Miami, FL

Drake Loves Coconut Cartel, Miami's First Premium Aged Rum Infused With Coconut Water

Best of South Florida

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Coconut Cartel

It all started with a suitcase of coconuts.

In 2012, Miami-born Mike Zighelboim would fly from Miami to El Salvador to visit his father. After a hot day on the golf course, a friend gave him a fresh coconut to drink. It was so crisp, refreshing, and delicious that he decided to smuggle a few home in his suitcase.

From there, an idea was born: maybe he could start a business selling these fresh coconuts to the hotels for the pool and beach venues.

Today, those fresh, super-sweet El Salvadoran coconuts are the basis for Coconut Cartel, a unique blend of premium aged Guatemalan rum finished with fresh coconut water, founded by brother-sister duo Mike and Danielle Zighelboim.

The Coconut Cartel story begins with the company's founders. The duo have called many plaes "home," born in Miami to Latin parents while traveling between Guatemala and El Salvador with their mother and father.

These three drastically different, yet culturally connected places, are also the inspiration behind Coconut Cartel.

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Coconut Cartel

Danielle and Mike were first exposed to the delicious combination while growing up in Guatemala, but the "ah-ha" moment for the coconut water business came to them many years later in 2012 when Danielle was a senior in college. Mike had been living in Miami for several years already; at the time, coconut water was becoming a popular drink.

"I became obsessed with coconut water again, but it didn't taste like the kind we had grown up drinking down in Guatemala and El Salvador," recalls Danielle. "So, when my brother had the idea to import fresh coconuts to Miami, we approached some of the biggest hotels on Miami Beach with the idea to sell the fresh coconuts as a cocktail vessel at their pools and beaches."

As soon as they settled back in Miami, they began their first venture: smuggling coconuts from El Salvador directly to Miami Beach’s best hotels. In the process, they created an Instagrammable beverage by selling beach-goers the coconuts, recommending they add a shot of Guatemalan rum as a simple and easy cocktail — the same way they'd seen people drinking it while growing up down in Guatemala.

The Miami tourist crowd went wild for the rum-spiked coconuts. The combination was delicious, refreshing, and exposed people to real, raw, and unadulterated coconut water in a way they had never experienced it before.

Drinking coconut water with rum or whiskey is very common on the beaches of Latin America and the shores of the Caribbean. But it wasn't always popular in Miami. - Danielle
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Danielle Zighelboim, co-founder and CEO of Coconut CartelCoconut Cartel

The small venture began to open doors into Miami's hospitality and spirits industries while, allowing the duo to collaborate with brands such as Soho House, Standard Hotels, The Surf Lodge while getting their beverages into the hands of mega celebrities like Drake, Martha Stewart, HRH Prince Harry Sussex, Cristiano Ronaldo, or events like III Points Music Festival and the annual SOBE Wine and Food Festival.

The journey into spirits came about very organically, collaborating with their favorite premium rum brands to create coconut cocktails at their accounts. During the collaborations, they realized most people had never experienced a quality, aged rum.

"To us, rum is a highly esteemed aged dark spirit that had a place on the top shelf of every bar," says Danielle. "It's a spirit with many similar characteristics to a fine bourbon or whiskey, one with personality, complexity, and endless versatility. When we would introduce customers to these really good Central American rums, by way of our coconut cocktails, we exposed them to something new, shattering their preconceived notions about what rum was — or could taste like."

Over the last 10 years, Coconut Cartel has helped reactivate about 10,000 acres of coconut farmland in Central America, contributing to the rise of a whole new agricultural export. These coconuts, once only enjoyed by locals, are now being cultivated at high-volume and exported as a result of their growing business. - Danielle

The duo knew they had a hit when Mike took a sales meeting with the head of a large hospitality group who placed an order for 9,000 coconuts to debut at SOBEWFF, recalls Danielle. It got crazier when Drake was in town and had a coconut cocktail at Soho House. He loved it so much that Mike would go on to fly to bring coconuts to Drake, wherever he was.

"That’s when we really knew we were onto something, and Coconut Cartel was born."

Nearly three years later, Coconut Cartel contiues to keep the smuggler spirit alive with the launch of its coconut water infused, premium-aged Guatemalan rum, Coconut Cartel Special. Developed with Central America’s best coconut, coffee, and rum producers, and delivered straight to the U.S. via the Port of Miami, Coconut Cartel Special brings the best of the region to the rest of the world in a bottle. The brand sources all of its ingredients locally in Guatemala, with plans to release more products that showcase the local agricultural offerings of the region.

What you’ll find inside the bottle embodies just that, a unique blend of their Central American dark rum infused with real coconut water. The natural minerality in the coconut water makes this blend uniquely smooth, with a rich taste that is unlike anything available on the market. With notes of vanilla at first and a touch of coconut at the finish, Coconut Cartel is refreshing and — naturally — offers a hint of sweet.

Coconut Cartel is a traditional dark rum distilled in copper column stills. The finished product is aged for 4-, 8- and 12-years in new, charred American White Oak barrels. The final overproof blend is a combination of these rums that "proofed" down to bottle strength (40% ABV) using fresh, locally sourced coconut water.

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Coconut Cartel

"Most distilled spirits are proofed with water down to it’s desired bottle strength," says Danielle. "Our secret is that we use real fresh coconut water off the tree to proof our aged rum blend instead."

The final result is a very smooth, dry, tropical sipping rum. Some people hear the words coconut and rum together in the same sentence and automatically think — sunscreen or flavored or sugary. Coconut Cartel's final blend isn’t sweet, but instead exhibits a unique smooth viscosity that is both delicate and balanced — perfect for solo sipping or mixing into cocktails.

"Coconut Cartel as a brand is really representative of us in the sense that we've lived our whole lives with one foot planted in Miami, and the other one in either El Salvador or Guatemala," says Danielle. "Culturally we've been exposed to what both places have to offer. Our product is truly a reflection of us as people."

This year, Coconut Cartel will also be a featured spirit partner for the Marlin's ballpark. The brand will have its own slushy bar located on the promenade between home plate and third base, as well as at select concession stands. The menu will offer refreshing tropical drinks and classic twists in frozen cocktail form, all made with Coconut Cartel together with organic ingredients from Kelvin Slush Co., and Reàl infused purees. Top features include the Piña Colada, Miami Vice, Frosé José, Hurricane, Limonada Loca and the aptly named specialty cocktail The Home Rum.

Coconut Cartel is 40 percent ABV and 80 proof, available in 750-ml bottles for $37.99. It is currently available in New York, Florida, and California and available to ship to 42 states online through at coconutcartel.co.

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