The spirits industry has traditionally been a man’s world. Until now. GEM&BOLT, the only 100 percent espadín mezcal distilled with super herb damiana has a mostly female team.
Behind the brand are founders AdrinAdrina & Elliott Coon, Partner Jody Levy (co-founder of WTRMLN WTR), and newest member and only male in this all-female team, CEO John Karem.
Alchemist-artist duo AdrinAdrina and Elliot Coon grew up together in a bohemian enclave deep inside Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and it was there they learned the importance of plant knowledge and how to create elixirs and tinctures from found herbs and botanicals.
Living as artists in Oakland the duo created their herbal elixirs for speakeasies and galleries around the city, eventually running their own space. The desire to create a super-clean, and pure spirit to pair with their liquid herbs eventually led them to Oaxaca, Mexico and a partnership with Ignacio Martinez, a fourth-generation Mezcalero to create the liquid that is now GEM&BOLT. The choice to distill their mezcal with organic Damiana was obvious to the duo, the super-herb adaptogen thrives in the same area as agave and was a favorite of Aztec healers who used it as a heart opening stimulant in ceremonial services.
AdrinAdrina and Elliott are highly involved in the harvesting and distilling process, which is all done by hand utilizing traditional methods of roasting/distilling the piñas. The lettering on all of GEM&BOLT’s bottles and materials is an exclusive font created by Elliott, and when they throw an event (and can they throw a party!) the duo erects a display of altars and found art.
Together the team is at the forefront of the clean spirit movement, and GEM&BOLT is only created with pure, unadulterated and sustainable ingredients. GEM&BOLT is available in select restaurants, bars, and hotels in Texas, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, California, and also in Oaxaca, Tulum, Mexico City, Ibiza, Mykonos, Athens, Berlin and London.
Tell us about your brand Gem&Bolt.
Lisa Derman, CEO: Where to start?! There are so many incredible things to tell. Our GEM&BOLT brand was created by the artist-alchemist duo AdrinAdrina and Elliott Coon who drew upon their bohemian upbringing in the mountains of Virginia to create a brand rooted in the sophistication of fine art, celebration, ritual and plant intelligence. Together, they opened speakeasies in Oakland, CA and Oaxaca, MX where they would serve mezcal cocktails infused with damiana to pair with their art shows. In Oaxaca, they learned about the myth and spirituality of mezcal, in general, and quickly knew that they had to create a mezcal of their own.
Our GEM&BOLT mezcal is produced by a fourth-generation maestro mezcaleros in San Dionisio Ocotepec, using traditional methods, no artificial yeast or chemicals. We use mature (8 to 10 year) Espadín Agave from the high lands of Oaxaca. The harvested agave is slow roasted in conic earth pits and then mashed with a traditional Tahona stone. We use only natural fermentation in wooden barrels and once fermented proceed to first distillation in copper stills. The first distillate is rested in oak barrels for a three to six-month period to a second distillation. During the second distillation in a proprietary stainless-steel copper alloy still we add the magical damiana. The combination of our production methods and the addition of the damiana result in an approachable mezcal that is smooth with a less smoky profile and aromatic herbal notes suited for the discerning and mainstream consumer market.
GEM&BOLT, the company, is committed to working on issues related to ethical supply chain, sustainable agriculture, economic development and other related issues to create a comprehensive corporate responsibility plan. The company aspires to be the most conscious spirit company in the world – with everything we do elevating the lives of the people who make our product, their families and the communities in which they live.
We understand you are an All-Female team- talk to us about this.
Jody Levy, Partner: We at GEM&BOLT Mezcal are a tribe of wild warriors who love to work and work to love. We believe in the power of family and look at our entire team as tribe. There is a power to having four female partners at the helm of a spirits company. It is not just about what we do; it’s about how we do what we do. Our dynamic is caring and compassionate. Our work is rooted in transparency, collaboration and efficiency. Our mighty feminine spirits power our brand and our Mezcal with deep divine magic. This is the new paradigm of mission driven, collaborative business for men and women.
Talk to us about your mezcal being distilled with the super herb damiana?
AdrinAdrina, Co-Founder: We chose damiana because we wanted to share an herb with the world that has a strong spirit and celebratory style. Initially we were making a damiana tincture with a mezcal base that we used in cocktails at an art-space and speakeasy we co-founded in Oakland soon after we moved to Mexico. We quickly learned that the maguey plant which is used to make mezcal, and the damiana plant, love each other — thus we made our first mezcal infused with damiana. Our current formula is based on the taste profile of the original infusion.
Talk to us about bottle design and name.
AA: Elliott and I were an artist-duo prior to starting G&B. We moved to
Mexico to start a project and/or business that incorporated all of our talents. We named the project GEM&BOLT. We have no memory of how we came up with the name, but we remember the day we grabbed it from our long list of ideas. We were lying on a grassy null sketching the house of GEM&BOLT – the apothecary, the artist studio, the celebration room, the bedroom, the altar room — each room an integral part of the story. Ellie and I learned about the ancient Zapotec myth a few years into the project — a lightning bolt strikes the gem of an agave plant, roasting and fermenting its sugars, creating the mystical sap known as mezcal — and we knew we were on the correct path. The bottle design is a distillation of our artistic style and creative spirits. GEM&BOLT is a distillation or art, plants & celebration.
What would you like bartenders/consumers to know about your mezcal?
Elliott Coon, Co-Founder: I would love for people to understand the incredible heart & soul behind mezcal & our product in particular. It’s important that people savor & explore it, getting to know it’s nuances rather than associating with the old-school of shooting tequila. GEM&BOLT brings an extra layer through the damiana, which marries so happily with the agave, both in flavor and effect. It’s such a complex, layered & fine product that miraculously also goes down so easily. it’s really worth diving into with all your sense alert. A worthwhile experiment is drinking only GEM&BOLT for an entire night, so as not to dilute the experience in any way. I can guarantee it’s unlike any other spirit you’ve ever spent a night with. That is the GEM&BOLT experience.
What ingredients pair well with your mezcal/what kind of cocktails are being made?
EC: I’m a purist at heart, so my personal favorite is GEM&BOLT with a few rocks and a generous orange twist. Delicious! However, it’s a great mixing mezcal as well, which mixologist seem to relish inventing drinks around. Citrus such as grapefruit and mandarin juices are excellent mixers. We always advocate fresh-squeezed, whenever possible. A fresh rosemary sprig or rosemary syrup also mingles beautifully with GEM&BOLT. Nutmeg and cinnamon are surprising compliments to GEM&BOLT cocktails, despite the fact that I’m normally not a fan of such spices in cocktails. They bring a striking balance to the botanical profile of GEM&BOLT Mezcal. The possibilities are endless. It’s really extremely versatile.