On Sipping Whiskey Neat with G-Eazy, Rap's Budding Spirits Guru
Every July, New Orleans plays home to some of the biggest names in the liquor industry during Tales of the Cocktail: a week-long gathering of seminars, tastings, parties, and musical performances that draw brands, bartenders, and media from all across the globe. This year alone, Snoop Dogg, Grandmaster Flash, Dan the Automator, and Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire graced the stages throughout the booze-fueled festival, fusing the Big Easy’s roots in music and cocktail culture together in a perfect collision of the two worlds -- something that honorary NOLA native and budding spirits guru G-Eazy is no stranger to.
After being named Partner and Co-Creative Director of LA-based clear corn whiskey brand Stillhouse earlier this year, bridging that gap is exactly what Gillum’s focus has been, and Tales seemed as fitting a time as any for a performance back on his old college-era stomping grounds.
At Republic NOLA, the very venue where Gillum first performed at the inception of his stardom, the color scheme is deep red, with Stillhouse bottles on every bar and at every turn. A jazz band opened in front of VIP guests before the main show with general admission buzzing outside the front doors. G sat sprawled in a barber shop chair for a photo opp upstairs above the action. Spiked milkshakes in Solo cups floated around atop trays in the background and fans began to pour in, bringing the thick New Orleans air with them; in the minutes before he was due onstage and in between sips of whiskey, Billboard Style caught up with the rapper to chat cocktails, The Beautiful & Damned, and his vision for the Stillhouse brand.
Tell us about your collab with Stillhouse.
It's a partnership I'm really excited about. I've always seen myself as an outsider and outlier, and that's exactly what I see in Stillhouse. From the red can to the whole mission statement of the company, we're in our own unique lane.
How did you and the Stillhouse team end up joining forces?
I met Brad [Beckerman], the CEO, about 7 months ago through one of my managers and we clicked immediately. For me to work with somebody in that capacity, we have to be on the same page and have similar worldviews...he's insanely driven and dedicated to blowing this up, and that kind of energy inspires me.
Have you always wanted to be involved in the liquor world?
Yeah, it's been in my plans for a long time, but I wanted to be patient and wait for the right opportunity instead of forcing anything or taking any kind of shortcut.
What drew you to it initially?
Honestly, I didn’t start drinking until I moved down here [for college]. But since then I’ve always been a whiskey guy -- I think there’s so much history with whiskey and its attachment to rock and roll -- I just always felt like it was a natural thing to do. But, you know, with anything I’d venture into, I’d want to do it organically and authentically and this opportunity just made sense. I’ve always seen my brand transcending music, being bigger than that -- it’s the entire lifestyle and everything around that.
You went to Loyola University here in New Orleans, which is arguably one of the most prominent cocktail capitals of the country. How would you say that impacted your outlook on liquor/cocktails if at all?
The drinking culture here is definitely something special and unique. It's the place where I got into liquor and cocktails in the first place. You can find any excuse to have a drink when you're in New Orleans, any time of day and any day of the week -- there's so much history and tradition and nostalgia in this town; it's got a really rich culture that's all its own.
What’s your day-to-day like when you’re working on Stillhouse?
I talk to Brad every day. We pitch each other ideas and go over plans constantly. Other than that, it's about incorporating the brand into my everyday lifestyle and finding new ways to collaborate on events.
As Partner and Co-Creative Director, what’s your vision for the brand as a whole?
To be one of the biggest and most iconic liquor companies in the world. I see it being synonymous with a lifestyle and an attitude of defiance. From rock stars to blue collar hardworking everyday people, it represents a way of life and a way of viewing the world.
How do you drink your whiskey?
What’s your favorite cocktail?
When you make or order an old fashioned, do you stick to the classic format or do you like to switch things up? Obviously the original is made with Angostura, but do you ever swap that out for other bitters or anything like that?
Just classic. But I also like dirty martinis, and sometimes I’ll make those with Stillhouse [instead of gin]. My grandfather used to drink them -- I’m named after him and I grew up in his house.
What makes Stillhouse different from other whiskies on the market today?
Well first off, it's a clear corn whiskey. We have five different flavors on top of the clear Original; there's Mint Chip, Apple Crisp, Red Hot, Coconut, and Peach Tea, so there's a diverse offering there.
Which one do you like to drink before a performance?
I like the Mint Chip, Apple Crisp, or Original.
And an unaged whiskey is basically a moonshine, right?
Any recommendations as far as how to drink Stillhouse whiskies at home?
You can keep the cans in your freezer; it's best served chilled. I like the Mint Chip served neat; that's my personal favorite. But the Original is a great whiskey to make cocktails with because it's clear so you can go a number of different ways with it.
What’s up next?
I'm releasing my third studio album this fall, called The Beautiful & Damned. I'm hella hyped for that. After that, we'll announce a big world tour, and we'll find ways to incorporate Stillhouse into the experience at shows.
Any crazy party stories?
Some crazy party stories have happened right here in this room. This is my 26th time performing on that stage...this is my house. I love this place with all my heart -- it was the first place I really performed when I was 18 or 19, and I remember being really nervous before playing and just feeling like this intoxicating rush as soon as I was on. And, you know, just falling in love with that feeling and never letting go of it. I ended up performing here at least twice a year while I was in college here and living here. When I started touring and the music started to go, whenever we played New Orleans or when I was just visiting, we’d come back here to party. It’s just my favorite place.