Black-Owned Drinks Brands to Have on Your Radar
Conscious consumers are seeking diversity on store shelves, and retailers have an opportunity to drive equity forward by highlighting these products
The impact of conscious consumers continues to rise as shoppers across industries seek expanded choice and transparency during the shopping experience. The beverage alcohol industry, while historically dominated by white men, has seen increased diversity awareness from consumers and brands alike—though there’s still more work to be done. As of 2021, over 65 percent of Drizly retailers carry products from Black-owned brands, and these brands’ growth across all Drizly sales makes it clear that supporting brands from diverse owners can pay dividends for retailers.
“There is clear consumer demand and desire to shop these brands,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “We recommend retailers begin with educating themselves and their teams on these brands, dedicating shelf space as well as markeitng to their customers on these brands’ availability in-store and online.”
Rikki Kelly, the founder and CEO of Ego Tequila, believes retailers can support BIPOC- and women-owned brands like hers easily. “It doesn’t take a purchase to support us,” she says. “For retailers who are active on social media, liking, sharing, and posting is another good way to highlight brands.”
Direct conversations with wholesalers are key to expanding diversity and inclusion on store shelves. “If retailers are interested in expanding their customer base, they should be asking their wholesalers if they have any minority, female, and local brands they can support,” says Kelly.
Since the Black-owned product tag was added on Drizly in 2020, Drizly consumers have increasingly sought out Black-owned brands. Following the launch of the tag in June 2020, daily sales for Drizly’s top-selling Black-owned brands were up anywhere from 40 to 585 percent over May 2020 daily sales.
The volume of Black-owned brands available to shop on Drizly has also grown dramatically in recent years, with the catalog of Black brands expanding by 10 percent in 2021 over 2020, and a whopping 115 percent over 2019. The volume of Black-owned SKUs on Drizly likewise grew by 45 percent in 2021 over 2020. Among Black-owned brands, offerings skew heavily toward the liquor category, which accounts for 57 percent of Black-owned SKUs; wine and beer hold 37 percent and six percent of share, respectively.
Both new and existing Black-owned brands are experiencing this growth on Drizly. The McBride Sisters Collection, which includes wines from California and New Zealand in traditional bottle and can formats, scaled 300 percent within the wine category on Drizly in 2021 alone. Similarly, Uncle Nearest whiskey – a longstanding favorite among whiskey purchasers – increased by 36 percent of share within the liquor category in 2021.
In order to drive continued support for Black-owned brands among consumers, the industry needs to make real change too – and part of that equation is evaluating product mix on store shelves. On Drizly, for example, the presence of Black-owned drinks brands is limited to the inventory of its retail partners. Drizly is proactively working with its partners to bring more Black-owned brands onto the platform and to make them more widely available.
Hella Cocktail Company founder Jomaree Pinkard, whose brand has been among Drizly’s most popular Black-owned products since 2020, believes the strategy to satisfy consumers and increasing diversity lies in year-round action. “The challenges will always be at the high level for underrepresented brands,” he says. “The system isn’t operated by underrepresented people – we’re constantly knocking down doors that other people just open with a key.”
Pinkard, whose brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2022, believes it’s crucial that retailers support Black- and minority-owned brands year-round in order to drive equality and inclusion. “It has to go beyond Black History Month because not only is that cliché, but broader transparency and expanded choice is what consumers are looking for year-round,” he says
The list below highlights some of the fastest-growing, Black-owned drinks brands. At BevAlc Insights, we urge more retailers to consider supporting these brands, and to seek out additional Black-owned brands, to help drive the drinks industry toward a more equitable future.
The first Black-owned distillery in Kentucky, Brough Brothers is a collaboration between brothers and Kentucky natives Victor, Christian, and Bryson Yarbrough. The Brough Brothers label was initially launched in the U.K. before launching in the U.S. market in 2021.
Made from 100 percent natural ingredients and without added sugar, Avec mixers owners Alex Doman and Denetrias “Dee” Charlemagne are aiming to change the industry by replacing high-sugar and chemical mixers with fruit-based alternatives. Part of the 1% for the Planet group, Avec mixers are proudly made in the United States and appeal to both equality- and ecologically-minded consumers.
