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A New Sweet Potato Vodka Is Honoring Texas Black History

Distilled in Houston’s Fifth Ward, General Orders No. 3 is an ode to Juneteenth and African American foodways

A bottle of General Orders No. 3 vodka with three lemon drop martinis.
General Orders No. 3 vodka, which is distilled using sweet potato, is said to have a sweeter, caramel like flavor than more traditional forms of vodka.
General Orders No. 3

A new vodka is making the rounds in Houston this fall — and it's paying homage to Texas Black history.

Jubilee Spirits, a Black-owned, Houston-based alcohol and spirits company, has launched General Orders No. 3, or GO3 Vodka, for short — which is billed to be the state’s first distilled sweet potato vodka.

“We chose sweet potato for a couple of reasons,” says Jubilee co-founder Ron Lockett II. “It’s something you don’t see a lot of. We knew in Texas there’s no other sweet potato vodka, and it ties back to our history and the spirit of the brand.”

Distilled and bottled in Houston’s Fifth Ward at Gulf Coast Distillery, the 80-proof vodka is made from a combination of sweet potatoes blended with russet potatoes and Texas sweet corn, which results in a rich, full-bodied flavor with buttery notes and a hint of sweet caramel, Lockett says.

A prime option for mixed drinks, particularly lemon drops and chocolate martinis, Lockett says GO3 was created in part to pay homage to Juneteenth, the national holiday that commemorates when the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the state of Texas was finally recognized on June 19, 1865. The name, GO3, refers to the orders that were read to officially end slavery in the United States.

A portrait of General Orders No. 3. co-founders Ron Lockett II (left), Rasheedah Polk, Michael Williams, and Eugene Padgett.
General Orders No. 3. co-founders Ron Lockett II, Rasheedah Polk, Michael Williams, and Eugene Padgett are aiming to honor Texas’ Black history with the new vodka.

Meanwhile, the company’s use of sweet potato, in particular, in their vodka is an ode to the popular crop that was harvested by the enslaved and rose to prominence in American history and as a staple in African American foodways.

George Washington Carver, an African American agricultural scientist and inventor, developed more than 100 products from the root vegetable, which was most notably developed into its own form of flour, according to archives and reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More recently, the sweet potato has received experienced a boom in interest.

From 2000 to 2015, demand and production of sweet potatoes in the U.S. increased, with a record high of 3.1 billion pounds in produced 2015, and a 42 percent surge in consumption during that time period, according to a report by the USDA. Since then, production has decreased, due, in part, to reduced acreage for harvesting in recent years.

Still, the value of the sweet potato is reportedly up, with a 2 percent increase to $680.4 million from 2020 to 2021, and a projected 3 percent increase by 2029.

GO3, which debuted this past June, has already received praise in the alcohol industry, most recently earning recognition and a silver medal at the 2022 New York World Wine and Spirits Competitions. The spirit is available in locations throughout Texas, including Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods and Total Wine, and more than a dozen local restaurants and bars, including Esther’s, Permission Whiskey, Davis St. at Hermann Park, The Address, and Trez Bistro & Wine Bar.

Additionally, the company will make its rounds this fall, touring local college campuses, including the University of Houston and historically Black universities Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M, during homecoming season, and will donate 8.65 percent of all its proceeds to HBCUs around the country, Lockett says.