How do I make Adidas sound ‘yassified?’

“Some brands can successfully do it, but when you’re not authentically a queer brand, and you don’t hire people year round to really keep an open line of communication with community, you miss out, and come off as inauthentic.”

There’s no questioning Hoddeson’s authenticity. He’s a gay man in his early 30s who lives in New York.

He isn’t just trying to reach the gay community.

He’s a real, live gay person!

“At the end of the day, it’s a vodka soda, but it’s also a lifestyle brand,” he said. “If you look across the beverage industry at other brands out there, every single post they put out is: product, product, product, product. They’re building a lifestyle for their product, rather than talking about the lifestyle of the community that will purchase their product.

“That’s the goal: to create a community that feels represented within our brand.”

@drinkgaywater

you can’t be in relationship until you’ve prioritze yourself and your goals ?????? #gay #entrepreneur #gayownedbusiness #lgbtq

? original sound – ?Isabel ?

Hoddeson understands his privilege. He lives in New York City, a mecca of gay culture and capital. LGBTQ+ folx are everywhere.

But that’s not the case in most parts of the country. Yes, Hoddeson wants to build a customer base. But more than anything, the entrepreneur wants to build a community…one meme at a time.

“I’m most excited about the fact that someone in a rural area where they may not have a community can order a bunch of this product, invite friends over and create queer spaces,” he said.

There are cynics out there: single flavor six-pack costs $18.25, and variety 12 packs cost $36.50. Hoddeson understands the criticism directed towards companies that target LGBTQ+ people.

But unlike the others, Gay Water is an unapologetically gay brand.

That’s the difference, he says.

“A lot of people use the word ‘rainbow capitalism,'” he said. “I think that term has a negative connotation. In this case, this is a business that’s grounded and founded by the community, and the goal is to give back to the community.”

@drinkgaywater

I can’t do it !!!!

? original sound – $

While you’re here, check out some pics from Hoddeson’s personal Instagram page…

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