In the US alone, the liquor market with sales in 2020 at $31.2 billion. So it makes sense that celebrities have ventured into the category, particularly those whose music is such a big part of nightlife and are able to advertise their brands on songs that permeate the clubs.
Hip-hop artists didn’t always have their own liquor brands to promote, hence why you would hear frequent mentions of Moët, Dom Pérignon, and Cristal on songs. But a major shift happened when a former Cristal staffer spoke disparagingly about hip-hop embracing the brand in 2006. That led Jay-Z to call for a boycott of the company, and he went on to get involved in the liquor business himself, investing in Armand de Brignac (better known as Ace of Spades), which he recently sold 50 percent of to LVMH. He opened up a door for artists like Travis Scott, who recently partnered with Anheuser-Busch to produce his spiked seltzer Cacti, which sold out in multiple locations less than 24 hours after it was released.
Not all of the celebrities in this story own the brands they endorse, and some brands have been more successful than others, but they’ve all represented a particular moment and spoken to hip-hop’s ability to sell products and make brands relevant. Here, we outlined the 13 most famous celebrity alcohol brands.
Type: Spiked Seltzer
It shouldn’t be surprising to see Travis Scott’s name on this list. Over the past two years, the Houston rapper has become a go-to endorser for brands ranging from Nike to McDonald’s. In March 2021, Scott introduced his newest non-musical venture to the world, a blue agave-infused hard seltzer beverage, CACTI. CACTI is offered in three flavors—pineapple, lime, and strawberry—and sold in nine-can variety packs. Individual tallboy cans are also available in lime and pineapple. The Anheuser-Busch-produced beverage sets itself apart from the crowded hard seltzer market with its higher ABV (alcohol by volume) content. It sits at 7 percent while other popular brands like White Claw and Truly sit at 5 percent. CACTI is more than just a beverage you can cop at your local liquor or beer store. To coincide with its debut, the team released a full merch capsule featuring branded T-shirts, crewnecks, wall clocks, koozies, and even rugs. A commercial, which featured a surprising cameo from comedian Eric Andre, ran during the 2021 Grammys. The video for his single “Franchise” even doubled as a CACTI ad. As always, Scott went above and beyond with the rollout. And this isn’t going to be a limited offering either.
“We’re looking to build this brand for the next few years and decades to come,” vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s Beyond Beer segment Lana Buchanan told Complex in March. “The goal for this is something that, if you were in the mood for it, you can go to your local store, you can go to your local gas station, you can go to your local bodega, you can go to the bar and find this product.” —Mike DeStefano
Whenever you see a skinny, crystal clear bottle of Cîroc vodka in a liquor store, it’s difficult to separate it from Sean “Diddy” Combs. It’s likely that 95 percent of the time you see Diddy in public, he’s cradling a bottle of Cîroc. Surprisingly, despite what it looks like, Diddy is not the creator of Cîroc. Jean-Sébastien Robicquet, a French man whose family has crafted wine for nearly 500 years, created Cîroc. After learning how to make spirits, he worked with Hennessy for 10 years before launching Cîroc with the beverage company Diageo in 2003. Cîroc uniquely stood on its own within the vodka market because it was made out of French grapes rather than grain or potatoes, which gives Cîroc its citrusy flavor. Despite being a different type of vodka, Cîroc failed to take off at first and was reportedly the 50th ranked vodka in the world. So to get more people to drink Cîroc, they turned to one of the world’s greatest businessmen, Diddy, to help sell it. In 2007, Combs inked a deal with Cîroc to manage Cîroc’s branding and marketing initiatives in exchange for a 50-50 share in profits. “I’m not just a celebrity endorser, I’m a brand builder. I’m a luxury brand builder,” Combs told Billboard shortly after signing the deal. “I can’t overhype someone into loving vodka, but once consumers actually taste Cîroc, I think we can convert a lot of people.” After Combs appeared in some glitzy Cîroc commercials, and uploaded YouTube vlogs that taught viewers how to make Cîroc beverages like the “OG Diddy,” Cîroc sales went up. According to the Financial Times, six months before Combs sealed the deal with Cîroc, Diageo was only moving 60,000 cases of Cîroc. A year later, the brand was moving 169,000 cases of Cîroc vodka and then 400,000 cases in 2009. Today, Combs’ net worth is still in the millions and he continues to appear in the brand’s ads and plugs the vodka whenever he can. In 2014 Diddy purchased 50 percent of DeLeón Tequila, which he co-owns with Diageo.—Lei Takanashi
Type: Sparkling Wine
Rick Ross has been expanding his portfolio beyond just rap for years. Maybe you’ve stopped by your nearest Checkers for a Big Buford or hit up Wingstop for a 10-piece order of lemon pepper wings per his recommendation as a notable franchise owner of both companies. Surprisingly, it appears he has no official stake in Luc Belaire though, the French brand that launched its popular sparkling rosé in 2011, despite undoubtedly being its most notorious ambassador. See a photo of Ross at the club, chances are there are multiple black bottles in close proximity. Rozay has gone viral for getting a massage during his Verzuz battle with 2 Chainz, a white bottle of Belaire Luxe in hand. Rozay has shouted out the brand so much in lyrics throughout the 2010s that most people probably thought he owned it.
