Weekend Sip: Tito’s vodka is selling empty cans for $20

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The can

Tito’s in a Can, $20

The back story

Call this the anti-hard seltzer.

It’s no secret that many big-name beverage brands, from Bud Light to Smirnoff, have tried to ride the hard-seltzer wave by rolling out their own versions of the fizzy favorite. It’s also no secret that the hard seltzer trend is going flat, with category sales dropping by 5.5% last year.

All this has made the drink a bit of a national joke. Witness the “Saturday Night Live” video that imagined JCPenney and Jiffy Lube-branded hard seltzers.

Now, Tito’s, the Austin, Texas-based vodka brand that has become America’s top-selling spirit, wants in on the joke. So it has released a hard seltzer … of sorts.

Tito’s in a Can is just an empty can — the idea is that you can make your own hard seltzer (and there are tips provided on the can) or put any other beverage of your choice in the drinking vessel. “We don’t make seltzers. You do,” is the tagline for the product.

The item is both about having a laugh and asserting the fact that Tito’s, which started out as a small-time craft spirit, stays true to its roots and doesn’t jump on any trend bandwagons. Tito’s sole product is its straight vodka — it doesn’t even offer any flavored vodkas.

As Tito’s vice president of brand marketing Taylor Berry explains it, there was indeed pressure from fans of the vodka to release a hard seltzer or other canned beverage. But the brand just couldn’t go there — at least in the traditional sense. “We had this idea of an empty can. It started out as a flicker of an idea,” he told MarketWatch.  

Eventually, the can — really more like an insulated Thermos-style container, replete with a resealable top — became a reality. In a sense, it fits into what has become a burgeoning array of Tito’s merchandise, from pool floats to dog toys. The brand says it’s all about having a good time in the Tito’s way, and that proceeds from all merchandise sales, including for Tito’s in a Can, go to charity.

What we think about it

Score one for Tito’s in terms of clever marketing. I’ve indeed grown weary of all the spirits and beer brands jumping on the hard-seltzer bandwagon, so I appreciate the not-so-subtle messaging here. The can itself is fully usable and sports a retractable opening for sipping. I’m not quite sure it’s my ideal version of an on-the-go drinking vessel — the opening is a little tricky to, well, open. But it’s all in good fun.

How to enjoy it

Just like the Tito’s folks say: “We don’t make seltzers. You do.” So fill it with whatever you want. Keep in mind that the can is a limited-edition item, so it won’t be around forever. It can ordered through the Tito’s website or, if you happen to be in Austin, Texas, you can purchase it at the Tito’s retail store.