The Untold Truth Of KISS Drink It Up

It's difficult to think of a product onto which KISS hasn't slapped their name over the years. Their reign as a shock megaband in the mid-'70s — one that thrilled rebellious teens while alarming and confusing parents — gave rise to a slew of associated merchandise. Kids from that era surely remember with fondness their KISS lunch boxes, action figures, bed sheets, and the like.

But as former teen idols transition into elder statesmen of rock, it seems their hearts turn to products that offer more of a touch of class. One wonders what options KISS ran through when deciding what line of consumables to launch in their golden years: Hershey's Kisses, perhaps? Or cat food, to match band member Peter Criss' choice of makeup?

Whatever their thought process, in the end, they landed on good old booze. In November of 2021, the band launched a line of liquor called Drink It Up. It's a seemingly straightforward product, but there are a few things about KISS Drink It Up that even a five-star general of the KISS Army likely doesn't know.

Gene Simmons doesn't like Drink It Up

One of the more unusual things about KISS frontman Gene Simmons — and there are many to choose from — is that he's a non-drinker. Hard as it may be to believe that a man could be stone-cold sober while putting on demon makeup, spitting fake blood on stage, and agreeing to appear in the NBC TV movie "Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park," this was, in fact, the case. As Simmons told the LA Times, "I simply don't like the taste or the smell of anything with alcohol in it." Perhaps the reason he was able to both rock and roll all night and party every day was that he was never hungover? At any rate, when it comes to Drink It Up, it's a safe bet that Simmons has little use for his own product line. We're guessing he was happy to simply collect the profits while letting his bandmates do the taste-testing.

Ace Frehley can't drink Drink It Up

Hold on a minute: there's another member of KISS who doesn't drink alcohol? Do any members of KISS actually enjoy the product Drink It Up by KISS? We'll give Paul Stanley and Peter Criss the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do. But when it comes to sampling the wares, Ace Frehley likely joins his bandmate, Gene Simmons, in abstaining. 

It's doubtful Frehley has a particularly discerning palette when it comes to liquor anyway: according to Stuff Magazine, he once downed an entire bottle of perfume because he was told it contained alcohol. Frehley has been sober since 2006, however, and the legendary guitarist takes his sobriety seriously, telling Loudwire, "There's no alcohol or drugs allowed in the dressing room when I tour." Despite his non-drinking lifestyle, Frehley clearly doesn't begrudge KISS fans the pleasures of an occasional Daiquiri, Pina Colada, or Rum Punch. Just don't bring any Drink It Up products into his dressing room.

Drink It Up has won awards

Although KISS has been snubbed by the Grammys, receiving one sole nomination throughout their entire existence (Best Hard Rock Performance for "Psycho Circus" in 1999), Drink It Up is already cleaning up on the liquor awards circuit. 

According to the product website, the brand has been feted by such entities as the Global Spirit Awards, the International Spirits Challenge, and the Beverage Testing Institute. Do many of these awards seem like they follow the grade school tradition of making sure everyone feels nominated and seen? Yes. Do many of them seem like they exist more for marketing purposes than to recognize actual quality? Yes, again. But an award is an award, and any trophy looks good on a mantelpiece. In one particularly satisfying instance, Kiss Detroit Rock Rum beat out Motörhead Premium Dark Rum in the category of Extra-Aged Rum (Five Years and Older) at the 2021 Sip Awards. In your face, Motörhead!

One of the rums is named after the Latin word for monster

One of the challenges for the higher-end liquors in the Drink It Up line is this: how to suggest sophistication and class when the bottle bears the name of a band whose concerts feature pyrotechnics and a levitating drum set? The Drink It Up brain trust came up with a brilliant solution for their Ultra Premium Dark Rum. Dubbing it "Monster" would have been a non-starter. For one thing, that's already the name of a sickly sweet, caffeine-heavy energy drink. For another, the word "monster" hardly evokes a rum that, according to the product website, possesses "elegant, complex and well-developed aromas." 

But what about the Latin word for "monster," monstrum? It sounds exotic and mysterious, and it even has the word "rum" in it! And thus was born the top-shelf rum KISS: Monstrum. We think Drink It Up is onto something here. For future products, may we humbly suggest Aurum (gold), Morum (mulberry), and Erysisceptrum (low, thorny scrub).

The dark rum is named after a KISS song

As KISS fans know, the band was hardly an overnight success. According to Loudwire, their eponymous first album reached only as high as number 75 on the Billboard charts, selling a measly 75,000 units. However, that overlooked debut yielded some songs that have stood the test of time, including "Black Diamond." 

When it came to naming Drink It Up's dark rum, the choice was obvious. According to its website, KISS Black Diamond Premium Dark Rum has "well-defined tones of dried apricot, arrack, vanilla, nuts, dried dates, vanilla fudge, cinnamon and chocolate." If you crack open some Black Diamond at a party, however, it's probably best not to think too much about the song's lyrics, which describe the days and nights of a desperate and defeated sex worker. Passages like, "Your day is sorrow and madness" or "Darkness will fall on the city, it seems to follow you too" could really sour the taste of a Mai Tai.

Another of the rums is named after a KISS classic

KISS: Detroit Rock Rum, which the website claims has a "very well rounded and full bodied" finish and is "equally appealing to rum aficionados as well as discerning KISS fans all around the world," was named after one of the band's most well-known songs. Despite KISS having no real link to Motor City (they formed in New York), "Detroit Rock City" has become a ubiquitous presence on radio over the years, even spawning a 1999 film of the same name, starring Edward Furlong, Natasha Lyonne, and the original members of KISS. 