Distilled in the heart of Jalisco with natural spring water from an ancient volcano, Ego Tequila aims to eliminate the “bad tequila” stigma with its premium agave products. 100-percent minority and women-owned, Ego is committed to making a statement with every bottle.
Blended from traditional molasses-based rums of Barbados and Mauritius, Equiano is a 100 percent natural dark rum and the first Afro-Caribbean rum on the market. Named for Olaudah Equiano, the brand is an homage to this pioneer’s spirit of determination and freedom. In support of their story, Equiano rum donates five percent of profits plus $2 per bottle to ground-level freedom and equality projects.
Inspired by Haitian Cremas, LS Cream is a premium cream liqueur. Inspired by the family recipes of founders Myriam Jean-Baptiste and Stevens Charles, LS Cream combines notes of coconut, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon in a gluten-free and all-natural cordial. In addition, LS Cream has partnered with Hope for Haiti to fund local water filtration projects.
Inspired by the first known African-American master distiller, Nearest Green, Uncle Nearest Whiskey is the fastest-growing independent, premium American whiskey brand in the U.S. Top-notch sourcing and careful aging of Tennessee whiskies, all filtered through sugar maple charcoal, have made Uncle Nearest beloved by American whiskey lovers.
“When the spotlight of racial inequality came to the forefront, many were reminded that Uncle Nearest is a Black-owned company, and I think many of our consumers felt even better about the ‘why’ behind their continued support for us,” says Weaver, noting that it’s important for her to ensure that the brand remains minority-owned and run. The all-female leadership team is helmed by Weaver, the first Black woman to run a major whiskey brand.
McBride Sisters Collection
Separated by the Pacific Ocean during their childhood, Robin and Andréa McBride teamed up in 2005 to create McBride Sisters Collection, which is now the largest Black-owned wine company in the U.S. Their collections include Black Girl Magic and SHE CAN canned wine, with products hailing from California and New Zealand.
While musician Jon Bon Jovi is often seen as the face of this favorite new rosé brand, Hampton Water was actually the idea of college friends Ali Thomas and Jesse Bongiovi (Bon Jovi’s son). Crafted by winemaker Gérard Bertrand, the dry rosé is made from Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre grapes grown in the south of France.
Union Craft Brewing
Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Union Craft Brewing was founded in 2011 based on the notion that beer unites all people. Under the oversight of co-founder and director of brewing operations Kevin Blodger, who is also chair of the Brewers Association’s diversity committee, the brewery creates a wine range of beers, from lagers and IPAs to goses and barrel-aged stouts.
Armand de Brignac
Dubbed “Ace of Spades” by friends and fans, Armand de Brignac is one of the most luxurious and expensive Champagne brands around, known for its metallic bottles. Now owned by Jay-Z, Armand de Brignac is made by the Cattier family in the Montagne de Reims.
Maison Noir Wines
Sommelier André Hueston Mack worked in some of the country’s best restaurants, including The French Laundry and Per Se, before starting his Oregon winery in 2007. These small-production wines have since become favorites among industry insiders and casual wine lovers alike, crafted from fruit sourced from some of Oregon’s best vineyards.
Myx Fusions is the personal project of music icon Nicki Minaj, who set out to create unique and delicious Moscatos and Sangrias. Originally available as single-serve beverages, Myx is now available in 750 mL bottles and has launched a semi-sweet red blend as well.
Legend Vineyard Exclusives (LVE)
Already a music legend and the first Black man to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, John Legend was set on pursuing his other dream: Starting a world-class wine brand. In 2015, he partnered with Napa Valley producer Raymond Vineyards to create the LVE Collection, which includes fresh French still and sparkling rosés alongside delicious Napa red, white, and sparkling wines.
18th Street Brewery
Initially founded as a home brewery by Drew Fox, in less than a decade 18th Street Brewery has grown to be northwest Indiana’s second-largest brewery. Pilsners, pale ales, double milk stouts, and IPAs comprise the brewery’s flagship beers, but there are always one-off and barrel-aged options released at 18th Street’s brewpub and taproom.
