Nayana Ferguson was only an occasional tequila drinker when she met her husband, Don, in 2014. He loved the drink, and taught her about the different expressions, or types, including Blanco, Reposado and Anejo, and they came across some amazing, sip-worthy tastes. It didn’t take long for her to become a tequila enthusiast.
“We started tasting different tequilas and started learning more about the history of this amazing agave spirit,” she tells ESSENCE. “It takes the agave plant around seven to eight years to grow to maturity, just to get to the point where the tequila-making process begins. It is unlike any other spirit in the world, which is why tequila has become so popular now.”
In addition to being impressed with the story behind the spirit and admiring the flavors, Nayana, a pancreatic cancer survivor, found that since tequila is a drink naturally low in sugar, it was a superior option for her as she prioritizes keeping her sugar intake low.
“Tequila happens to be a better spirit for my body to process and with all the different types of expressions, I always have something different to enjoy,” she says.
As her appreciation for it grew, she was soon inspired to find ways to bring flavorful, but still healthy versions of the spirit to the masses. So she decided to develop a premium tequila with Don. That’s how Anteel Tequilla, named with the Antillean Crested Hummingbird in mind that the couple encountered during a trip to the Dominican Republic, came to be. During that trip, he proposed to her. It was also the first time they broached the topic of creating their own tequila brand, a discussion that was delightfully interrupted by the hummingbird that would be the brand’s logo and the inspiration for its name.
As for the goal, it’s to provide flavorful spirits for people that aren’t high on the glycemic index, as well as to get people who had negative experiences with tequila in the past, back to enjoying the spirit. They’ve since developed the Anteel Blanco, the Coconut Lime Blanco, and the Anteel Reposado.
“The margarita is arguably the most popular cocktail in the world, with the coconut margarita being one of the most popular flavored versions of it. Our goal was to create an infused tequila made with all-natural flavorings, with no sugars or sweeteners added that could be a cocktail with just a pour into a glass. That is how the world’s only Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila came to be,” she says.
The distinctive taste she describes as smooth with a hint of lime as it goes down, finishing with a lingering flavor of all-natural coconut oils. “The sweet cooked agave truly makes this one extremely palatable,” she says. And then there’s the Anteel Reposado, which has been aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels for eight months, making for some extraordinary flavors, including a subtle whiskey finish. And the Anteel Blanco reels people in with its slightly sweet taste of agave.
The tequilas, which are already attracting serious clientele by generating nearly a quarter of a million in sales and receiving rave reviews (they have won gold at the SIP Awards, as well as silver and bronze at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition) can currently be found in eight states. (Michigan, California, Georgia, Texas, Florida, the New York metro area and Colorado). The brand has plans to expand to more states in 2022. It can also be purchased on the Anteel Tequila website, which ships nationally.
As co-owner of the burgeoning brand, Nayana is one of the few Black women making an impact in the spirits industry. That reality has brought with it some obstacles as the industry is male-dominated, but it’s nothing she isn’t ready to overcome — or already has.
“I am extremely grateful to be able to create a path for others to follow, where we can create brands that speak to our ingenuity, culture and vision,” she says. “It is extremely important to me to make sure that I am helping to inspire women to create and execute whatever vision they have for their lives and to bring diversity in the areas they choose to be a part of. Women have to be fearless when creating the businesses that they are passionate about and not let obstacles deter them.”
She is excited to watch the brand grow and thrive. Nayana and Don have been thoughtful in their approach, from the goal to provide a full-flavored tequila that isn’t filled with not-so-good-for-you sugars and sweeteners, to the name and even the design. It’s all paying off and allowing for this couple to go from simple tequila enthusiasts to successful entrepreneurs, all thanks to their go-to drink.
“On the back of each Anteel bottle, there is a short story about the hummingbird. It states that ‘When a hummingbird crosses your path, it’s an indicator that you need to live life to the fullest,’” she says. “That is exactly what we decided to do, live life to the fullest and create a legacy for us and our family.”