We believe in pushing for diversity in the beverage world and, obviously and more importantly, the world, in general, every day of the year. Heritage and history celebration months are a wonderful time to remind yourself of the work to be done, what you can be contributing, and how to diversify your own support in every aspect of your daily life. The key is to then keep that up for the eleven other months.
The phrase “now more than ever” became repeated to an almost cringe-worthy level in reference to pandemic-related matters, but it still feels like a fresh and necessary sentiment in the conversation about improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation. Over the past year, we have seen impossible-to-ignore signs of issues we’ve always known were there--emphasis on the “impossible to ignore”: doing our part to ensure equity for all people is more vital than ever. Broadening your horizons of beverage brands to support may feel insignificant at first, and of course, it’s a small step. But it’s one of the many, many small steps we all need to be taking at all moments, steps that build upon a path to an overall more inclusive world. The thing is, there are so many incredibly vibrant, exciting, unique, game-changing brands out there from people of marginalized backgrounds, so why wouldn’t anyone want to embrace these brands and then feel the absolutely guaranteed benefits?
To take that even further, this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is one that’s importance cannot be overstated. AAPI Heritage Month began in 1979 as a week and was extended to a month, May, in 1990. In 2021, it comes amidst despicable racism and violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders fueled by the pandemic. For more information and ways you can actively help make a difference, visit Stop AAPI Hate.
Again, this may indeed feel like a small step, but we believe in taking every part of your day and your interactions, from the drinks you enjoy to the causes you volunteer for, and applying them toward greater diversity. We are so happy and excited to work with several Asian and Asian American-owned brands that are just incredibly special, all completely blazing new beverage trails in their own right in terms of quality, inspiration, ingredients, design, messaging, and more. Only good can come from incorporating these brands into your roster of favorites, from the impactful issue of diversity all the way down to the simple, undeniable, and still-necessary fact of truly elevated, enjoyable drinking.
Throughout this past month, we’ve been spotlighting these brands in our newsletters and on social media, so to both wrap up AAPI Heritage Month but also use this as a not an end, but a beginning to an entire year and then lifetime of more diverse brand support, we’re including introductions to all of them here. Just in case you missed any, because trust us, you don’t want to miss out on any of these delicious drinks.
MAKKU is a brand worth getting jazzed about because it’s leading the charge in shaking up our collective imbibing experience with a drink many of us may not be familiar with: makgeolli. Makgeolli is truly its own category of beverage that MAKKU founder Carol Pak would like to one day establish in the United States. For now, she says an easy way to think of it is as Korean rice beer. It’s made from rice and a traditional fermentation starter called nuruk, plus water, and it’s roughly filtered. So, makgeolli has a little bit of body and creaminess, but it’s fizzy (thanks to its carbonation), tart, and a little sweet.
Makgeolli may seem new here in the States, but it’s actually Korea’s oldest alcoholic beverage. It had fallen out of favor with more recent generations, but even more recently, it’s been having a resurgence in the form of craft breweries and makgeolli bars. Carol, a native New Yorker, visited some of these places with friends on a trip to Korea in 2017. She was inspired to bring this irresistible beverage to American drinkers, especially because she sees its revived popularity among Korean and Korean-American imbibers as a desire for exploring and celebrating tradition and heritage.
“I feel people in our generation are kind of looking backward and finding pride and joy in their roots,” Carol told us back in February. “It’s a sharing of your culture and wanting to learn more about your history and where you’re from and where your parents are from.
Watch a little more on what MAKKU is all about here.
Japas founders Maíra Kimura, Yumi Shimada, and Fernanda Ueno have built their brand of incredibly unique and delicious beers around their Japanese-Brazilian heritage. Living in Brazil and of Japanese descent, the trio named their brewing company “Japas” to take back a term that is often used to describe those of Japanese lineage in Brazil, without permission. Weaving their culture and roots into everything that makes Japas Japas, Kimura, Shimada, and Ueno are serious trail-blazers.
Japas beers bring Japanese ingredients, dishes, traditions, and flavors to the forefront, embracing them for those who know and love them and introducing them to a new audience. The Matsurika Pilsner is made with jasmine petals used to make the tea that this beer is named for; The Oishii Witbier is made with ginger; and the Taiyaki Stout is made with Anko, an Azuki bean paste that fills the Japanese Taiyaki pastry.
Watch a little more on what Japas is all about here.
Jeremy Kim and co-founder John Dalsey founded Nectar Hard Seltzer to fight “the Claw.” In other words, this is the opposite of your mass-produced, quantity-over-quantity, uninspired hard seltzer. Nectar believes hard seltzer can be a brilliant canvas for big, beautiful flavors, and it also believes in centering those flavor stories around Asian ingredients, adding a whole new light that can shine on long-held traditions. When the more recent rise of hard seltzer meets forever-loved ingredients like Asian pear, mandarin, yuzu, and lychee, the results make a statement--and it’s an irresistible statement, at that.
Throughout the month of May, Nectar has been donating 100% of their profits to a local Asian community organization, and they are partnering with Asian-owned restaurants to help drive business through their doors.
“It’s wild to look back on the last 10 years and see how much progress that the AAPI community has made,” Jeremy says. “Even in the midst of these dirty hate crimes and racial insensitivity, the outpour of support from inside and outside the AAPI community outshines the ugliness.This global, cultural movement that has no signs of slowing down. This next decade is going to be special.”
Watch a little more on what Nectar is all about here. Jeremy says if you’d like to learn more, follow them at @nectarhardseltzer, visit nectarhardseltzer.com, or text them at 310-388-6729.
Kevin Wong and Sean Ro created Lunar Hard Seltzer after one night eating out in Manhattan and realizing that all too often, beverage options fail to represent anything from Asian or Asian-American-owned brands. They wanted to be able to pair Asian dishes with Asian drinks--and really, any and all dishes.
Back in February, Sean discussed with us the stereotype of Asian immigrants wanting their children to be doctors and lawyers in America, leaving the entrepreneurship road less traveled. Sean and Kevin wanted to bring their culture into the business world, into the alcoholic beverage industry, specifically, and celebrate it. They sought to take flavors that might have been othered in the past here in the States and show off their unique splendor in the form of accessible, crowd-pleasing beverages that are perfect for any occasion and any meal.
It’s safe to say that Sean and Kevin have succeeded in that mission, with their incredibly popular seltzers in flavors like Yuzu, Lychee, and Plum. They take the utmost care in their process and sourcing top-notch ingredients right from the source, and it truly shows.
Watch a little more on what Lunar is all about with this fun cocktail video here.