Steven Soderbergh is an Academy Award-winning director and the man behind the cult classic Ocean's Eleven and Magic Mike films. He's also the guy who made the eponymous Che Guevara bio-pic filmed on location in Bolivia with Benicio Del Toro in the title role. It was on that trip to Bolivia that Steven discovered a local spirit similar to pisco that was distilled from muscat grapes and consumed in copious amounts. That regional specialty was called sangani and Soderbergh found himself immediately hooked. The problem with getting hooked on international booze, as Steven soon discovered, is that you're not allowed to order distilled spirits from overseas. The product must first be imported by a licensed company, then distributed to a local retailer where it can then be purchased legally by the interested party. "If I would have known how much trouble this whole thing was going to be I never would have done it," Steven told me over drinks in Hollywood this last year. You see: Steven Soderbergh created a brand, an import company, and hired an entire team of managers just so he could have direct access to his Bolivian drink of choice. Sheer desire was the impetus behind the creation of Singani 63.
Steven was looking for a little help getting the brand off the ground and seeing that he lives near our Hollywood store, he thought K&L might be a good place to start. We loved the spirit from the first moment we tasted it—the bright, floral notes from the muscat coming through in the clear distillate—and given our penchant for Steven's work we thought a partnership could be quite fun. This past year, right around the time Magic Mike XXL was hitting the theaters, we helped Steven throw a cocktail party for Singani 63 in downtown Hollywood where some of our best customers could come try the brand and mingle with Steven himself to offer their feedback. What better way to spend an evening than with a cold drink and one of the most brilliant cinematic minds of the past two decades?
What exactly can you make with Singani 63, you ask? Great question. Just about anything really. Imagine any gin, rum, tequila, vodka, or brandy-based cocktail and just substitute Singani in for the base alcohol ingredient. Make a margarita with Singani instead of tequila. Make a Corpse Reviver with Singani instead of gin. You'll be utterly amazed by how versatile it is. We were drinking Moscow Mules with SIngani in place of vodka and we found the fruity, spicy notes in the spirit blended quite beautifully with the ginger and lime of the added ingredients. Mr. Soderbergh enjoys pure Singani 63 on the rocks. "I never once got a hangover while on the shoot," he said to me that evening. "We all started drinking this stuff like crazy and the next day we found we were not hurting." (To read my complete interview with Steven from back in 2014 click here).
The really bitchin' part of that week with Steven was that he let my wife and me tag along with him to the Magic Mike XXL premier and after-party while we were down in LA. I ended up walking right into former WWE heavyweight champion and Magic Mike star Kevin Nash who was drinking a glass of Singani himself. Trying to decide if I was going to trip over my tongue or man up and have a conversation with the guy, I managed to eek out, "What do you think of the Singani?"
"I don’t really drink spirits, whatsoever," Kevin said. "I’m not a Bourbon guy, or anything—so I mainly drink red wine exclusively. Occasionally I’ll have a beer, but this is one of those things that has a unique flavor. It’s a very sippable drink. It’s not something you can just chug."
"But you like it? Even though you don't normally drink hard stuff? I know Steven likes it because he doesn't wake up ill the next day." I replied.
"That was actually something he talked with me about the night we first drank it, and—sure enough—the next day I woke up crystal clear," Kevin said.
It was at that point we got interrupted by the stage show that was beginning behind us. The after-party had a replica of the Magic Mike strip club complete with live dancers and pyrotechnics. I couldn't decide if I should watch the performance or keep staring at Sofia Vergara who was standing just over to my left with hubby Joe Manganiello. Kevin ended up exchanging phone numbers with me and we wound up doing an interview about drinking a few months later (which you can read here). It was quite a surreal evening overall.
What's funny is that just last week I was re-watching Che on Netflix so I decided to email Steven and ask him more about his Singani experiences while on the set. I was curious as to which other people in the film were interested in Singani and where exactly some of the drinking had taken place. That's when Steven decided to play a little joke on me. He wrote back:
When you mentioned CHE, it jogged something in the back of my mind and I arranged for some interns to dig through our digital archives seven miles beneath the lunar surface. What we discovered was well worth the money, time, and lives it took to find it: the infamous "singani scene" from CHE Part Two, which caused so much internal debate during the editing of the film. My producers felt the scene was crucial because without it, why would Che even GO to Bolivia? I felt it was WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE and NOT COOL to use a scene from a movie about a real-life historical figure to sell my booze in so brazen a way. Fortunately, ethics prevailed and this scene was removed from the film. I believe history will absolve me. Take a look here: http://singani63.com/media/
Hollywood can be a wonderful and exciting place.