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Inspiration for Sip+Tipple, a D.C.-based Black spirits membership program, came to its founder while she was scrolling through her Instagram feed in 2020.
While in quarantine, Kimberly Hall, who also serves as the company’s chief curator, came across a post from Angel Anderson, the owner of Spice Suite in Takoma. Her post promoted Blackleaf Vodka, a Black-owned organic vodka with D.C. roots. Hall tried to secure several bottles, but none of the liquor stores near her home in Deanwood, a majority Black Ward 7 neighborhood, carried it. She eventually found it 25 minutes away in Woodley Park.
She remembered a friend having a similar experience trying to secure bottles of a Black-owned bourbon that took her all over D.C. and to a few websites.
Hall, who purchased spirits from local distilleries near her, such as Republic Restoratives and Cotton & Reed, to support them during the pandemic, didn’t think customers should have to work so hard to find Black-owned spirit brands.
So in February 2022, she launched Sip+Tipple, which does it for them.
“I wanted something that I felt was descriptive of drinking and spirits, but also something that was kind of light and fun,” Hall says of the company’s name. “And tipple is just another word for drink—it means to drink habitually.”
Hall brought Tracie Franklin on board as a consultant to recommend bottles and develop cocktail recipes that match patrons’ flavor palates. Franklin, who lives in Upper Northwest, previously spent more than a decade working as spirits brand ambassador for Glenfiddich Scotch Whisky, Rhum J.M, and Angel’s Envy Whiskey. The former bartender also holds several wine and spirits certifications.
Hall works as director of communications for a democracy law firm. She jokes that she has “absolutely zero experience” in the spirits industry, “other than partaking.”
To use Sip+Tipple, prospective purchasers take an online quiz to help Franklin determine their flavor profile. After that, they can expect two, full-size bottles and cocktail recipes that match and expand their profiles, shipped to their doorstep. For now, only D.C. addresses are eligible to participate.
“It was best for me to start in D.C., get some proof of concept, work through some of the kinks and hopefully move to some other states,” Hall says.
At times, she says, people are hesitant to buy a bottle of something they’ve never heard of, so the personalized recommendations are meant to help people overcome that fear. Franklin is hoping the cocktail recipes she designs nudge members to enjoy spirits neat.
“You may be able to learn a cocktail starting from spirits,” Franklin says.
Right now, Sip+Tipple offers two levels of membership: standard and connoisseur.
Customers at the standard level ($150 a quarter) get two bottles from their curated recommendation list, tasting notes, and cocktail recipes, access to the company’s online store of Black-owned spirit brands at members-only prices, and access to the company’s live and virtual events with various partners, chefs, and award-winning mixologists. The first members-only event is a private brunch with Kevin Larkai, owner of Blackleaf Vodka.
For $199 a quarter, people at the connoisseur level get all those same benefits, plus early access to new products and limited items, being among the first to select their quarterly delivery, and assistance planning a tasting.
Hall hopes Sip+Tipple acts as a one-stop shop to support and learn about Black-owned brands. She secures bottles from distributors or directly from the brands.
Hall leans on the experience she learned as a personal shopper assistant for Neiman Marcus in Florida to curate a luxurious experience for members. All new members receive lead-free crystal snifters, for example. As membership grows—around 20 people have joined the club so far—Hall hopes to conduct at-home tastings for top-level members that include tasting kits.
Anyone interested in joining should know Sip+Tipple celebrates and appreciates Blackness. Luxury is the baseline expectation.
“It’s important for Sip+Tipple to be an experience that reflects the power of that dollar,” Hall says. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be catered to and have the opportunity to support brands that represent our culture, our values, and our community.”