Much like Black Diamond, however, it's best not to dwell too much on the potential relationship of the song's meaning to the beverage. Or perhaps the song's lyrics serve as a warning not to imbibe Detroit Rock Rum before getting behind a wheel: "There's a truck ahead, lights starin' at my eyes, Oh my God, no time to turn, I got to laugh 'cause I know I'm gonna die." To quote a common advertising refrain, "Please enjoy responsibly."

A KISS gin is coming

Not yet available through the website, but promised by Paul Stanley to Rolling Stone is KISS: Cold Gin, New York Style. According to the magazine, the gin is distilled five times to give it optimal smoothness, along with flavors of juniper, citrus, and other herbs. Cold Gin continues the trend of Drink It Up liquor being named after KISS songs with depressing or upsetting lyrics. "Cold Gin" isn't about a fatal car crash like "Detroit Rock City," or a defeated sex worker like "Black Diamond." It does, however, concern a man who is in such dire straits that when his heater breaks, his only solution is to run to the nearest liquor store for a bottle of cheap gin, in order to create the illusion of body warmth. "Haha, the cheapest stuff is all I need to get me back on my feet again" sings Gene Simmons. At least he seems happy about it!

Other countries got KISS Drink it Up first

It's true: despite KISS being an all-American band, the U.S. chapter of the KISS Army had to wait patiently while their counterparts from overseas swigged down bottles of Drink It Up to their hearts' content. 

According to Brave Words, 100,000 bottles of Drink It Up had already sold in Europe, Japan, and Australia before the label even hit U.S. shores. This was nothing but a sound business decision, as KISS has always had a dedicated international fanbase, particularly in Japan. "It was like Beatlemania," Gene Simmons told the Tokyo Journal about his band's reception there. "We always go back to Japan. It's an amazing place." 

So it was smart to build up buzz for the brand by releasing it in sure-thing markets first, thereby increasing stateside anticipation with the slow rollout. After all, Simmons has never been shy about being a keen student of the marketing side of the rock business, happily admitting to the Tokyo Journal, "We license almost anything."

The company behind Drink It Up works with other bands

The company responsible for KISS Drink It Up is called Brands For Fans. Based in Sweden, it's "a leader in marketing and sales of alcohol products produced by and together with artists," according to the corporate website

Of particular interest to KISS fans might be Motörhead Spirits, created in collaboration with the legendary British hard rock band. According to the website, options include Motörhead Bomber Smoky Shot, named after the band's third album and Iron Fist American Whiskey, named after their sixth studio release. True head-banging enthusiasts can delve into booze from the Swedish heavy metal bands In Flames, Ghost, and Hammerfall. 

Finally, fans of spelling-challenged hard rockers Def Leppard can look forward to two gin products being launched in Europe and the U.S. sometime in 2022, according to Brave Words. Brands For Fans definitely shows a bias towards the harder side of rock, so we're guessing bands like Chicago, Fleetwood Mac, and Bee Gees would have to look elsewhere if they wanted to launch their own line of spirits. Red Rocker Sammy Hagar, however, has his own liquor thing going on with Flavortown mayor Guy Fieri. 

Drink It Up isn't cheap

At their height of popularity in the '70s, KISS played for suburban teens who scraped together their allowances to afford concert tickets or vinyl LPs (the teens' frightened parents sure weren't going to pay for them). Those kids, late-era Baby Boomers, are now close to cashing in their 401(k)'s and have plenty of disposable income. That's probably why KISS Drink It Up beverages are priced at the higher price margin of rum. According to the website, the prices for a 700 mL bottle ranges from $44.99 for Black Diamond, to $54.99 for Detroit Rock Rum, to a whopping $174.99 for Monstrum. Compare those prices to the ones on BevMo!, where you can grab a 750 mL bottle of Captain Morgan for less than $25. The "cheapest stuff" might have been all Gene Simmons needed when he sang "Cold Gin," but clearly that's not what he's selling now.

Drink It Up is only available in certain states

Memo to the KISS Army: Before running out to the liquor store to pick up some Black Diamond Rum, call ahead to make sure it's in stock. According to Beverage Dynamics, Drink It Up launched in only 25 states. A glance at the list of states to which the label ships, available on its website, reveals some curious omissions. Hawaii and Alaska's absence make sense (shipping costs) as does Utah's (strict liquor laws). Where is North Dakota, which, according to Vine Pair, ranks fifth among states in spirits consumed per capita? The most conspicuous omission, however, has to be Michigan. The fact that KISS fans in the Great Lakes State can't buy Detroit Rock Rum is a cruel irony. One can only hope that Michigan KISS Army members are furiously writing their congresspeople to right this wrong. After all, shouldn't all 50 states be able to rock n' roll and party all night with a bottle of Drink It Up?

Drink It Up gets serious reviews

As a band, KISS were never exactly critical darlings. "Has there ever been a more unimaginative group of songwriters?" wonders Brutally Honest Rock Album Reviews, in a 0/10 drubbing of Alive! "When in the history of rock music has a band that dumb ever become that popular?" Yet in the twilight of their careers, KISS are receiving some of their best reviews ever — for Drink It Up. And the glowing notices are coming from the kind of hoity-toity sources that would never dress up like the Starchild while rocking out to "Deuce." "An estery, character-rich Rum that tingles on the tongue with complex spice, fruit and funk notes," raves Tastings about Detroit Rock Rum. "A touch of citrus bringing some pep to the palate," chimes in Master of Malt. Ironically, this kind of flowery language sounds less like that of a typical KISS fan than of the conservative 1970s parents who tut-tutted disapprovingly at the band's antics. How times have changed!