Toast to Black History Month with these Black-owned spirit brands

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

It's February, which means two things: It's Black History Month and Dry January is over.

We can celebrate both by raising a shot or mixing a cocktail using one of these Black-owned spirit brands. Nationwide, we're seeing more and more BIPOC become CEOs and leaders in the industry, but sadly not all these brands are distributed in Michigan yet.

Here are several brands that are available in the mitten state, meaning they can be ordered and sold by any liquor store or bar in the area. Of course some bars are already in the know, and are stocking these brands consistently such as Yum Village in New Center, Cornbread Bar and Restaurant in Southfield and Willow cocktail lounge in Detroit, to name a few.

If you want to support Black-owned brands when you're out drinking this month or any time, here's a guide for what to ask for.

Uncle Nearest Whiskey

Said to be the fastest-growing American whiskey brand, Uncle Nearest is named after African American master distiller Nathan "Nearest" Green. Founder and CEO Fawn Weaver, an entrepreneur and storyteller, founded the whiskey company just a few years ago. Since then, Uncle Nearest labels have won many awards and are available in all 50 states. The most popular bottles are the 1884 Small Batch Whiskey and the inaugural blend, Uncle Nearest 1856, which is bottled at 100 proof. There's also a Master Blend edition and a few rye whiskey varieties. All are high proof with most being 50% alcohol by volume or higher. Find them locally in most well-stocked liquor stores, Total Wine & Spirits, Holiday Market and other stores.

Saint Liberty Bourbon

This bourbon brand celebrates and honors America's women who didn't follow the rules during Prohibition. A portion of Saint Liberty's gross profits are donated to groups that are focused on women's empowerment, education and entrepreneurial spirit. Bertie's Bear Gulch Bourbon is named after Bertie Brown, a young African American woman who homesteaded alone in Montana in the 1920s and was known for making moonshine. Mary's Four Grain Bourbon is in honor of Mary Curley, an infamous, red-haired bootlegger. Find either label in Michigan at Total Wine and other well-stocked liquor stores.

Anteel Tequila co-owner Nayana Ferguson

Anteel Tequila

Founded in Canton by Don and Nayana Ferguson, this award-winning tequila brand comes in blanco and reposado varieties, as well as blood orange and coconut lime flavors. Nayana, a two-time cancer survivor, is the first Black woman to co-own a tequila brand. Find it widely available across Metro Detroit in bars, restaurants and store shelves.

Duke & Dame is Black-owned whiskey brand, founded by two friends who made the jump from the finance world to the spirits industry.

Duke & Dame Salted Caramel flavored whiskey

Friends Amani Macaulay and Chima Burey left the corporate finance world to follow their passion for creating whiskey. The Duke & Dame brand makes a flavored whiskey that, while tasting like salted caramel, only has 1 gram of sugar per serving. Sip it on the rocks for an after-dinner sweet treat, make an Old Fashioned with it, or try Duke & Dame in a tropical mule with pineapple juice, lemon juice and ginger beer. The award-winning brand is widely available at stores and bars throughout Metro Detroit.

Brough Brothers

This one is harder to find around town, but it is distributed here. Made in Louisville, Kentucky, this bourbon is run by the three Yarbrough brothers. Look for the bottle with the three brothers on the label with other drawings paying homage to Kentucky heritage: bourbon, basketball, boxing and horse racing. Those visiting the Bluegrass State can get a 30-minute tour of the distillery, which is billed as the first African American-owned distillery in the state.

Light Equiano Rum is a blend of barrel-aged molasses rum from the Caribbean and fresh sugar cane juice rum from Africa.

Equiano Rum

Take your daiquiris to the next level with this award-winning and highly rated Afro-Caribbean rum, named after 18th century writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. Five percent of company profits are donated to freedom and equality projects. A portion of sales from the website funds their own Equiano Rom Co. Foundation Grant, which supports Anti-Slavery International. The spirit is sold as the original, which has no spice, added sugar or colors, and the lighter variety, a blend of barrel-aged molasses rum from the Caribbean and fresh sugar cane juice rum from Africa. I found both bottles locally at Holiday Market in Royal Oak.

For your chance to sample many Black-owned and Black-led spirit brands in one spot, check out the annual Taste of Black Spirits event at the Garden Theater on Feb. 25. The party has a historical component, a chance to get to know the brands, food and cocktails, of course. Tickets start at $55 and can be purchased at

Twitter: @melodybaetens