Glenside business celebrates Black-owned spirits, and promotes ‘Black excellence’

The event spotlights Black-owned spirits from the tri-state distilleries.


Khamila "Kitty" Barnes owns Kitty On Top Bartending, a mobile bartending business. (Courtesy of Darnell and Khamila Barnes)

Got a question about life in Philly’s suburbs? Our suburban reporters want to hear from you! Ask us a question or send an idea for a story you think we should cover.

A Glenside event today is celebrating “All Black Everything” by showcasing Black-owned spirits, soul food, and Black vendors.

“We’re just promoting Black excellence,” said Khamila “Kitty” Barnes, who is co-curating the event with husband Darnell Barnes.

Out of over 2,000 distilleries in the United States, few are Black owned and operated. But Black distillers have been making waves in recent years.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Khamila Barnes came up with the idea after taking classes with the Black-owned Ten to One Rum and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey distillers.

“I was flabbergasted at how there are so many Black-owned distilleries,” Barnes said. And because she’s passionate about “libations education,” she organized the event so she could open others’ eyes to local Black-owned companies.

Khamila Barnes smiles while she mixes drinks at a bar.
Khamila “Kitty” Barnes owns Kitty On Top Bartending, a mobile bartending business. (Courtesy of Darnell and Khamila Barnes)

“We make up 2% of the nation’s distilleries, and I want Black people to know that we are in all realms of life, even in spirits,” Barnes said.

Many of the spirit companies that Barnes is featuring are based in the tri-state area, including Mishka Premium Vodka of Allentown, which in 2007 became the first and only Black-owned distillery in Pennsylvania.

Others include Striped Lion Distilling of Woodbury, New Jersey, TCapri Tequila based in Maryland, Diggs Boys Bourbon (whose owners live in North Wales, Montgomery County), NYAK  based in New York, Den of Thieves Whiskey, Ten to One Rum, and beer from West Philly rapper Chill Moody.

A close-up of spirits bottles with the label Den of Thieves.
Den of Thieves is a Black-owned distillery featured at an event in Glenside, Pa. on July 8, 2023. (Courtesy of event organizers)

Barnes will be greeting guests with her specialty cocktails. She’s a mobile bartender and libations consultant.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

On Saturday morning she was buying fresh ingredients, and gearing up to prepare her drinks and juice fresh fruit, including watermelon and pineapple.The food pairings will have a soulful, southern twist, prepared by Barnes’ auntie, Chef Sherri Washington. The menu includes southern style pickled shrimp paired with whiskey, and a baked apple with sweet potato puree paired with rum.

Headshot of Darnell Barnes posing for a photo.
Darnell Barnes runs DSQ photography. (Courtesy of Darnell and Khamila Barnes)

The event space, which doubles as a photography studio, DSQ Photography Studio, run by Darnell, is two-years old. But Khamila has Glenside roots. She grew up in town, graduated from Abington High School and went on to Penn State Abington.

This is the couple’s third annual Black-owned spirits showcase. Khamila also runs regular liquor tastings, where she pairs tequilas and whiskeys. Barnes said she just “loves everything liquor.”

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal