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The experts of the liquor industry have varied backgrounds, but one thing is certain, they all really love what they do. We chose to highlight the career jump these makers have made to follow their dreams and create their own empires. From ballerinas to TV producers to editors, these people traded in their traditional nine to five jobs for a spot in the liquor industry.
To help support these hard-working individuals, ask about these bottles at your local liquor or wine shop, at restaurants, and more. Try it and buy it if you love it. Bring it as a gift for housewarmings, birthdays, or engagements, and then find the brands on social media and follow them.
We'd encourage you to bring this list with you (and let us know where we can add to it) to reference for all future stock-ups. Scroll through below to see our favorite career stories behind these businesses.
Amass Botanic Vodka
A camera operator turned distiller, Morgan McLachlan left her job in TV to pursue a career in distilling. In 2012, she co-founded The Spirit Guild, an L.A.-based distillery that crafts spirits out of California's finest botanicals and flowers. There, she helped build seven liquor brands from the ground up.
In 2018, McLachlan teamed up with Mark Thomas Lynn on AMASS Distillery, which was originally a traveling distillery. This past year they launched a nonalcoholic spirit filled with citrus, California bay leaf, mushrooms, and juniper—which is nod to McLachlan's love for the Pacific Northwest.
Catskill Provisions Whiskey
Claire M. Marin started her publishing career in New York, but after relocating to the Catskills, she fell in love with beekeeping. What began as a side hobby quickly flourished—she grew her single hive to over 300 bees and realized she could do something more with it. That developed into Catskill Provisions, a purveyor of honey-infused liquor. Catskill Provisions' gin, whiskey, and vodka are all one-of-a-kind spirits that promote sustainable and local products. A percent of sales is donated to help save the bees and support local pollinators.
Yes Way Rosé
Best friends Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir started Yes Way Rosé in 2013 after discovering their shared love of French rosé. Huganir started her design career with The New York Times Style Mag and J.Crew, and Blumenthal was a fashion editor with Nylon, Esquire, and The New York Times on her resume. After tons of research, the two launched the brand on Instagram and quickly realized they could do so much more with it.
They aimed to bring a fresher take to the typically old-school wine and succeeded. You can pick up a bottle or can of Yes Way Rosé, a bottle of bubbly, or the brand's newest addition: spritzes (Peach and Ginger or Pink Lemonade).
Related: The Best Wines
Allison Parc is a former ballerina that retired from that world when she was 23. It's a tough career that demands a lot from your body physically and mentally, and when Parc let that go, she found she really enjoyed cheese, wine, and whisky. As her pivot, she wanted to bring the idea of terroir (typically associated with wine, and all the factors that make a growing region unique) to whisky.
She teamed up with a third-generation French Cognac maker to create Brenne. After riding around New York on a Citibike to self-distribute (that's dedication), the brand is now available across the country. It's also an award-winning whisky and continues to be made at a distillery in France.
Related: The Best Single Malt Scotch Whiskies
21 Seeds Tequila
Kat Hantas hails from the entertainment world, and like many of us, loved a good glass of wine after a long day. She found herself not feeling great, and decided to make the switch to tequila—and it helped—but she wanted to play around with her drinks. She started infusing her tequila with anything she had in her kitchen—from fruits and vegetables to spicy jalapeños. She'd bring these bottles to get together with friends, and soon they started asking for their own share to drink at home.
So, after 15 years in film and TV, she teamed up with her sister, Nicole Hantas-Emanuel, and their friend Sarika Singh to start 21 Seeds. You can pick up a bottle infused with oranges, grapefruit, hibiscus, cucumbers, or jalapeños. Mix and match until you find your favorite to sip on the rocks or in a cocktail.
Freeland Spirits Gin
While Jill Kuehler was running a nonprofit urban farm in Portland, Oregon, she fell in love with the idea of owning a distillery. Kuehler's friend Cory Carman agreed to grow the grain, and then she met Molly Troupe, a master distiller and one of the youngest Master Distillers in the U.S., and realized that was all she needed to get started.
Made in Portland, this hand-crafted, small-batch gin company aims to celebrate women of the craft. Freeland Spirits is one of the only woman-owned and run distilleries. It combines biochemistry, botanicals, and copper pots to create a smooth batch of gin every time.
Related: The Best Gins
Current Cassis Liqueur
Rachael Petach started her career in the hospitality industry, working at both The Bowery Hotel and the Wythe Hotel in New York. ,Her background in programming and operations provided her with the skills to shift from events to running a liquor company. Now, Petach uses berries that were formerly banned (from 1911 to 2003) to craft a fermented black currant liqueur, Current Cassis. Not sure what to do with this? Try it in a Negroni, Manhattan, or another sour cocktail.
Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur
Dr. Nicola Nice pivoted from her academic background as a trained sociologist into the art of creating the perfect gin cocktail. She started LA-based brand Pomp & Whimsy, a freshly minted gin liqueur with botanical-infused bottles and classy feels of modernity and femininity. Coined "Mother gin," this liqueur got its namesake after landing in the hands of mistresses and high-powered figures during gins' peak to fame, who in turn, adored the herbaceous botanical spirit.
When creating her brand, Dr. Nice wanted to reintroduce this gin liqueur to the world and drew inspiration from the creative women of the Victorian area. She wanted to shake up the "boys club" mentality in the liquor industry, and give this subtly tart gin a seat at the table. This classy yet exotic gin comes dressed up to be served and is versatile enough to be enjoyed on its own, combined with a mixer, or as a gin alternative in your favorite cocktail.
Uncle Nearest Whiskey
Fawn Weaver was an entrepreneur for 25 years, a PR company founder, and a restaurant partner before trading in her business books for whiskey barrels. With an impressive and widespread career history under her belt, she then founded Uncle Nearest in 2017, a premium whiskey brand to help re-write history and shape the future. The name is a tribute to Nathan "Nearest" Green, the world's first Black master distiller who taught figures like Jack Daniels yet was left out in the history books of whiskey.
Since its launch, Weaver has committed to making a more inclusive space in the liquor industry for BIPOC leaders. She called on Green's great-great-granddaughter, Victoria Eady Butler, to be the master blender for the brand, and partnered with Jack Daniel's to create a plan to help foster diversity and further Black-owned businesses in the liquor sphere.
In addition to earning several awards, like the 2020 Gold Metal from American Whiskey masters, and World Whiskies Awards Best in Class in 2020, Weaver also started the organization the Nearest Green Foundation, a non-profit that provides each defendant of Nathan Nearest Green with an academic scholarship. Enjoy Uncle Nearest's whiskies on the rocks for maximum enjoyment.