A Taxonomy of Celebrity Alcohol Brands
From Casamigos to Brody Jenner’s canned tequila soda
Does tequila taste better if it was produced with the investment and/or under the “creative direction” of a famous person? What about wine? Is vodka good for you if a celebrity says it complements their active lifestyle? Will this Ryan Reynolds gin put hair on my chest? These are the questions I find myself asking as more and more celebrities diversify their lucrative careers by putting their names on alcohol bottles.
It used to be that if you wanted to buy an adult beverage in which a celebrity had a stake, you had to go to the Francis Ford Coppola winery or ask for Ciroc by Diddy. But since George Clooney and Kaia Gerber’s dad, Rande, sold their Casamigos tequila brand to the British beverage company Diageo for $1 billion in 2017, the options have proliferated.
Clooney and Gerber say that they started their incredibly profitable business “on accident” — they just wanted to make a nice tequila for their family and friends, and then everyone loved it so much they had to start selling it. Other stars have followed this PR strategy, some more successfully than others. Maybe Cameron Diaz really believes that her “clean” rosé is better than all the other rosés on the market and also that it is somehow good for you. Or maybe her business manager was like, if you really don’t want to act anymore you have to invest in something. Either way, it’s here and you can drink it.
What else are celebrities saying about their accidental forays into selling booze? Let’s listen in.
Tequila But From Me Personally
In the wake of the Casamigos deal, several celebrities have discovered a passion for fermenting, distilling, and aging the juice of the Mexican agave plant. In March of last year, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson launched Teremana tequila, which he says means “spirit of the earth.” Two months later, Justin Hartley, best known for playing an alcoholic actor on my favorite show This Is Us, announced his investment in Revel Spirits, a company that produces avila, another agave-based liquor. Nick Jonas and the fashion designer John Varvatos founded Villa One tequila, which they named after a Mexican hotel they stayed in one time. Justin Timberlake has 901 Tequila, named after his hometown’s area code, and Kendall Jenner has 818 Tequila, named after hers.
In 2019, Rita Ora invested in Prospero Tequila. She expressed her hopes for the venture to thespiritsbusiness.com this way: “I just want people to see it and be like ‘oh I wonder what Rita’s Tequila tastes like.’”
Liquor… For Men
There are other kinds of alcohol, of course. Several famous men have launched their own whiskey and bourbon and cognac brands, focusing on how the spirits enhance their virility and also how they are inherently American, somehow. In 2016, Toronto-born Drake launched Virginia Black, a “decadent American whiskey.” In 2018, Ryan Reynolds acquired a stake in Aviation Gin and sold the company to Diageo for $600 million two years later. In that time, Reynolds filmed a lot of ads featuring him sitting in manly leather chairs and making jokes about how being a father is hard. Channing Tatum launched Born and Bred vodka in 2017 because he thought there should be a vodka made in America, not Russia. (The distillery is in Idaho.) Here’s how he described the vibe of his project to Bon Appetit: “The vodka would wear whatever is the opposite of everyone else. So if it’s a backyard party, he probably shows up in a tux. If it’s a tux thing, he probably shows up in cutoff jeans shorts and a tank top, with some cowboy boots. He’s just wildin’. He wants to just mess it all up.”
Perhaps the most intense celebrity liquor origin story comes to us from Ian Somerhalder, former star of The Vampire Diaries. With his co-star Paul Wesley, he launched Brothers Bond Bourbon earlier this year after an apparent setback in an unrelated business deal. In an Instagram post, he thanked his wife Nikki Reed for helping him get out of an “EIGHT FIGURE” financial hole to start his passion project (whiskey). “Brothers Bond for me, is the physical representation, the manifestation to build a company designed to do good in the world by bringing people together and investing in our collective future to stop climate change and change the mental and physical health of this nation and this world,” he wrote. Cool!
What hath Skinnygirl wrought? A line of bedazzled denim leggings and also the persistent marketing dictum that alcohol can be good for you. Several famous ladies have recently launched wine and liquor brands under the auspices of “wellness.” How does that work? Well, Cameron Diaz and her business partner Katherine Power say their Avaline rosé is “clean” and “free from dozens of unwanted and undisclosed extras.” (What are those extras? On that point they are vague.) Julianne Hough and Nina Dobrev also have a line of “organic” wines, which they have marketed alongside photos of themselves doing yoga together.
Kate Hudson, who is an ambassador for Weight Watchers and a purveyor of mid-priced workout attire, founded King St. Vodka in 2019 alongside the same guy who partnered with Bethenny Frankel to do Skinnygirl. Hudson described her journey to the liquor business this way: “After a particularly long day, I decided to host an impromptu cocktail party for my closest friends. As I prepared to whip up a batch of dirty vodka martinis I surveyed my bar, but I wasn’t 100 percent happy with my options. Then I wondered, ‘Are any of these vodkas founded by women?’ I did some research, they weren’t. So, I decided to make my own just the way I like it.” The vodka, she says is “clean” and cut with alkaline water. And also founded by woman!
In 2008, the actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought the rosé-focused winery Chateau Miraval in the south of France for a reported $67 million. Six years later, they got married there, and two years after that, they got divorced. Was the wine bad luck? It’s hard to say — Pitt has continued to promote it — here he is wearing a bucket hat and getting into the “spirit of the Riviera” for an ad released earlier this year.
Jolie, unfortunately, wants to sell her stake in the property and business, considering she is no longer in a relationship with Pitt. A judge in the case set a hearing for September, and the fate of the ex-couple’s $19.99 rosé hangs in the balance. (I’m sure John Legend, founder of LVE Wines — that’s “Legend Vineyard Exclusive” — and his embattled wife Chrissy Teigen are watching this play out very closely.)
Instant Chemical Hangover
In our White Claw-addled present, the most popular new celebrity booze category seems to be canned drinks. Travis Scott partnered with Anheuser-Busch late last year to launch Cacti seltzers, which are allegedly infused with “blue agave” because Scott likes the taste of tequila but didn’t want to make tequila, for whatever reason. Shay Mitchell, of Pretty Little Liars fame, founded Onda this year, which is a line of canned drinks that actually have tequila in them. “Tequila soda is hands down my favorite drink, and I’m really excited about the opportunity to create a beverage brand that is rooted in quality and shared experiences,” Mitchell said at the launch.
Brody Jenner, star of The Hills and The Hills: New Beginnings, started selling his own line of canned tequila sodas called Mamitas this year, shortly after he revealed that he got sober (for six months). His Instagram bio now reads, “Save water drink MAMITAS.” The official hashtag for the brand is #MuchoDelicious.