Like it or not, celebrities dominate the news. No matter how much we all want to deny it issues like Kim Kardashian's marital troubles, Lindsay Lohan's actual trials and tribulations and Scarlett Johansson's man-hungry ways enter the public consciousness faster than any complicated policy issue or presidential debate.
That's why when celebrities, who carry ridiculous amounts of weight when it comes to selling things, endorses or has a hand in creating a consumer product – woe to anyone who gets in the way of the horde stampeding toward the checkout counter.
And why should alcohol be any different? People want to drink what celebrities drink. Assuming, that is, those who have their hands in the spirits world slug back what they're selling.
Not surprisingly, there's a long list of celebrities large and small who've lent their names to bottles of booze. Champagne, cognac, brandy, beer and more are all fair game for celebrities to claim ownership of a brand and offer it up as the latest and greatest taste sensation. But the rich and famous have been putting their names on products for years with mixed results.
Sure, some celebs may take a passionate interest in helping develop their perfume/clothing line/breakfast cereal, but all too many of them are happy to toss their name on something cheap and more than a little vile assuming their name will move product in a hurry – Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth perfume, sold at fine Kmarts everywhere, was evidence enough of that.
So which celebrity-backed booze deliver the goods and are worth paying a few extra bucks for, and which belong in the pile of junk that includes Mr. T's FlavourWave Oven Turbo, Smokey Robinson's Pot Roast and the Kardashian Kredit Kard?
We grabbed a few to find out.
Qream – Summoning up images too foul to be described in detail here, hip hop star Pharrell Williams has developed what he calls a “silky drink to celebrate the beautiful, independent and sophisticated women of today.” Released in strawberry and peach flavors, this cream liqueur is less offensive than some entertainer driven products, but that's about the nicest thing that can be said about it. The peach flavor is cloying and far too sweet, lingering on the tongue for hours after a sip. The strawberry is a slight improvement, toning the sugar levels down to manageable levels and demonstrating a silky texture to rival Pharrell's own smooth delivery. Unfortunately though, the liqueur is marred by markedly a somewhat artificial strawberry flavor. And everyone knows fake just isn't as good as the real thing.
Original Gangster French Brandy – It's hard to begrudge Ice-T, an original gangster himself, the chance to cash in on his notoriety. It's even harder when the product in question, “a brandy in the tradition of the finest French spirits,” is actually pretty tasty. It's not Cognac, but it is a solid expression of brandy, with apple, lemon and caramel notes coming through clearly. It's a bit on the sweet side, and doesn't exhibit the complex flavors brandy is often known for, but for around $25 a bottle it's a pretty sweet deal. The bottle itself is a bit garish, but that's to be expected from the man who wrote “Body Count.”
Conjure Cognac – Ludacris encourages those buying his cognac to “Imagine the possibilities.” Judging by the web site, those possibilities mainly include hanging out in France and other exotic locales with Luda and scantily clad women. Regardless, the cognac is good, but doesn't manage to be nearly as smooth as the man himself. Conjure makes for a solid mixer, but on it's own things are a bit out of whack. The oak flavors are muted and excessively smoky, and while the fruit comes through clearly, with nice ripe apple and pear tinged with a little burnt sugar, the finish is far too sweet, with none of the nuance cognac is known for and far too much heat.
Crystal Head Vodka – Hip hop moguls can't have all the fun. Comedians are big drinkers, so why wouldn't they get in on the boozy fun? Dan Aykroyd is one of the principals behind Crystal Head Vodka, also known as the one in the skull bottle. And with Aykroyd on board the marketing is just bizarre – with references to everything from ectoplasm to aliens and virtually every other horror and sci-fi trope in between while promising to “make true the things that you want to happen for yourself.” And while the only aliens spotted are likely the result of vodka-fueled hallucinations, the stuff inside the patently awesome bottle is pretty tasty. Clean and crisp but somehow trending toward the sweeter side of the vodka spectrum, Crystal Head mixes up about as well as anyone could ask, only stumbling a bit with a slight minerality that seems pronounced when sipped straight. It's not enough to put anyone off it, but perhaps serves as a reminder that Aykroyd's body of work may not be for everyone. After all, for every “Spies Like Us” there was an “Into the Night.”