Gem & Bolt founders Adrin Adrina and Elliott Coon shared a childhood in a community of creators in the mountains of Virginia, where plant medicine was part of everyday customs. Long before their life in Mexico, they made damiana elixirs as a way to “share herbal knowledge through the celebratory door,” says Coon. Both artists and alchemists, the duo wanted to be at the crossroads of art, plants and celebration. They learned that there couldn’t be a better place to bring this vision to life than in mezcal country.
“Oaxaca embraces the connectivity between these realms,” she adds. “People across generations and walks of life come together to honor art and community, making their own booze for enjoyment and medicinal purposes as well as a wild proliferation of creativity throughout.”
Upon arrival to the city they began to host gatherings with the intention of connecting with the community and reciprocally sharing culture, methods, artistry and spirit. At first, they did not make their own mezcal, but would buy from local producers and infuse the spirit with damiana to serve to houseguests. As the story evolved, and Gem & Bolt officially launched as a brand, they developed a mastery of the production process from beginning to end.
In turn, their events—particularly the annual Day of the Dead festivities—became attractions for creatives from all over the world. Both Coon and Adrina highlight that with these bashes there is an opportunity to channel funds to various causes, including aiding infrastructure in small towns during the rebuild efforts after the two consecutive earthquakes in 2017.
When visiting their agave fields and distillery, it’s fascinating to see how rooted in the ancient tradition the entire process is. To start, the espadin agave is pollinated by bats at night. It then takes about nine years to be harvest-ready, and every single drop of rain and ray of light it absorbs will impact the final product’s characteristics. When the time comes, a jimador, using a sharp coa de jima, will hand-harvest the massive plants, slashing all spikes off until the core looks like a piña, Spanish for pineapple or, in this case even more appropriate, like a gem.
The cut agaves are slow roasted in a rock-lined conical pit for 72 hours, which brings smokiness to the flavor. They are then crushed and fermented for seven days or more, depending on the climatic conditions. At this step water is added to the mixture, and its quality is extremely important to Gem & Bolt’s distinct taste. “The water in our well is soft, sweet, not heavy in minerals, and it makes the mezcal soft as well,” shares Vicente Reyes, head of production at Gem & Bolt.
The distillation process occurs in two phases: first in a traditional copper still where it rests for two or three months; then in a second custom still made with a combination of stainless steel and copper, where damiana is added. The delicate herb is known for its aphrodisiac powers and is the perfect ingredient to achieve the balanced, round flavor that Gem & Bolt is known for—it seduces devotees across the globe. As Adrina makes clear, “We want to rewrite the conversation around spirits and alcohol, the way people imbibe, the way people celebrate. Damiana is a heart opener, and we like to think our mezcal will be sipped and appreciated as an elevated experience, like the best celebration you could have for yourself.”