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers has been a fixture of San Francisco’s brewing community since it launched its Prohibition Ale in 1997. But just a few years ago, its future was uncertain. Beer lovers rejoiced when beverage industry veteran Ces Butner purchased Speakeasy in 2017, after years of knowing and loving the brewery. Now, Speakeasy looks forward to a future of growth for its beloved San Francisco brews.
Loft & Bear
In 2014, vodka lover Paul Ryan Elliott decided to attempt to create an artisanal product better than any other commercially available vodka. Then 29 years old, he became one of the country’s youngest distillery owners. The small-batch vodka is distilled in downtown Los Angeles from organic winter wheat and California spring water, and is slow-distilled to coax out nuanced flavors.
Earl Stevens Wine
Platinum-selling recording artist and actor Earl Stevens (more often known by his stage name, E-40) has launched his passion project: A line of fruit-forward, easy-drinking wines. From the red blend to flavored Moscatos, all are serious crowd-pleasers.
Green Bench Brewery
After working at Tampa Bay breweries like Cigar City, head brewer and co-owner Khris Johnson set out to launch St. Petersburg, Florida’s first microbrewery with partners Steven Duffy and Nathan Stonecipher. Green Bench now produces beer, mead, and cider, all of which range from the classic to the experimental.
Hella Cocktail Co.
Founded by three friends living in New York City, Hella Cocktail Co. was created to democratize craft cocktails, allowing anyone to mix up excellent drinks at home. From mixers for classic cocktails like Margaritas and Bloody Marys, to homemade bitters and a supremely popular canned bitters and soda, Hella Cocktail Co.’s nonalcoholic beverages elevate the average home bar.
Rivulet Artisan Pecan Liqueur
Retired lawyer James Marshall set out to craft a unique, world-class liqueur in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky when he launched Rivulet Artisan Pecan Liqueur. Based on high-quality brandy aged in small bourbon barrels, the small-batch liqueur uses meticulously-sourced pecans to create a spirit with nutty, butterscotch-like tones that is equally fit for mixing into cocktails or sipping neat.
La Fête du Rosé
After 15 years of working in the beverage industry, Donae Burston decided it was time to create a rosé brand truly geared towards multicultural consumers. La Fête du Rosé is the first Black-owned rosé from St. Tropez, France, made from sustainable Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah grapes.
Having fought her way into the South African wine industry to become the country’s first Black woman winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela established her own wine brand, Aslina, in 2016. Biyela’s red and white wines have since become some of South Africa’s most sought-after bottles.
Both winery and socioeconomic empowerment business, South Africa’s Fairvalley Wines was created in 1997 by 36 families who worked for historic wine and cheese producer Fairview. Under the helm of cellar master Awie Adolf, Fairvalley now makes Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinotage from Fairview fruit, and profits go towards developing vineyards and homes on Fairvalley’s property.
The three Brown siblings — Deneen, David, and Coral — began making wine in 1996 from the Napa Valley estate their parents had rehabilitated over a decade prior. Today, it’s the first and only Black-owned estate winery in Napa Valley, known for its fantastic Zinfandel wines, among others. The winery launched a second label, House of Brown, with an accessible and widely available California Chardonnay.
Du Nord Craft Spirits
In the heart of Minneapolis, Chris Montana created Du Nord as a family business making delicious craft spirits. The award-winning L’Etoile Du Nord vodka — meaning “the star of the north — is a sipping vodka, meant to be sipped neat or highlighted in cocktails with citrus notes. In June 2020, the company created the Du Nord Foundation to address racial inequities and support minority-owned businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and it has created a riot recovery fund for the minority-owned businesses impacted by recent riots and looting.
House of Mandela Wine
Founded by the descendents of Nelson Mandela, House of Mandela works to preserve the legacy of the Mandela name while working to improve the lives of African communities — and they are doing that through wine as well. Each line of wine is named after the Mandelas’ ancestors and family members and aims to embody the spirit of South Africa and its people.
Created by Malcolm Hale, Plush aims to refine vodka through a meticulous process of distilling eight times. Smooth and sophisticated, this premium vodka also comes in a plum-flavored style.
