Review: Meili Vodka Is a Sustainability-Focused Celebrity Spirit We Can Get Behind

Jason Momoa (aka Aquaman) has a vodka. The liquid is far more interesting than that.

April 18, 2024 7:55 am
Meili vodka
Meili co-founders Blaine Halvorson and Jason Momoa

What we’re drinking: Meili, a new American vodka

Where it’s from: The sustainability-minded spirits brand was co-founded by entrepreneur Blaine Halvorson and actor Jason Momoa in 2023.

Why we’re drinking this: We’re unapologetically vodka fans — it’s versatile, offers a sense of place and has to work harder to stand out. 

Admittedly, a new celebrity spirits brand will catch our eye pretty quickly, though usually with an exasperated sigh attached. But Meili (MAY-lee, meaning “the lovely one”) offers a fascinating history and identity (besides not being a celebrity tequila). Co-founded by Momoa and entrepreneur Blaine Halvorson, the process of creating the brand took seven years and a few false starts.

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“We’re longtime friends,” says Halvorson. “We’re both residents of Montana, our kids go to the same school, and [work-wise] I’m a big part of what he looks like on screen.” Their friendship and working relationship soon turned into an idea to collaborate just between the two of them. 

Halvorson suggested a vodka. “Jason’s literal response was, ‘What the fuck are we going to make vodka for?’ He doesn’t like vodka, I didn’t like it. And that’s because it’s stale. It’s the only liquor looked upon as an ingredient, not a spirit first. You’re covering it up, because it’s not meant to be anything.” 

The idea was to create a vodka as a sipping spirit and as an American-made product. Initial plans to distill in Michigan were scrapped, however. “We wanted the ethos to be based around the purity of water, since vodka is 60 percent water,” says Halvorson. “And Michigan…is not known for good water.”

A bottle of Meili vodka in a field
No two bottles of Meili look alike (see below for the reason why)

Interestingly, an idea came from Halvorson’s dad back in Montana. Meili now sources its mineral-rich H2O from a 300 million-year-old aquifer in Big Sky Country; the EPA deems the water from there worthy of consumption sans filtration or treatment. It’s combined with a proprietary mash of Hard Red Spring Wheat and seasonal corns harvested from farms about 10 minutes from the distillery. And, extremely rare for vodka, it’s only distilled once.

So, did Aquaman and co. make a good vodka? Let’s have a sip. 

How it tastes: Coming at a standard 40% ABV, Meili has none of the typical vodka burn on the nose. There’s a lot of sweet corn both there and on the palate along with a hint of peppery spiciness, all balanced with a rich mouthfeel. It’s an excellent sipper that makes for an elevated Martini or Mule (Halvorson swears it also works as a good sub for tequila in a Margarita — a trick they’ve used at tastings and events, which unsurprisingly tend to be packed with Momoa fans). Also, for $20+, it’s a steal.

Fun fact: No Meili bottles are identical because they’re made from 100% post-consumer recycled glass. Halvorson estimates that you’ll find about “12 different spectrums of green” in the various bottles. 

Where to buy: You can find Meili Vodka for about $20-$29 throughout the U.S. and at Total Wine.


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