For decades, Howard University has been deemed the Black mecca of HBCUs. From Lance Gross and Diddy to countless other influential Black men and women, the Washington, DC institution has been pivotal in paving the way for Black higher education. So, it’s no surprise that Maker’s Mark Private Selection approached alum Joshua Mercer to develop a limited-edition bourbon ahead of the school’s upcoming homecoming game.

Mercer, a 2003 Howard grad who currently hosts the annual HU Bar Crawl (among other events) as well as runs the Howard Alumni Instagram account, began his relationship with the spirit brand nearly 6 years ago as his homecoming events rose in popularity. 

“Maker’s Mark approached me to build a relationship and sponsor some of the Howard alumni homecoming events,” Mercer told EBONY. “The relationship grew and this summer they asked me to come to Kentucky to develop this limited-edition drink.”

Everything from the flavor profile to naming the spirit were left in Mercer’s hands, and this weekend Howard graduates—and DMV residents—will have the opportunity to purchase a bottle or taste his creation during the HU Bar Crawl.

“I named the drink Blaque Mecca as a nod to my alma mater as well as HBCUs in general. As an alum, I’m very proud of this, and it shows the influence of Black spending power and HBCUs," explained Mercer. "It’s also dope for Howard’s impact to be recognized in this way.”


Blaque Mecca is a single barrel release, which means that only 200 bottles were produced and will be available for purchase. If you are in the DMV area, you can reserve and pick up your bottle from Lax Wine and Spirits this weekend. The bottle retails for $80 and all proceeds will be donated back to the Howard Alumni Association. Mercer will also pop up at both Lax Wine and Spirits locations for bottle signings. 

This is Maker’s Mark Private Reserve’s first ever HBCU selection, and there are plans to collaborate with different HBCUs each year moving forward.