Bobbie Johnson wants Matador Vodka to be Louisiana’s vodka.
He started Matador Vodka in 2018, becoming the state’s first Black-owned sugarcane vodka company. Ask Johnson “Why vodka?” and his answer is simple: representation.
“(I wanted) to do something different,” he says, “to do something that has never been done by a minority. There is a need for our presence in this industry.”
Matador Vodka is made and bottled in Louisiana, distilled at Sugarfield Spirits in Gonzales. The distillery produces an exclusive special blend in partnership with Matador. The sugarcane gives it subtle notes of vanilla, caramel and butterscotch.
“(It gives) a very full mouthfeel, to where it leaves a little bit on your tongue, so you can really enjoy it and know you had a great quality product,” Johnson says. He also insists it won’t give you a hangover (as long you drink responsibly).
It takes about 30 to 45 days to process the vodka from raw sugar into the bottle. The vodka is distilled 16 times and filtered three times to ensure high-quality flavors.
Johnson was an engineer for five years before launching Matador, and it is now a full-time pursuit. He named the brand “Matador” because he believes we all must be a bullfighter at some point in our lives.
“Matador is just that: It’s a bullfighter,” he says of his brand. “A matador will dodge the bull with grace, and that’s what the brand is about … To be graceful as you continue to be successful and reach different levels in life.”
Currently, the brand is sold at Calandro’s, Martin Wine & Spirits, Total Wine & More and Hokus Pokus Liquor. It’s also served at restaurants around town, including Soji: Modern Asian, Tsunami, BLDG 5 and Bin 77—with more on the way.
Johnson envisions a future where Matador is to Louisiana what Tito’s Handmade Vodka is to Austin.
“I want people when they are drinking Matador to understand that you’re not just drinking any liquor, you are drinking a liquor that has a meaning behind the brand that actually stands for something,” Johnson says. “The biggest thing is getting the city behind us and supporting what we are doing so we can represent Louisiana.”