SaloonBox Behind The Scenes: GEM&BOLT Mezcal
Our January box premiered our first ever mezcal based cocktail. We’ve been searching for the right mezcal to include in our kits since our launch and were thrilled to discover Gem & Bolt. Read their amazing stories in our interview with the founders, AdrinAdrina and Elliott Coon, below.
Can you tell us about your background? What led to the creation of Gem & Bolt?
We grew up in the Virginia mountainside amidst a wild artist community that valued plant knowledge and the elevating power of conscious celebration. Artists, musicians, herbalists and of course, bootleggers. Everyone had their moonshine and herbal concoctions for every occasion - this kind of knowledge was shared widely and deeply appreciated.
Our parents and their community were masters of celebration and also well-versed in plant-medicine - it was a powerful atmosphere of art+plants+celebration, which has really become the crux of GEM&BOLT and our calling to Mezcal.
As adults we formed an artist-duo, calling ourselves GEM&BOLT. We wanted to create a commercial venture - a culmination of our varied interests in art, plant knowledge and wild expansive lifestyle choices and modalities. We had a GEM&BOLT speakeasy in Oakland and were throwing very eccentric out-of-the-box events for a couple years. Mezcal quickly became our favorite spirit and we saw it was the perfect vehicle through which to promote a clean, celebratory lifestyle.
Most importantly we saw it as a way to communicate a larger vision around conscious celebration. ARTFUL EVOLUTION!!
What sets Gem & Bolt apart from any other mezcal you might find in the market?
We see GEM&BOLT not just as a mezcal but as a clean spirit distilled with a super-herb. It's a sustainably produced, clean, additive-free artisanal spirit produced by traditional methods. However, as the only mezcal on the market distilled with Damiana, it presents a merging of two traditional Mexcian plants and their distinctly uplifting essences. The distillation process with damiana also softens the edge of smoke experienced with mezcal.
Tell us more about Damiana. What is it? Is it unusual to add to mezcal? What gave you the idea to do so?
Damiana is a flowering bush native to Mexico. Throughout history the Aztec, Maya and Zapotec have used damiana for its mythological properties. It's a super-herb known for restoring health & vigor. Hard to put into words, but we believe the experience speaks for itself. We call it a heart opener.
There is a long history of herbal infusions throughout mezcal-producing states in Mexico - this includes Damiana, long favored by many Mexican cultures. However, GEM&BOLT is the first mezcal to bring this marriage to a larger audience.
How does Damiana change the flavor profile of mezcal?
Damiana, which thrives in the same climate as agave, merges beautifully with the earthy qualities innate to mezcal. It brings a subtle botanical edge to the profile, while also mellowing the overall smoke which most people find very appealing. Agave and Damiana are a match made in heaven. The spirit's subtle but layered botanical profile is noted for being less smoky and more smooth than other mezcals, making it ideal for sipping and as a base for mixologists.
We love the name Gem & Bolt and the bottle and logo design. It looks like something that has a story behind it. What led to it?
Ironically, we named ourselves GEM&BOLT as an art-duo a year before we ventured to Oaxaca to dive into the world of Mezcal. At the time, it was about an alchemical merging of universal forces. The power of two natural forces coming together. In Oaxaca, years after naming our speakeasy in Oakland GEM&BOLT, we discovered the ancient Zapotec myth behind mezcal, which tells of a lightning bolt striking the heart (gem) of an agave plant, roasting and fermenting its sugars, & creating the mystical sap known as Mezcal... the serendipity of the two stories merging was what catalyzed the formation of GEM&BOLT Mezcal. It seemed written in the stars.
If you could clear up one misconception about mezcal, what would it be?
That it's "the one with the worm in it" this is a long-outdated association with mezcal that was the result of a few early brands including the agave worm. People also have a tequila-culture associated with Mezcal, but the spirit isn't made for shooting shots and getting wasted. It's really a profound spirit that elevates if you know how to drink it. Sip and savor.
Any advice for our readers on how to taste mezcal? What are the indications of quality in mezcal? How do various brands of mezcal differ?
There's an unbelievable array of flavors and nuances found from one species of agave to the next, as well as from one production to the next. Mezcal is truly the moonshine of Mexico which means that every family has its production secrets and tricks. One of the beautiful aspects of living in Oaxaca is being able to wander the country-side and discovering small family productions of all number of varietals, each with their distinct terroir. Always take one sip and then judge it on the second sip. The first sip can be strong on the palette but by the second, your mouth has adjusted and can define the layers of flavor and viscosity. Savor it, roll it around in the mouth. And always, respond to what you simply like.
What's your favorite way to drink Gem & Bolt? Have you had any outstanding cocktails using Gem & Bolt recently?
We're purists and tend to drink it neat or on the rocks. It's so exquisite on its own. That said, it mixes incredibly and mixologist have a great time inventing GEM&BOLT cocktails because of its array of subtle notes. GEM&BOLT makes a killer Mezcal Negroni!
What's next? Any new projects or products in the pipeline you can tell us about?
We're always keen on new ways to collaborate with artists. We also recently unveiled a music video for DJ-producer Satori art-directed by us, the founders of GEM&BOLT. ZAPOTEC DEATH POEMS is a brilliant Mexican based artist duo that we've enjoyed working with many times and are currently hatching plans for the future. We're overjoyed to have so many incredible creators and visionaries around us and wanting to jump into the space together. The spirit space is RIPE and always thirsty for creative injections that bring perspective from outside.