18th Street Distillery
From the team behind 18th Street Brewery, this distillery is the first to open in northwest Indiana since Prohibition. Artisan spirits like rye whiskey, rum, gin, and even moonshine are aged carefully to create full and layered flavors.
Blackleaf Organic Vodka
To create a premium, organic vodka, entrepreneur Kevin Larkai sought out the right spirits producer as a partner. He found that in Maison Rene Laclie, which has more than a century of Cognac-producing history. The combination of ths know-how, along with organic winter wheat and Cognac spring water, creates a smooth and refined French spirit.
Harlem Brewing Co.
Harlem Brewing Co. was created by Celeste Beatty as a one woman-operation nearly two decades ago. These beers are now sold internationally, winning awards for the brewery’s IPAs, ales, and wits while bringing recognition to the company’s home Harlem neighborhood.
Founded by Rodney E. Foster, Edelheiss Wine works with German growers to create organic red and sparkling wines. The fortified red in particular is inspired by Foster’s love of gluhwein, or mulled wine, using a special blend of spices to create a harmonious taste.
In a repurposed 1950s gas station, head brewer Stephen Kirby specializes in English ales, particularly those that are cask-conditioned. All are naturally processed and unfiltered.
White Lion Brewing Company
White Lion is the first craft brewery in Springfield, Massachusetts, created by Raymond L. Berry, Jr. to establish a local product for the city. The team specializes in a range of ales, IPAs, and other refreshing styles.
Victor George Vodka
Founded by Fort Lauderdale businessman Victor G. Harvey, this ultra-premium vodka uses all-natural American ingredients, distilled in small batches, to create a smooth, refined vodka.
A boutique, family-operated winery in Livermore Valley, California, Longevity Wines creates small batches of wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Rhône blends and Chardonnay. Winemaker Phil Long approaches every wine not just focusing on the end product, but on the experience of making it — with friends and family — as well.
Three friends from Queens, New York came together to create delicious wines to be opened and shared with friends after a long week of work. The first Esrever wine is a refreshing sparkler made from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
Vanilla Puddin’ Wine
A collaboration from Gabrielle Union, R.C. Mills, and JaM Cellars, Vanilla Puddin’ Chardonnay was created to be both stylish and approachable. Made in California and aged in French oak, it has ripe pineapple fruit and hints of vanilla.
Sherrijon Gaspard loves sparkling wine, so she set out to create a contemporary line of bubblies in a range of colors and styles. The Vina Sympatica wines are juicy, easy-drinking, and most of all, fun.
Chris Christensen founded Bodkin Wines with one goal: To create the first sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in the U.S. Together with business partner Andrew Chambers, he now makes a number of wines from Bodkin’s Sonoma County home, always with the goal of crafting interesting wines from common varieties.
Mal Bien Mezcal
The team behind Mal Bien is determined to go off the beaten path to share Mexico’s best mezcals—and the stories of the people who make them. Each mezcal comes from a different mezcalero, selected to share a unique sense of place.
Founded in October 2017, this coconut cream liqueur is an all-natural, Bahamian spirit. A blend of coconut water, sweet cream, and gin, it creates delicious and harmonious cocktails.
Made with no preservatives or artificial sweeteners, gluten-free Beach St. really is vodka soda in a can. Both flavors—Coastal Lime and Cranberry Splash—are based on the company’s own vodka and mixed with carbonated water, fruit zest, and cane sugar.
Shadow Ridge Spirits Co.
Based in Oceanside, California, Shadow Ridge Spirits Co. is owned by husband-and-wife team Sean Hallman and Lisa Ireland. The craft distillery specializes in premium, small-batch whiskies, including bourbon, rye, and single malts, all aged in charred oak barrels to develop deep and complex flavors. Shadow Ridge also produces two rums, and it will soon be launching a gin.
Carbonadi Vodka’s distinctive black bottle is a nod to its filtration process; distilled from Italian wheat, it’s filtered through carbonados, or black diamonds, which extracts extra impurities. The result is a smooth, pleasant, ultra-premium vodka fit for cocktails or sipping neat.