What does it mean to "hand-make" vodka? We may never know the answer to this question, now that two lawsuits that were brought against Tito's Handmade Vodka—alleging that it is not, in fact, handmade—have been withdrawn from federal court in California.
The lawsuits sought class-action status for a claim against Tito's that said the vodka was "deceptively labeled" because it was "manufactured, marketed and/or sold… with the false representation that the vodka was 'handmade' when, in actuality, the vodka is made via a highly mechanized process that is devoid of human hands."
The two sides jointly requested the dismissal and will pay their own legal fees. The trial, which was scheduled to start in October, is off.
Some of the allegations made in the original complaint against Tito's are said by the Austin American-Statesman to have come from a Forbes magazine article published in July 2013. Entitled "The Troubling Success Of Tito's Handmade Vodka," the article painted a picture of a company struggling to appear to still be a small-batch producer when it was really a huge, $5.5-billion-a-year King Kong.
The plaintiffs claimed that "handmade" had to mean "made by hand, not by machine, and typically, therefore of superior quality," a dictionary-based definition. Tito's, the lawsuit explained, uses "mechanized and/or automated machinery and processes to manufacture and bottle its vodka, rather than human hands."
Bert "Tito" Beveridge, the founder of the Austin, Texas–based liquor company, said upon the filing of the lawsuit, "We disagree with the claims made against us and plan to defend ourselves against this misguided attack." Beveridge further pointed out to the American-Statesman that the federal officials had signed off on the company's use of the word "handmade" when they reviewed the vodka's labeling.
We reached out to Tito's, but a representative told us that they couldn't comment on the lawsuits.
Now that the cases have been withdrawn and will not go to trial, we may never have a judge's answer to this pressing question: Can a vodka be "homemade" if a machine plays a part in its manufacture? Or this: Does "handmade" means hands only?
Perhaps you can ponder these conundrums and others while enjoying a vodka-infused beverage after work today.