Liquor with an Agenda
Doug Jacobson and Bert Gallagher know that it’s easier to party than to fight. That’s why the San Antonio business partners want to bring about change one drink at a time with their vodka, Equality.
Currently available in Dallas, Jacobson and Gallagher’s vodka is liquor with an agenda: the advancement of equality for the LGBT community. A portion of sales from each bottle goes to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a civil rights organization that focuses on LGBT communities through litigation and public policy work.
The pair had previously created a small vodka brand in Dallas called Hudson Ferus. As they got more involved with Lambda Legal, they thought that combining their advocacy with their goal of creating an ultra premium vodka would allow them to spread their passion in a way that everyone could appreciate.
Equality Vodka is liquor with an agenda: the advancement of equality for the LGBT community.
“We had been working on developing an ultra premium brand, and Bert has this idea,” Jacobson says. “He mocked up a bottle of Equality, and it was a real ‘tears in the eyes’ moment. It’s the opportunity to leave a legacy behind you of good deeds by having a vehicle to give back to society.”
Gallagher says that when they began planning how the donations would work, they decided to keep it simple.
“You see these large organizations that raise this money and then give a check for $100,” he says. “The minute a bottle of Equality is sold, that portion goes into a fund. It’s so easy to beat up the books with tricky accounting and say, 'It was gonna be based on profit, but we didn’t make any profit.'”
Jacobson and Gallagher decided to launch the 80-proof Equality in Dallas because of its large LGBT community. Since launching in late 2014, the brand has been popular in gay bars along Cedar Springs, including places like Round-up Saloon, Station 4 and Woody’s. But Gallagher adds that he’s seen young people of all orientation flock to it, and mainstream places like Bistro 31 are carrying it now.
“We see the potential and acceptance of the Millennial generation,” he says. “They have the mindset of, 'Of course, why wouldn’t everyone be equal in their rights?'”
Equality is Jacobson and Gallagher’s recipe, but the actual distillation is done in New York by master distillers. Gallagher says that this is to ensure consistency, because neither of them is skilled enough, and the ability to scale quickly as the brand grows.
They have their sights set on Austin and Houston and then nationally beginning with California, New York City, Miami and Chicago. That growth and the donation structure will allow them to contribute more money to Lambda Legal and other LGBT advocacy groups down the road.
“We knew we could function like this from beginning,” Jacobson says. “As volume goes up, our ability to fund goes up, and it will be a higher percentage as the volume raises. When we’re making a net profit, we can pull even more out.”
Jacobson says that the goal is to help a movement without being divisive.
“This is a celebration,” he says. “We want to do it with fun. So many want to do it with a battle, but we want to celebrate every opportunity to move forward.”
Still, they recognize that not everyone is on the same page as they are. So far, they haven’t received any negative feedback, but they said that going forward, it wouldn’t surprise them, and they’re ready.
“That’s just the reality,” Jacobson says. “If you make a stand and mean something, somebody’s not going to like it. This is who we are, and this is what we’re doing. There’s no backing up in any way, shape or form.
“We’re not going to give up or slow down until it’s nationwide, until we’re funding numbers so large that people can’t turn away and not look at the injustice that goes on in the world.”