Belaire was actually founded by Brett Berish, CEO of Sovereign Brands, who also founded Armand de Brignac. You may know it as Jay-Z’s favorite Champagne, “Ace of Spades.” In 2018, Ross was officially immortalized by the brand, though. His face was stamped on special edition bottles as part of the Icon Series. Supporters DJ Khaled and Steve Aoki were also given special versions of the bubbly. While Ross makes drinking Belaire feel like an opulent undertaking, the bottles are actually relatively affordable. A 750 ml bottle of Belaire is only around $30. Anyone can be a Black Bottle Boy if they so choose. The bottle’s unique black and pink design helps it stand out further. But Ross’ impact has been obvious. According to a 2014 report by Wine-Searcher, the brand went from being searched just 16 times in 2012 to being one of the 100 most-searched wine brands on the site just two years later. And this was when Rozay’s Black Bottle movement was just getting started. Almost a decade later and there aren’t many artists as synonymous with a particular brand quite like Ross is with Belaire. —Mike DeStefano
When Jay-Z invested in Armand de Brignac Champagne in 2006, he formed a relationship with its owners, wine and spirits brand Sovereign Brands. Sovereign has a host of other liquors on its roster, including Belaire, which Rick Ross frequently promotes, and Bumbu, which Lil Wayne endorses. Sovereign had also been developing D’ussé, a cognac brand that Jay-Z invested in but didn’t push until 2012. By then Sovereign had sold D’ussé to Bacardi and Jay-Z remained a part owner. D’ussé is a cognac meant to compete with brands like Hennessy, Rémy Martin, and Courvoisier. It’s made at the Château du Cognac in France and the line includes D’USSÉ VSOP, which is aged for at least four and a half years and retails for $45 a bottle, and D’USSÉ XO, a more premium offering that’s been aged for at least 10 years and retails for $230 a bottle. Per usual, Jay-Z has seamlessly connected the brand to culture, whether that be through songs (on Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” he raps: “Hold up, that D’ussé is the shit, if I do say so myself,”) or partnering with popular party series HennyPalooza to rename it DusséPalooza. While Jay-Z and Bacardi still share D’ussé ownership today, we wouldn’t be surprised if Jay-Z flips his investment a few years down the line.—Aria Hughes
Ace of Spades
Type: Champagne with notes of peach, apricot, red berry, citrus, and orange blossom
If you know anything about Jay-Z, you probably know that at one point he touted Cristal, a high-end Champagne, in his raps. But in 2006 when Frédéric Rouzaud, former managing director of Cristal, was asked about hip-hop’s love of the Champagne, he told The Economist: “We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.” Following this, Jay-Z called for a boycott of Cristal, and purchased a piece Armand de Brignac, a luxury Champagne brand. Jay-Z introduced us to Armand de Brignac, which would be nicknamed Ace of Spades after the Ace of Spade logo featured on the gold bottle, in the “Show Me What You Got,” music video that debuted in 2006. Ace of Spades has been described as a “soft and creamy” Champagne infused with peach, apricot, red berry, citrus, orange blossom and sprinkles of brioche. It costs between $300 and $64,999 for a 30-liter bottle, and Jay-Z has made it synonymous with his jet-setting lifestyle. He rapped about it on songs ranging from “On to the Next One,” (“I used to drink Cristal, the motherfucker’s racist, so I switched gold bottles onto that Spade shit”) to the “We Made It Freestyle” with Jay Electronica (“I’m on my Lupita Nyong’o, stuntin’ onstage, after 12 Years A Slave, this Ace of Spades look like an Oscar.”) He even set up a $105,000 tower of bottles at a fundraiser he hosted in 2012 for President Barack Obama. By 2014, Sovereign Brands, the company that owned most of Armand de Brignac (“Ace of Spades”) Champagne sold its interest to a company led by Jay-Z. The artist and entrepreneur must have known the brand’s value was only going to increase, and it did. According to Forbes, Ace of Spades sales helped push Jay-Z into the Billionaire Club in 2019—in 2018 he rapped on Meek Mill’s song “What’s Free,” that Ace of Spades was valued at $500 million. And earlier this year, LVMH purchased a 50 percent stake in the company, which according to Forbes, values the brand at more than $600 million, giving Jay-Z a cash payment of $300 million. The LVMH deal will give the brand more organizational and distribution support, and is yet another monumental business deal for Jay-Z.—Aria Hughes
