Spirits of the Stars

Every day, there seems to be a new celebrity-endorsed or celebrity-founded alcohol brand launching into the market. Among Hollywood celebrities, it almost feels like having an alcohol brand in your name is a coveted form of bragging rights; a status symbol—even among other celebs. Of course, celebrities have endorsed products since, well, pretty much since products have existed, but it feels like the celebrity-tied alcohol (especially tequila) phenomenon has really skyrocketed in the past decade. Our guess is that we have Sammy Hagar (Cabo Wabo) and George Clooney (Casamigos) to thank for that.

In August of 2021, Esquire magazine did a roundup and a rating of 63 celebrity-branded spirits. When they did a similar roundup three years previous, there were only 37 such brands. Since the 2021 piece, another 44 have debuted, a list of which we'll include here as well.

In looking over the group of brands, a few striking facts emerge:

Of the original 63 brands listed, 22 were bourbon/whiskey (35%), 17 were tequila/mezcal (27%), 13 were vodka (20%), and 11 (18%) were other (gin, rum, cognac, etc.)
Only 4 of those original 63 brands were actually founded by—or branded by—women: Prospero Tequila (Rita Ora), Vera Wang Chopin Vodka (Vera Wang), SkinnyGirl Vodka (Bethenny Frankel), King St. Vodka (Kate Hudson). Since this list came out, a whole slew of woman-owned brands have launched (a total of 12 more), including the Betty Buzz brand of RTD cocktails, which is headed by Blake Lively, Renais Gin from Emma Watson, and a line of Margarita Cocktails founded by acting trio Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rosario Dawson.

The central question in the Esquire piece centered around whether celebrity-endorsed bottles are actually any good. In an effort to answer that question, the editors rated each of the brands on their quality alone. This is some of what they found:
The 10 best-tasting brands (scoring 9-7 on a 10-point scale) according to Esquire (in descending order):

  • Sweetens Cove Bourbon (Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick)
  • Lagavulin Single Malt, Nick Offerman Edition
  • Codigo Tequila (George Strait)
  • Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon (Matthew McConaughey)
  • Blackened American Whiskey (Metallica)
  • Heaven's Door Whiskey (Bob Dylan)
  • Singai 63 (Steven Soderbergh)
  • Aviation Gin (Ryan Reynolds)
  • Cincoro Tequila (Michael Jordan)
  • SelvaRey Rum (Bruno Mars)

The 10 worst-tasting brands (scoring 4-2), in ascending order: 

  • Beach Whiskey (Billy Bush)
  • New Amsterdam Pink Whitney Vodka (Ryan Whitney/Paul Bissonnette)
  • Backstage Southern Whiskey (Darius Rucker)
  • Old Camp Peach Pecan Whiskey (Florida Georgia Line)
  • Blue Chair Bay Rum (Kenny Chesney)
  • BSB Brown Sugar Bourbon (Jamie Foxx)
  • Chipper Jones' Sweet Tea Moonshine (Chipper Jones)
  • Bespoken Spirits Bourbon (Derek Jeter)
  • Woodson Whiskey (Charles Woodson)
  • Skinnygirl Vodka (Bethenny Frankel)
Since the Esquire roundup was done, another 44 brands have entered the fray. They have changed the overall mix of categories in significant ways, mostly by giving the "others category" a bigger relative share of representation and increasing the overall footprint of female-owned brands from approximately 6% of the total to approximately 15%. Of the 107 total brands, 32 were bourbon/whiskey (30%), 29 were tequila/mezcal (27%), 20 were vodka (19%), and 26 (24%) were other (gin, rum, cognac, etc.). 

Here are the 44 newest celebrity brands to emerge since 2021:

  • Pantalones Tequila (Matthew McConoughey)
  • Virginia Black Whiskey (Drake)
  • Effen Vodka (50 Cent)
  • Conjure Vodka (Ludacris)
  • Crossfire Hurricane Rum (Rolling Stones)
  • Mezcalum Mezcal (Erin Lichy)
  • Fraser and Thompson Whiskey (Michael Bublé)
  • Vosa Spirits (Kate Upton)
  • Holistic Spirits Company (Woody Harrelson and Amy Holmwood)
  • Volley Tequila Seltzer (Alex Morgan)
  • Sweet Grass Vodka (Jeremy Renner)
  • Delola RTD Spritzes (Jennifer Lopez)
  • Steph Curry (Gentleman's Cut Bourbon)
  • Renais Gin (Emma Watson)
  • Sunny Vodka (Anastasia Karanikolaou)
  • Mercer + Prince Whisky (A$AP Rocky)
  • Kickstand Cocktails (J.J. Watt and Kealia and T.J. Watt)
  • Brothers Osborne (WhistlePig Whiskey)
  • Nocheluna Sotol (Lenny Kravitz)
  • Liev Schreiber (Slainte Irish Whiskey)
  • Miles Teller (Long Drink RTD Cocktails)
  • Margalicious Margarita (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rosario Dawson)
  • Old Fashioned by John Cena (John Cena)
  • JAJA Tequila (The Chainsmokers)
  • Silverbelly Whiskey (Alan Jackson)
  • Redmont Vodka (Charles Barkley)
  • Ashbourne Craft Spirits (Sarah Jessica Parker)
  • Gran Coramino Tequila (Kevin Hart)
  • Flecha Azul Tequila (Mark Wahlberg)
  • American Highway Reserve Bourbon (Brad Paisley)
  • Ten to One Rum (Ciara)
  • Casa Del Sol Tequila (Eva Longoria)
  • Calirosa Tequila (Adam Levine & Behati Prinsloo)
  • Edinburgh Gin (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)
  • Black Irish Cream Liqueur (Mariah Carey)
  • Wolf Moon Bourbon (Jason Aldean)
  • Dos Primos Tequila (Thomas Rhett)
  • Villa One Tequila (Nick Jonas)
  • Casa Dragones Tequila (Ryan Seacrest)
  • Bad Ass Premium Vodka (Dennis Rodman)
  • Lo-Cal Tequila (Colin Jost)
  • Black Label Japanese Whisky (Steven Segal)
  • Coconut Rum (Tik Tik Star Dixie D'Amelio)
One thing becomes clear when you survey this long list of brands: Celebrity endorsements and celebrity tie-ins can help sell bottles and make a company successful, but only if the liquid inside the bottle is good. No matter how much star power and marketing money you bring to a promotion, nothing will substitute for good old quality. We'll drink to that.