Drinking Gran Coramino Tequila With Kevin Hart

He may be one of the funniest people in the world, but when Kevin Hart talks about his new tequila brand it’s his entrepreneurial side that comes out. After debuting with a cristalino last spring, Gran Coramino has just released its second expression — an añejo aged in American and French oak barrels for a year and then blended with añejo reserves matured in cognac casks. I spoke with Kevin about why he wanted to enter the tequila business, what he learned having drinks with Jay-Z and what he considers the key to his record of success.

What was your first drink?

Goodness, gracious. That’s way deep into the memory bank. I’m quite sure it was a version of something that wasn’t that great. I couldn’t afford much. Actually no! It wasn’t awful, it was the neighborhood favorite: Boone’s Farm. Something affordable when I was in my younger years.

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When did you develop a taste for tequila?

I’ve always been a tequila drinker. In my early days of falling in love with tequila it was 1000% the Patrón option. I liked the reaction that I got from drinking it. You’re talking about my early 20s, Patrón was it for me.

What made you want to start your own brand Gran Coramino?

Things progress. The world of tequila has had so much growth over the last 15-20 years. Sitting here at age 43 I can say I was around for that growth and I witnessed the stages, the change of tastes and the world of premium develop. As I understood more I became more of a fan. I went to Mexico and tasted and gained more knowledge. As my success if life grew the opportunity came to attach myself to the world of alcohol and produce my version of things. I wanted to do it correctly and be invested 100%. It never made sense to me, slapping your name on something and seeing if it sticks. So to make my own tequila and be a part of the process from the ground up, that checked all the right boxes.

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You teamed up with Juan Domingo Beckmann, whose family owns Jose Cuervo.

I can say he is a partner. The success he has had throughout his career — his family has had 11 generations of success in tequila — the knowledge he brings, the relationships. It allowed me to really imbed myself in this space. Not just be a part of it but to gain my own knowledge. I went full steam ahead.

My biggest priority was putting my money where my mouth is. Not just coming in as a guy expecting a take — but a give and take. I wanted to have major skin in the game so we understood my involvement would be throughout everything. You get 1000% of me and my ability. The goal is to make a successful brand. Something that gives me a chance to have a lasting identity in this space. That’s what I hope Gran Coramino can be.

What was your vision for the tequila you wanted to make?

I wanted to solve the problems I dealt with personally in drinking tequila through the years. It shouldn’t come with a high level of warm up, where people are about to take a tequila shot and think ‘oh God let me get ready.’ I wanted to make an enjoyable smooth version of tequila. So I jumped into the space with a cristalino. It’s been around for a long time but a lot of people don’t know it exists. A clear reposado? They think it’s a blanco. It’s premium quality at an affordable price and I think I knocked it out of the park. People respond to the product with that shock factor because they assumed it wouldn’t be good. I wanted to exceed expectations but more importantly win people over with a taste that will make them come back again.

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And now you’ve just come out with an añejo.

Yes. My first release was high quality — we had to make sure we were on the higher side of that with the next version. Once again we went through a crazy process of development – we’re talking about four years of tastings and notes. You can’t be afraid to put the work in and to say no. Can’t be afraid of having a strong idea of what you want and not settle for anything less. And what I can credit my team with is the patience they had with me, knowing I had a firm grasp of what I wanted it to taste like and why. They didn’t fight with me – they aligned themselves and spent years helping me do just that.

Can you share a time you had a drink with one of your idols?

Jay-Z. You’re only motivated to do certain things by watching people who’ve done it correctly. It’s unbelievable what he’s done, with his career and in this space. Look what he did with Ace of Spades and D’Ussé. Sitting with him, hearing about his rise, understanding his road to success and how patient he was with it before he got it to where he wanted. It was motivating and inspiring. Not to mention it was stuff I actually drank, it was great alcohol.

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What was your takeaway from talking with him?

Your goals can be achieved as long as you’re willing to put in the work. That is something I’ve always been able to do. Not just looking for success but doing the work that ultimately gets you the success. Nothing is given, it’s all earned. Thankfully that’s something that rubbed off on me.

How do you like to enjoy Gran Coramino?

I drink it straight. I don’t really need a mixer or chaser. On the rocks or neat — just depends on where I am and who I’m drinking with. I love the taste of it in its entirety.

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What are your future plans for the brand?

We’re looking to become a global brand – I’m not looking for a small piece of success, I’m looking for the biggest piece. When I look at Juan Domingo there are 11 generations of a family business and a family name that’s attached to a brand. I want the opportunity to do that for my family — for Gran Coramino to be associated with the Hart family. And when I’m not here this will be something that is hopefully taking care of generations that come after me. It’s not looking for momentary success, long term is what I’m working towards. Nothing else is an option.

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