Type: A blend of cognac, vodka and natural fruits
Dipset’s Sizzurp liquor was arguably one of the most clever attempts to rebrand a widely known purple colored concoction. In 2004 Jim Jones and Cam’ron launched Sizzurp, which wasn’t lean, but a purple cognac-based punch that was similar to drinks such as Hypnotiq. There were a lot of Dipset-related business ventures, which ranged from Cam’s “Oh Boy” cologne to even a street rollerblading team dubbed Dipskate, but none were as heavily promoted as Sizzurp. To commemorate the release of the purple punch, The Diplomats dropped a mixtape dedicated to promoting the drink titled Sippin’ On Sizzurp Volume 1: Getting Drunk On Music. Dipset didn’t just get Three 6 Mafia and UGK in a music video to remix their iconic “Sippin’ on Some Syrup’’ single. They even got artists like Kanye West to make “Sizzurp”-esque remixes of songs like “Through the Bottles.” Who would have thought that a liquor rip-off of Alizé could unite artists like Papoose, The Game, Beanie Sigel, and even the R&B singer Jaheim on a single promotional mixtape. Sizzurp came in at 16 percent ABV and Fabolous proved how good that purple drink was when he dropped a solid freestyle after sipping on it all night. Along with promoting the drink through merch, the purple look of Sizzurp also tied in well with Cam’ron’s Purple Haze album that dropped within the same year. Sizzurp continued to be a part of the Dipset brand later on. It appeared heavily in movies like Killa Season and even had a spinoff liquor dubbed Sizzurp Xtra which boosted the ABV content to 40 percent. Although information about the business behind Sizzurp is scarce, the back of the bottle shows that Sizzurp was made in France and was operated by a company called Rappin Brands. According to some old news posts, Sizzurp sold 7,500 cases and made $1,000,000 in 2006 through just Dipset marketing it. In 2007, the company that owned Sizzurp was acquired by Straight Up Brands, a wine and spirits company that specialized in making celebrity-endorsed liquor. Although Sizzurp has long disappeared from liquor stores, you can find hardcore Dipset fans who have stashed a bottle or two. But if you’re so inclined to taste some liquor made by a member of The Diplomats, you could probably find a bottle of Cam’ron’s pink Pasión Tequila sitting in a liquor store somewhere today. —Lei Takanashi
Type: American Whiskey
“One sip and woo,” yells Drake’s father Dennis Graham (billed as the “Realest Dude Ever”) at the end of a series of Virginia Black ads narrated by Drizzy that released back in July 2017. Drake’s More Life cut “Passionfruit” served as the soundtrack for another ad, which featured Drake, who was disappointed when he saw a love interest pursuing his old man at the club. The ads were honestly pretty funny. Drake even celebrated onstage at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards with bottles of VB. It was clear that he was trying to heavily promote his new liquor at the time. But it hasn’t seemed to find its footing despite Drake’s massive star power. For those unfamiliar, Virginia Black originally debuted back in 2016 as a partnership between Drake and liquor entrepreneur Brent Hocking. It is advertised as a, “personally selected collection of two, three and four-year bourbon finished with a touch of decadence.” Drake even shouts out the 80-proof dark liquor in lyrics to remind us how much money he’s making from the deal. “Virginia Black, I could go make enough money off that to not even rap,” he raps on “Gyalchester.” While it hasn’t been a runaway hit, Virginia Black is still available and still has its supporters. Its unique, octagon-shaped bottles, which are more reminiscent of a perfume bottle than your usual whiskey bottle, are highlighted by a gold cap and logo. They sell in the $40-$60 range. If you do decide to celebrate your next big outing with bottles of Virginia Black, and for some reason you run into the man himself, just make sure not to put 2,000 bottles on his tab. —Mike DeStefano
Type: Tequila and Mezcal
