George Clooney’s New Tequila Is Actually Quite Delicious

Celebrities. They’re so good at, well, being celebrities, with the acting and the smiling and the making people like them, but when they step out of that realm, the results can be mixed. Celebrity-owned restaurants have flopped, celebrity-designed clothing lines have been mocked, celebrity-driven charities have been exposed as farces. And yet they keep at it, because you’ve got to do something with your spare time. And so actor and humanitarian George Clooney has come out with a tequila which people will no doubt buy just because of his involvement, regardless of its quality. It’s called Casamigos, and I tasted it last night while watching celebrities celebrating themselves at the Oscars. But here’s the thing about George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila: It’s excellent.

I’m not surprised, because he partnered with the right people to make it. Casamigos is a group effort, with Clooney hooking up with his longtime pal Rande Gerber, who owns the Gerber Group of bars (Whiskey Blue, Stone Rose, Lilium, etc.) as well as Mike Meldman, founder and CEO of Discovery Land Company. Gerber’s a serious authority on nightlife because his company has been successful at creating sleek and stylish bars, often found in W Hotels, that remain popular for the long term, while other nightlife operators are happy to make a quick hit before packing up and moving on. He’s also Clooney’s neighbor: they own vacation homes adjacent to one another in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

The story goes that the two longtime pals loved tequila so much that they decided to make it for themselves, with their initial batches intended to share among family and friends. But the feedback was so positive that they expanded it into a proper enterprise, and now bars and restaurants across the country are beginning to stock Casamigos. Casamigos, which is made from 100% Blue Weber agave, comes in two expressions: blanco, which is the clear stuff, and reposado, which is "rested" in oak barrels for seven months before bottling.

I poured myself a small glass of the reposado as Seth MacFarlane started his monologue and gave it a swirl. It’s a gorgeous, light amber color, and it smells divine, with aromas of sandalwood and vanilla. On the palate it’s pure pleasure: smooth, smokey, and mildly sweet, featuring the vegetal note of the agave without the bitter ick factor found in cheap tequilas. I tasted faint whispers of artichoke and honey, as if the savory and the sweet were doing a sexy dance together. I gave my wife a taste. Her observation was that it tasted like George Clooney, by which I hope she meant it tasted smooth, sophisticated, complex, and fun. 

It’s not Gerber’s first foray into the spirit world. He partnered with Roberto Serralles to launch Caliche rum last year, which is also quite tasty. With Casamigos, he’s building a spirit empire to supply his nightlife empire. Sounds like synergy to me.

Casamigos Blanco has a suggested retail price of $48 a bottle, while Casamigos Reposado goes for an even $50. I’ve tasted tequilas that cost three times that, but they’re nowhere near three times as delicious. Nice job, guys. Maybe we can hang out and drink tequila some time. Those vacation houses in Mexico must have some guest rooms, right?

[Photo: Andrew Macpherson]

[Related: 310-Year-Old Mount Gay Comes Out With a Spiffy New RumGulp Down a Glass of the New Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2002Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna Make Cool Mini-Movie for Chivas Scotch]

Industry Insiders: Rande Gerber and Roberto Serralles, Spirited Entrepreneurs

Having mastered the art of owning and operating stylish bars and lounges, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gerber (right) decided to enter the next closest line of business: producing and marketing his own spirit. "I love rum, but I wanted to do something different," Gerber says. "I decided that if I wanted to do well, I needed to team up with the best." The best, in this case, is represented by Roberto Serralles (left), a master of distilling, blending, and aging whose family has been producing rum in Puerto Rico for nearly 150 years. The result of their collaboration is Caliche, an aged white rum with citrus, caramel, and vanilla notes that’s smooth enough to enjoy on the rocks, while versatile enough to mix into daiquiris and other cocktails. "The idea is to make a really light distillate and then let the barrel do its magic," Serralles explains.

Caliche rum is available in the Gerber Group’s many venues, including Lilium in New York, Stone Rose Lounge in Los Angeles, and Whiskey Sky in Chicago. 

