Q&A With the 2023 Winner of the Vodka Category of Brand Battle

Mar 15, 2023


Harridan Vodka, a craft vodka company based in New York, was crowned the vodka category winner of WSWA’s 2023 Brand Battle! This unique brand is female-founded and is setting a new standard for premium vodka.


After the Brand Battle vodka category session, Harridan’s founder and CEO, Bridgette Taylor told WSWA more about her brand. She will represent the vodka category live, on-stage in the 2023 Brand Battle Championship at Access LIVE.


Tell us about your brand. What inspired you to create it? Who did you create it for?

I founded Harridan in 2020 – in the midst of the Pandemic, and while in graduate school. I became obsessed with home bartending during the lockdown. My background is in luxury retail, and the more cocktails I made, Vodka stood out to me as a category that didn’t really have the elevated brand positioning and vivid storytelling that seemed so celebrated in other categories. So I got a team together and set out to redefine what it meant to be a luxury vodka. 


Broadly speaking, Harridan looks to fill what we saw as a gap in the vodka category. Not only was there no truly handcrafted, elevated option for those looking to trade up from the category giants, but we also recognized that vodka lacked the rich storytelling that we admired in tequila or whiskey. When we thought about what story we wanted to tell from a brand perspective, we knew that it should reflect the same “spirit of defiance” that inspired the product itself. Harridan, which means “angry, belligerent woman,” completely defies what the spirits industry has traditionally marketed to women - pink, flowery, low ABV - and is designed for the consumer who similarly rejects the conventions our culture places on them. They not only value inclusion, equality, and the right to be who they want, but are willing to fight for it. Harridan shows them there’s a brand poised to do the same. 


Why did you decide to enter the 2023 Brand Battle competition?

A friend in the industry recommended that we throw our hat in the ring! At first I was hesitant, because I was intimidated by the incredible brands who won previous Brand Battles. But Harridan would never know if we didn’t try. And I’m so glad we did. We have been hungry for distribution opportunities, and will look to take full advantage of the incredible exposure Brand Battle offers us.


Tell us about your portfolio and what’s next for your brand?

Our portfolio consists of our classic Harridan Vodka SKU, as well as our Halloween-themed Paranormal Reserve – an annual collection rested inside haunted houses. Harridan is hyper-focused on growing our regional and national awareness, and with that, expanding our market presence both among trade and among our end consumer. Some of our 2023 initiatives include a consumer-facing quarterly cocktail club, as well as a trade-focused NYC cocktail competition. 


In addition to further entrenching ourselves in our current markets of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, we will also look to grow within the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.


What do you enjoy about being in this industry and starting a new brand? What have been some challenges?

There is so much to love about this industry. It’s a business about warmth, connection, and bringing people together. With that type of environment, industry members are naturally curious and eager to help newcomers. I’ve gained so many mentors, advisors, and friends since starting Harridan, and I am grateful to all of them for the guidance they’ve bestowed.


Yet an industry this fun can’t be without its challenges! Mainly (at least for me), there are a lot of unbelievable brands out there, and the battle for mindshare is relentless and expensive. We are constantly strategizing how to bring newness not just to the vodka category, but to the industry overall – and finding scrappy/creative ways to do so, since we don’t have the budget of some of the larger portfolio companies out there. With that said – while this dynamic may be a challenge, it is also one of the most fun and invigorating parts of starting a new brand. Our team offers a fresh and hungry perspective, which drives our innovation. 


As you prepare for the Championship, how will you work to perfect your pitch? Can you provide any tips on how to have a successful pitch?

Practice makes perfect! To me, a successful pitch is all about energy. I will focus not only on the confidence within my pitch, but maintaining a strong presence on the stage.  


Wholesalers play an important role in the industry. How will you leverage your time at Access LIVE to build new or grow existing relationships?

I am so excited about the opportunity to interact with the most well-known and highly regarded wholesalers in the country. I will definitely look to have a strong calendar of coffees and introductions during my time in Orlando, and will certainly bring a full stack of business cards. I can’t wait to further develop existing connections, and make many new ones!