If you follow LeBron on social media, you know he loves his wine. Whether he’s rapping Future in his driveway or walking through the pregame tunnel, a glass of red wine is usually in his hand. So, it might come as a bit of a surprise that he entered the alcohol realm by investing in tequila. In November 2020, LeBron announced his stake in Lobos 1707, a tequila and mezcal brand that offers extra añejo, reposado, joven, and mezcal artesanal varieties, alongside his business partner Maverick Carter as part of the Main Street Advisors group. Other investors include James’ teammate Anthony Davis, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, and agent Rich Paul.
“If it tastes great in Akron, Ohio, then I know it’s the right thing,” James told the Wall Street Journal regarding his decision to invest in the brand. “I had to make sure it wasn’t the boat in Italy that was getting me.”
Lobos 1707 was founded by Diego Osorio and Dia Simms, who has previous experience working with brands like Cîroc. It’s currently available at a select number of retailers across the United States and Mexico with prices ranging from around $49 (joven) to $159 (extra añejo). James might be capturing his fifth championship ring this summer. He seemed pretty jealous of Tom Brady’s tequila-fueled victory celebration in Tampa Bay. Something tells us he will make sure to have a couple of bottles of Lobos on deck in the parade float. And if the time comes, we cannot wait. —Mike DeStefano
Type: Moscato wine mixed with fruit juices and other flavorings
Around 2003, we started to see sleek blue bottles pop up in music videos featuring Nicki Minaj, who was also starting to sprinkle her songs with Myx Moscato references. On Ciara’s “I’m Out,” she rapped “If I’m sippin’ in the club, Myx Moscato.” Minaj, who at that point had done deals with KMart on a fashion brand, MAC Cosmetics, OPI nail polish, and Pepsi, said hard liquor brands approached her, but she wanted to partner with a company that produced something she would actually drink. Myx provided that with Myx Fusions, a Moscato wine packaged in a single serve bottle with a twist-off cap, infused with a fruit juice and other flavors. Nicki became the face of the brand and a co-owner alongside mogul Mona Scott-Young. The beverage, which initially came in three flavors including coconut, peach, and original, came out at a time when moscato, a sparkling, sweet wine, was trending, particularly among the Black and Hispanic female audience. Nicki, one of the few female rappers to have this type of co-ownership deal, served as the perfect brand partner to reach this demographic—and she did. Shortly after Nicki started pushing Myx Fusions Moscato, which retailed for $2.50-$3.99 per bottle and $8.99 per four-pack, monthly sales grew by 500 percent in 2014 and the brand expanded its distribution throughout the UK and introduced new flavors and drink offerings, like a flavored sangria. While Nicki hasn’t been as active, she did promote the drink in 2019 in the music video for Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer Remix” featuring Nicki and Ty Dolla $ign. The brand still exists and is still available to purchase at liquor stores across the country—and Nicki is still prominently featured on its homepage. —Aria Hughes
Following in the footsteps of Diddy’s successful partnership with Cîroc, another vodka brand pulled a similar move by positioning 50 Cent as the brand’s main ambassador. Effen was originally launched in Holland in 2002 and is the Dutch word for “smooth.” The 100 percent premium wheat grain vodka is known for its meticulous distillation process, which creates an exceptionally smooth taste. Previously, 50 Cent made millions off investing in Vitamin Water and becoming the face of the brand. He played a similar card with Effen, since he became a minority shareholder after he invested in it for an undisclosed amount. “Effen Vodka has been my go-to brand for a while,’’ 50 Cent told Paste a year after the deal. “It’s smooth and the perfect example of liquid luxury for when I’m in the studio, on tour or in the club. Effen has doubled in size since I got behind it last year.” Like Diddy, 50 Cent heavily promoted his business partnership with a vodka brand by hosting Effen parties and not so subtly advertising Effen in music videos like “I’m the Man” and “Bring My Bottles.”