An Interview with Gerber Group’s Mystery Man, Scott Gerber

A few years back, when I was a partner in SLDesign, I had the pleasure of working with Scott and Rande Gerber, who hired us to work on their rooftop at the W Hotel Buckhead. Rande Gerber is, of course, that former ex-model who is married to Cindy Crawford and is the face of such brands as the Whiskey, Whiskey Blue, Whiskey Sky, Whiskey Park, Whiskey Bar and Grill, Wetbar, Underbar…you get the idea. He also heads up those Stone Rose joints. With somewhere near 30 properties worldwide, Gerber Group is one of the world’s top hospitality brands.

The Gerber group just opened three new venues in the new W Santiago and a Stone Rose Bar and Grill at the JFK Delta terminal. They also offer the midnight bar collection, which is a complete line of seven essential cocktail mixers “made with all the finest all natural ingredients.” With all these amazing achievements and projected developments, Rande Gerber and the Gerber group are household names. However, my Chihuahua has almost as much name recognition as Rande’s brother and partner Scott Gerber.

A google search of his name took me to a ton of Rande links. But Scott Gerber is responsible for directing all of the business operations, including new business development, negotiating partnerships, liaison with property owners, overseeing management and coordinating construction of the properties. He is a gentleman and a scholar with a BS in finance from the University of Arizona. I caught up with Scott yesterday and shot him a couple of questions. He’s a very busy guy.

I googled you and found practically nothing. It basically just refers people to your brother Rande or the Gerber group. Why do you prefer being in the background? It’s much safer that way. [Laughs]. I run the business end of the business. Rande is more involved with the design and aesthetic.

We all know that Rande is much more than just a pretty face. Is there a clear separation of duties? Yes, there’s a clear delineation. Rande wouldn’t get involved with the day-to-day operations.

How many places are you operating and how many more are in the works? We operate 30 properties and we’re having conversations about 10 more. Probably we’ll start up 5 of these this year.

This JFK Stone Rose Bar and Grill fascinates me. Nowhere in my experience is food and service worse than at an airport. I guess that’s changing. Tell me about your synergy with Delta. Our midnight bar collection is being served on Delta flights. Instead of just getting a little bottle and a mixer we make margaritas and cosmos. We teamed with Delta on this and it’s an in-flight revolution. I travel every other week and I know what has been available to a traveler. Were often waiting for a plane for one, two or even five hours. At Stone Rose we have a full bar and menu so you have a relaxed and stylish spot while you are waiting. Our menu gives you a great sandwich or steak and a variety of bites like buffalo mozzarella salad, buffalo wings. Much more than the typical traveling fare.

I guess with increased security we are all forced to spend more time in the airports waiting. Did that extra time factor into your decision to open an airport location? Of course. Travelers are told to be there two hours before their flight. Everyone comes at least one hour early. We wanted to provide something besides the cheesy places that are currently the norm. You can now get a great drink and food while you wait for your plane. Delta asked us to get involved as they try to take their brand more upscale. They even have David Barton exercise facilities at their terminal at JFK.

As hospitality drives the major hotel chains, the Gerber group is the big kid on the block. The Stone Rose in JFK raises the bar and creates a whole new market for food and beverage brands. I’m sure that very soon other hospitality groups will get into the act. Will it be long before we see Pure at the Las Vegas airport? Or Tao, LAX? How about La Esquina, LaGuardia? Customers want things the way they want them, and that means everywhere. They want Whole Foods not Met Foods. They want high end design and style in their boutique hotel, not just in the room, but in the clubs and restaurants that bring the beautiful locals to them. Luxury, boutique brands, with increasingly enhanced amenities, will be available to them wherever they go. Thank god I have a place to hang and eat at JFK. The Delta brand means something more to me today than it did the last time I traveled. What a great idea. If I ever find myself in Santiago, Chile, maybe visiting my friend Lindsey Risk, I’ll stay at The W and visit the Gerber Group’s Whiskey Blue, W Lounge and Red 2 One. I know I can expect high design, great service and an understanding of my needs.