George Clooney has a strong allure with many Americans, but the latest fascination they have with him is what he’s drinking.

Celebrities and consumers are taking an interest in agave-based spirits since Diageo’s $1 billion takeover of George Clooney’s top-end tequila brand, Casamigos. Diageo reported that tequila sales rose 37% last year, thanks to the rising popularity of its Don Julio label.

Agave spirits have been growing in popularity, but in 2019 they’re finally getting their time in the spotlight. Let’s examine this trend and how distilleries can capitalize on it.

Celebrities cheer with agave spirits

Nearly 40% of cocktail sales in the United States contain tequila or agave, yet there have only been a handful of agave distilleries in the U.S. until recently.

Clooney founded Casamigos in 2013 with some of his celebrity friends, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband) and real estate developer Mike Meldman.

Part of Clooney and company’s deal with Diageo is that they’d continue to promote Casamigos, which means “house of friends.”

Diageo also has relationships with David Beckham and Sean Combs to promote their super-premium products.

While Clooney sold his brand, other celebrities such as Sex & The City star Chris Noth were buying new ones. Noth bought Ambhar Tequila in 2018. The brand makes its tequila from 100% blue agave.

“My involvement with Ambhar Tequila starts with this basic premise – I drink it. It’s delicious and soul satisfying. So… why not?” Noth told The Spirit Business. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to help reinvent the perception of Tequila and elevate the experience of enjoying this ultra-premium spirit the way it’s supposed to be, one sip at a time.”

Beyond tequila

While agave is best known as the plant that is used to make tequila, it is also the main ingredient of several other spirits that have been gaining popularity. Similar to Champagne and Bordeaux, the name “tequila” can only be applied to spirits that are made in a specific region of Mexico. More local distillers are deciding to make their own agave spirits in the US, instead of relying strictly on Mexico.

After tequila, Mezcal is among the most popular agave spirit. Mezcal differs from tequila because it’s distilled from multiple agave varieties, whereas tequila is made from one plant. Some Mezcals can be produced with up to 40 to 50 different types of agave, but they usually have Espadin agave as the main ingredient.

Raicilla is made from agave hearts that are fire-roasted, mashed, fermented, and distilled. Bacanora is made from agave’s piña, and Pulque is made from the sweet, raw sap that comes directly from the agave plant.

Ventura Spirits in California makes vodka, gin, prickly pear spirits, and brandy from natural, local products, making it a 100% Californian agave spirit.

What local distilleries can do to increase sales

While you may not have George Clooney on speed dial to promote your product, you can consider partnering with local celebrities or influencers to help promote your brand on social media. Influencers can post on Instagram or Facebook about enjoying your product, or even feature a cocktail recipe.

For example, Instagram influencer Jess Keys of The Golden Girl features a “Cocktails With Neal” series on her blog, in which she and her husband partner with a spirits brand and show followers how to make a fancy cocktail using it.

If your brand has agave-based spirits, putting a stronger emphasis on the ingredients in your marketing campaigns can help draw new customers to the product.



Meredith Galante