Of course, Diddy and 50 Cent eventually beefed over their respective vodka deals. In typical 50 Cent fashion, Jackson trolled Diddy by saying he went “Cîroc coco” after Combs was arrested at UCLA in 2015 for attempting to assault a strength training coach with a kettle-bell. Diddy fired back a couple of weeks later on 50 Cent’s birthday by giving him a lifetime supply of Cîroc. When Diddy made an appearance on The Breakfast Club a month later, 50 Cent sent over bottles of Effen to Power 105.1 with a note that read “Let’s be friends – Curtis Jackson.” Instead of taking the olive branch, Diddy laughed that Jackson was only able to send one case and emphasized that 50 was always following his lead. “I welcome him into the game,” he said. “It’s good to see somebody of my color out there representing in this field. Hopefully he appreciates me opening up the doors for him continuously.” Even Cîroc Boyz members like French Montana got involved with the feud by posting a video of himself dumping bottles of Effen into the trash. A year after the vodka wars started, 50 Cent was threatening to break French Montana’s jaw and making savage Instagram posts about the fate of Bad Boy artists who drank “Puffy Juice.”
In 2017, 50 Cent claimed he made $60 million off Effen in an Instagram post. Although it was reportedly because 50 Cent sold his stake in the brand, the company confirmed their partnership with 50 Cent has not ended. Although there are no hard numbers regarding how 50 Cent has improved Effen’s sales, a senior brand director named Jason Dolenga did say in 2016 that “50 Cent is one of the hardest-working businessmen out there and has played an integral role in the triple-digit growth of Effen Vodka this past year.” —Lei Takanashi
Type: Energy Drink
There was Nelly’s Pimp Juice, Ice-T’s Liquid Ice, and 50 Cent’s Street King Energy Shots. But none of these energy drinks really made as much noise as Lil Jon’s Crunk Juice. Although Crunk Juice was not originally released as an alcoholic beverage, it was conceived as a mixer to make one. As Lil Jon himself explained, the original “Crunk Juice” was a mixed drink consisting of Red Bull and Hennessy—Crunk is also shorthand for “crazy drunk.” After inventing Crunk Juice while touring on the road, Lil Jon realized he could turn it into a great business. “Damn, if we made our own energy drink everyone would buy it,” he said in an interview. “Because if everyone thinks they could get crunk like me, they would buy our own energy drink.” The drink was a pomegranate-flavored energy drink released in 2004 that coincided with the release of Crunk Juice, the fifth and final studio album released by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz. Although the beverage was by all means an energy drink, it was not really advertised as such throughout the album. “One bottle of that moo, galla-gallon of that Henny, mix it with that crunk juice will have a n—a spinnin,” Lil Jon said on “Da Blow.” To further promote the drink, Lil Jon would hold diamond-encrusted chalices labeled “Crunk Juice” in music videos and photo ops. He even made Big Sam of the East Side Boyz guzzle Crunk Juice out of gasoline cans any time a camera was nearby. Although Crunk Juice was advertised as an insane beverage to jumpstart your morning, who knows what it really did to your insides. I mean, the drink had a list of ingredients you could barely pronounce and placed a huge emphasis on containing Horny Goat Weed. If you don’t know what Horny Goat Weed does, go to your local bodega and ask for one of those sus pills behind the cash register to find out. Eventually, Lil Jon went on to make his own wine called “Little Jonathan Winery,” which was a merlot wine that won a silver medal at the 2009 LA Wine and Spirits Competition and received a raving review from Wine Spectator. Crunk Juice is still widely available today, sans Horny Goat Weed, and comes in five different flavors. The idea behind Crunk Juice eventually influenced a brand to produce its own alcoholic energy drinks similarly named “Crunk Juce,” which stirred controversy in the United Kingdom for getting folks too crunk. —Lei Takanashi
Type: Milky vodka in strawberry and peach creme flavors
Pharrell can make anything cool. Well, almost anything. His first foray into the world of liquor probably didn’t go how he hoped. Back in 2011, Pharrell launched Qream, a dessert-inspired, milky vodka available in Strawberry and Peach Creme flavors that catered to women.
