Building the House of Friends
The folks over at Casamigos Tequila—and by “folks,” we really mean the spirits’ founders, George Clooney and Rande Gerber—created a short promotional video (which you can see here) that introduces the playful notion that a bottle of Casamigos could find you in bed with either Clooney or Cindy Crawford (who is married to Gerber). What viewers can’t know from just watching that video is that the opening scene—Crawford in a bed with Clooney—actually happened, albeit innocently, after a night highlighted by the consumption of an entire bottle of the spirit.
As Gerber tells the story, he and Clooney went out to dinner at Gerber’s restaurant, Café Habana, in Malibu, Calif., brought along a bottle of Casamigos, and by the end of the night found that their bottle was empty. This, according to Gerber, is not unusual. After getting a ride back to Gerber’s home, Clooney decided that he was going to stay the night. Only he didn’t make the trek down to the guesthouse, which is where he usually stays the night; instead, he climbed into bed in the main house’s guest room (the spot where Gerber usually sleeps when he comes home late and doesn’t want to wake Crawford).
Knowing how late it was, Gerber decided not to wake Crawford and their kids, who were all sleeping in the master bedroom, and just climbed into one of his children’s empty beds. But in the morning, Crawford woke up and meandered down the hall, saw that the guest room was occupied and climbed into bed—thinking, of course, that the body in the bed was her husband’s. The inevitable commotion that resulted once Clooney woke up (and once Crawford realized it was Clooney in bed with her) startled Gerber awake. As Gerber explains, the decision to weave that incident into the tequila’s promotional materials was made almost immediately, but “we took creative liberties from there.”
As for Casamigos itself, the spirit’s roots can be traced back about a decade, to when Gerber and Clooney were looking to build homes in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. They wanted to produce their own house-label tequila, what Gerber describes as “the smoothest, best-tasting tequila that we could produce.” They did the research, toured local distilleries, and—after a couple of years—had a recipe (including 72 hours of roasting the agave in old-fashioned brick ovens) and a distiller that would handle their small-batch production. “We weren’t in any rush,” Gerber explains. “We had the time and the money to spend to get it right. That was important, because we were just doing it for ourselves.
“We didn’t know the process along the way; we just knew that we weren’t going to settle,” he continues. “We were just going to do it until we got it right. We didn’t think of cost. We were doing it just for us.”
But Gerber and Clooney’s small-batch production soon reached a point (about 1,000 bottles per year) where the distillery could not produce it if the tequila wasn’t deemed a commercial product. Faced with the prospect of no longer having their own tequila to drink, the two decided to expand production. Yes, the bottles have Clooney and Gerber’s names on them, but that’s merely an extension of the way they packaged their tequila when it was still a private production. “It’s not celebrity endorsed, it’s not someone slapping their name on a brand and getting paid,” Gerber says. “It’s our own money behind it. This is something that we’re very passionate about; it’s not a hobby for us.”
The two tequila aficionados/producers taste every batch that’s ready for bottling and won’t distribute it unless they’ve approved it first. They acknowledge that their profit margins are impacted by their process, but they also acknowledge that making a profit was never the goal. The same is also true for the packaging. The unassuming glass bottles were designed to replicate the plastic bottles that Clooney and Gerber used when they were making Casamigos for themselves and their friends. “We didn’t spend a lot of money on the bottle,” Gerber says. “Our money went inside the bottle.”