Celebrities are into alcohol, but they’re not getting drunk on it, rather they're owning them. Here’s what you need to know about Hollywood’s latest side hustle.
Despite the current craze towards healthy living, alcohol is en vogue. Consumption increased by over 30% during 2020 when everyone was locked down and doing virtual happy hours on Zoom or swooning over Stanley Tucci as he showed us how to make a proper Negroni.
And as the new year rolled in, the popularity of alcoholic drinks remained sky high. Fuelling this is the plenitude of alcohol brands being released by celebrities. And no, these aren’t brands endorsed by the stars, rather brands that are endorsed AND owned by them.
This trend seemed to have been kick started way back in 2013 by George Clooney when he unleashed Casamigos Tequila to the masses. Since then, a plethora of celebrity-owned alcoholic beverage has hit the market—from Ryan Reynolds’ Aviator Gin, to Bruno Mars’ SelvaRey Rum and even rapper Post Malone getting in on the action with his Maison No.9 rosé.
So what gives?
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY
Why does anyone ever go into business? To make money of course! And the alcohol business is a very, very lucrative one at that. The entire industry was worth nearly US$1.5 trillion in 2020 and is expected to breach US$2 trillion by 2024. The premium spirits market (of which these celebrity brands are positioned in) was worth US$100 billion in 2020 and growing. That’s a whole lot of change if one can create a brand and penetrate even just a decimal point share of this market.
And of course, everyone is dreaming to emulate the success of Casamigos. The story goes: Clooney, together with entrepreneur Rande Gerber (aka Cindy Crawford’s husband) and property developer Mike Meldman, took a vacation to Mexico and decided to make tequila. Two years and hundreds of samples later, they started distributing their product to their friends before deciding to set up the Casamigos label and take it to the mainstream. The real story here though is what happened in 2017, when it was acquired by Diageo—the world’s largest spirits maker—for up to US$1 billion.
A CACHET OF COOL
But it’s not just the potential financial windfall that’s driving these celebrities to turn to alcohol. Their association with this lucrative business also allows them to enhance their brand by differentiating themselves from their peers and be perceived as ‘cool’ not only by their fans but also prospective customers.
With celebrity owners controlling all aspects of their product, they are able to create a narrative that is more authentic and imbue it with their personality. Just look at how Teremana Tequila exploits the lifestyle of its founder Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or how Aviator Gin’s ads leverages Reynolds humour. The hope is that with more authenticity, the cool factor increases and thus sales will follow.
And no one has captured this confluence of celebrity influence and the spirits business like Kendall Jenner has. After four years of quiet development, she announced the release of 818 Tequila this February and promptly sold out its initial batch in just four HOURS! It’s now on track to achieve its sales forecast two years ahead of schedule, outselling even the Casamigos and Teremana brands. And it’s not just Jenner’s fame that’s driving sales of 818, this handcrafted tequila has also won bronze in the World Tequila Awards and a slew of blind taste test awards, further boosting its cred.
WHERE TO START?
So with a market that’s getting increasingly crowded by actors, musicians and various other celebrities, which brands do you need to keep your eye on?
Aviator Gin is definitely a good place to start with. It’s budget-friendly, readily available and actually tastes good. It’s crisp and clean, and the citrus perfectly complements the floral ingredients. It also comes in a beautiful, art deco-inspired bottle that you’ll be proud to show off.
If tequila is your passion, then apart from Casamigos and Teremana, you’d want to check out Dos Hombres from Breaking Bad duo Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. They’ve gone from cooking meth (onscreen) to crafting alcohol in real-life. Note that this is mezcal which is distilled differently from tequila, by cooking agave in earthen pits lined with lava rocks, wood and charcoal.
But if you’re looking for something that’s more on the healthy side, then Kate Hudson’s King St. Vodka might be for you. This small-batch vodka is gluten-free, non-GMO and made with alkaline water but still perfect for a Moscow Mule or Cosmopolitan to celebrate your day.