“I think there’s such a stigma in the world about indulgence, making people feel guilty,” Williams told Reuters in an interview back in 2011 when explaining he wanted to give people an option to have something sweet without feeling so guilty about it. “Those things release endorphins. That means it brings joy to people.”
It was produced with the world’s largest spirits company, Diageo PLC, the same company that produces Cîroc. But Qream didn’t experience the same level of success in the marketplace. The milky beverage came in a regal bottle with gold details. Its “Q” logo was a nod to the word “queen.” But by July 2012, Diageo had already announced it would be discontinuing the product. Pharrell blamed Diageo for it flopping in the marketplace. In 2013, he filed a lawsuit against Diageo seeking $5 million in damages citing that the brand marketed it as a “club drink” rather than a “high-end leisure class” drink. Almost a decade later, Pharrell would get a chance at redemption though. In 2020, he joined forces with longtime partner NIGO to create the Storm Cowboy Sake line. Critically, it seems to have been a much better venture for Pharrell. The limited batch “natural press” variety was awarded a gold medal in the sake category at the IWC2020 (International Wine Challenge), one of the most influential wine competitions in the world. Bottles are available exclusively through Human Made’s outposts in Japan and feature a special Human Made logo emblazoned on the front. It makes sense that the sake has had success though. It’s almost impossible for a Pharrell x Nigo project to miss. —Mike DeStefano
“Bumbu out the glass, no chase.” Lil Wayne is no stranger to endorsement deals with beverage companies. In 2012, Weezy briefly had a multimillion dollar endorsement deal with Pepsi’s Mountain Dew, which he lost a year later due to some offensive song lyrics. And all the hardcore Young Money fans know that Lil Wayne’s greatest mentor, Birdman, once had that deal with Grand Touring Vodka. Lil Wayne entered into the storied halls of rap liquor endorsements with Bumbu, a Carribean rum that claims to be based on original recipes developed by traders and travelers during the 16th century. Bumbu is also owned by Brett Berish and Sovereign Brands, who is also behind Rick Ross’ beloved Belaire and Jay-Z’s Ace of Spades Champagne. The 35-proof rum is blended with sugar cane from eight different countries and aged up to 15 years in American oak barrels once used for bourbon. Lil Wayne became the face of Bumbu for the brand’s first-ever advertising campaign, which showed Weezy partying with Bumbu and a bunch of goats. Those who have worked with Weezy on ads vouch that he’s a natural pitchman. Sara Gilbert, a public relations manager for Sovereign Brands, told Complex that Wayne has the ability to absorb and improve ad concepts well. “It must be from his experience being a professional for all of his adult life,” she told Complex. “He can hear something and put his own spin to it instantaneously.”
The relationship between Bumbu and Lil Wayne has flourished since. When Lil Wayne dropped Funeral in 2020, Bumbu created a commemorative Bumbu XO bottle to celebrate the release. How much does Berish value his celebrity endorsers? When former President Donald Trump granted a pardon to Lil Wayne, Berish was one of the folks who wrote in support of Wayne’s pardon and described Lil Tunechi as “trustworthy, kind-hearted and generous.”—Lei Takanashi