From the Flintstones savoring Winston cigarettes in 1961 to Kendall Jenner’s remarkable work with Pepsi just this year, the realm of celebrity endorsements has known profound highs and devastating lows. In some cases, the celebrity becomes inseparable from the brand — as seen with best-case scenarios Michael Jordan and Nike, Fabio and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and Brooke Shields and her Calvins. For a worst-case scenario of what can happen when you hitch your corporate wagon to a star, see Bill Cosby and Jell-O pudding.
So in the increasingly competitive world of celebrity alcohol endorsements, which local favorites peddling their own concoctions stand out among the crowd and who is simply trying to earn a quick buck by trading off their notoriety? Well, the City Paper decided to take a look at a few celebrity alcohol lines to see which ones live up to the hype.
Bill Murray’s Slovenia Vodka
Created by New York Chef Peter X. Kelly and his team, Slovenia Vodka quickly gained two big-name celebrity backers — celebrated dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov and Bill Murray. This being Charleston, you can guess which one of those two we’ll be focusing on for this article.
In 2013, Murray spoke with Esquire about his decision to invest in Slovenia Vodka and what sets it apart from the rest of the clear spirits.
“I have a quieter voice when I drink it. I drink gin, and once, when drinking gin, I made a large man cry. Not with this. This makes you kind of sweet,” he said at the time.
Distilled from winter wheat and buckwheat, Slovenia Vodka goes down smooth and clean. It also comes in a nice rectangular bottle, so when you accidentally knock over the bottle you sneaked into the movie theater, it doesn’t awkwardly roll down the aisle.
According to Murray’s interview with Esquire, he first got the taste for Slovenia Vodka when Kelly recommended it for Murray’s annual holiday party. When asked about his preferred way to drink and serve Slovenia Vodka, Murray recommended a sculpted ice luge. If that’s a little outside of your price range, just remember Slovenia Vodka’s super catchy slogan — “All you need is Slove.”
Darius Rucker’s Backstage Southern Whiskey
If you wanted to know how dedicated Darius Rucker is to his Lowcountry roots, just check the label of his official whiskey. The pop and country chart-topper’s whiskey is 843 proof. That’s right. Someone had to craft Rucker’s Backstage Southern Whiskey to be 42.15 percent alcohol just to reach a proof equivalent to the local area code. The back of the bottle, filled with incomplete sentences, insists upon a sense of urgency.
It reads, “Can’t see the crowd but sure can feel it. Rehearsed but far from routine. You either belong here or you don’t, there’s no faking it. So lock eyes, lock arms, and raise a glass to all of us who belong here, backstage.”
Strong and dark, Rucker’s whiskey sets the mark for credibility.
Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rum
Admittedly, I am not much of a rum fan. Most brands come with the overwhelming aroma of suntan lotion and remind me of the late nights I’d spend in tanning salons, counting the seconds until a parent would emerge from the back, a deep, deep bronze. From that point, rum has always brought back memories of the scent of suntan lotion mingling with the subtle fragrance of cooked human flesh. With that in mind, country music star Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rum is actually pretty good. In recent years, Chesney has worked to elevate his status as the successor to Jimmy Buffet’s beach bum, “I don’t own any shoes” aesthetic, but at least with Chesney, you know he’ll be bringing some decent booze to the luau.
Dave Matthews’ Dreaming Tree Wines
Whether you’re a fan of the Dave Matthews Band or his solo work — “Gravedigger” is a great track — Dave Matthews collaborated with Sonoma County winemaker Sean McKenzie to release Dreaming Tree Wines in 2011. Named after a track from the Dave Matthews Band’s 1998 album Before These Crowded Streets, Dreaming Tree Wines boasts sustainability. According to the company, each bottle is a quarter pound lighter than your standard vino and all labels are made from 100 percent recycled paper. That covers everything, except what’s actually in the bottle. Offering a crush red blend, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, and a chardonnay, Dreaming Tree Wines is a reasonably priced option for all the Dave-heads out there.
John Daly’s Sweet Tea and Lemonade Vodka Cocktail
If you’ve ever wondered what it would taste like if Arnold Palmer hosted a bachelorette party, this is the booze for you. A send-up on the classic sweat tea and lemonade mixture that bears Palmer’s name, PGA champion John Daly decided to bring his cocktail to South Carolina in 2014, at which time the golf star said he had been sober for six years. The original 30-proof formula containing good, old-fashioned sweet tea, lemonade, plus a bit of vodka is decent. The same cannot be said of the peach tea variety, that tastes like your heartburn decided to fight it’s way up into your brain in order to encourage the monumental hangover that is to come. It is so sweet that you can feel the fillings in your teeth brace themselves and pinpoint any cavities that have yet to fully form. Drinking the peach flavor of John Daly’s vodka cocktail feels like you forgot to close your mouth while getting maced during an island vacation.