Kevin Hart wants to make something very clear: his new tequila brand, Gran Coramino, is not just another feckless celebrity spirit cash-grab. The comedian, actor, media mogul, and one-time underwear model balked at that characterization on a recent Zoom call. “A lot of people say ‘celebrity tequila field,’” he said. “I understand where that title comes from; some are deserving of it and others aren’t.” And we are indeed in a world awash with celeb booze, with The Rock, Michael Jordan, Nick Jonas, Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake, and Eva Longoria all having their names attached to tequila brands. But Hart insisted that he’s approached this new venture with the same calculation that he’s brought to the rest of his professional life. “I’ve proven myself to be… a brand, a business, a guy that has navigated his career in the direction of structured and well-manicured moves based on things I’m passionate about.”
And one of those passions happens to be tequila, something Hart said he’s enjoyed throughout his adult life, even creating a tequila bar in his own home with a carefully curated selection of bottles. It’s not just about passion for Hart, however, it’s messaging, as he remained laser focused on promoting both the tequila and the work he’s put into it with rapidfire responses over the course of this interview. For Gran Coramino, he partnered with Juan Domingo Beckmann, the billionaire CEO of Becle (the company that owns Jose Cuervo), and Global Brand Equities.
Obviously, Beckmann knows a thing or two about tequila—Jose Cuervo is undeniably the biggest name in the category—which is why Hart decided to work with him over the many other reputable names in the business. “I’m not just the celebrity that’s slapping his name on a tequila and waiting to see what happens,” he said. “I’m the guy that partnered with Juan Domingo because he represents 11 generations of success in tequila. We’re talking about three-and-half-to-four-years of back and forth, going to Mexico, spending a lot of time with the distillers… understanding that good tequila doesn’t just happen. You gotta go through a lot of shit tequila to get to good tequila.”
Hart decided to launch with a cristalino expression. This unofficial category indicates aged tequila that has been filtered to remove the color while still retaining the flavors picked up during its time inside of barrels. In this case, it’s a reposado tequila (aged between two and 12 months) that spent its initial maturation period in medium-toasted new Eastern European oak barrels. The tequila is then finished for a few months in toasted American oak first-fill Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks from Napa Valley, California. Hart said that he wanted the first Gran Coramino release to be a cristalino to make it stand out, but as a more affordable option than others with a suggested price of $50. “[Cristalino] had been around for like eight years, but I’d never even heard of it,” he said. “When [Beckmann] explained to me what it was… I said this is my sweet spot. But instead of being at a high price, I want to drop [it] down so consumers can be happy and go, ‘Wow, we’re drinking the highest level premium, but at a lower price.’” Hart said that an anejo tequila will be the next release, followed by something he’ll only call a “special surprise” for now.
It’s not like this is the first time Hart has thought about entering the spirits business. In fact, he said there have been other offers on the table over the years, but he didn’t feel like they fit with his character and interests. Tequila was top of mind for him, so when the opportunity arose to partner with Beckmann and Proximo Spirits he felt like it was the right match. Hart mentioned that he plans on promoting Gran Coramino wherever he goes, whether it’s having a bottle on stage to sip from while performing in front of massive crowds or visiting distributors to shake some hands and talk tequila.
Speaking of performing, Hart acknowledged the recent violence that fellow comedians Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle have experienced while telling jokes, but doesn’t seem too worried about his own safety onstage. He noted that while comedians have always had to deal with hecklers, we are in some new territory now. “We’re in a time where the response is one of control almost, where the audience is trying to control or dictate what the performer does, and that’s not how it should be,” he said. “People should remember that you have a choice, nobody’s making you go see these performers. If you’re not a fan, you don’t have to go. If you are a fan, go and have a good time, it’s that simple. I’m confident that the people coming to see me perform are fans, and they’re coming to have a good time.”
Fans are a fickle bunch, of course, and can turn on a celebrity they deem to be lacking in authenticity. Such was the case with Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila, which faced a great deal of criticism about cultural appropriation and tonedeaf marketing when it first launched. Whether or not Hart wants his tequila to be lumped in with other celebrity brands, it is indeed another spirit with star power behind it that has entered a crowded playing field. But he is up for the challenge. “Everybody knows I’m a hard worker, and hard work should taste different,” he said. “We all put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into different things in our lives. How do we celebrate that? I want my tequila to be the choice of your celebration when you look back at your journey and the love you have attached to it.” It remains to be seen if Gran Coramino will reach the lofty heights of Casamigos, which George Clooney and his partners sold for nearly a billion dollars, but Hart is in it for the long haul. “I don’t believe you can win if you shortcut or half-ass the process,” he said. “When you really give it the time and energy it deserves, you get true results. The success that we’re seeing, that’s the biggest testament to knowing [we] did it the right way.”
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