Co-founder & CEO, Coconut Cartel: Dani Zig

Published by The Rumlab ago about the Coconut Cartel company

Co-founder & CEO, Coconut Cartel: Dani Zig article cover image

Coconut Cartel is a premium Guatemalan añejo rum cut to proof with fresh coconut water. With unrivaled access to a reserve of exquisite aged rum and thousands of acres of coconut farmland, they bring you the finest imports from Central America. Dani Zig is the Coconut Cartel, Co-Founder. Let’s learn more about her in this interview.

TRL: Who is Dani Zig?

My name is Danielle Zighelboim, or Dani Zig for short. I was born in Miami but spent most of my childhood in Central America, between El Salvador and Guatemala. My mom and dad migrated to Miami in the 70s from Guatemala and Venezuela, respectively, and we moved back down to Latin America when my brother and I were kids.

I’m extremely grateful that our parents made this move because growing up in Latin America has defined who I am today and what sparked my interest in food and agriculture. I came back to the US to get my degree in Business & Entrepreneurship and started Coconut Cartel while I was still in school. Since then, I’ve made Miami home again, and it is now also the HQ for Coconut Cartel.

TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

Growing up in Central America, rum is all around you. It’s the liquor used to numb your gums when you’re teething as a baby, the bottle on the table to share with friends, the fancy bottle on the top shelf in your parent’s liquor cabinet, and the item you give to colleagues when you travel abroad. To me, cane is where I come from and rum is genuinely what I enjoy the most.

TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.

Personally, when I’m looking for a rum, I’m looking at where it comes from, what it’s made of, and how it’s made. These three characteristics, although there are more to consider, can tell me a lot about what’s inside the bottle.

The provenance gives me some clues into the overall style of rum making and flavor profile. The cane base, of course, has a dramatic impact on flavor as well. I know if I’m feeling funky and fresh, I’ll go with a cane juice base. If I desire something easier and classic, I’ll go with a molasses base.

Lastly, echoing my thoughts on the cane base, the type of still can tell me a lot. A column of still rum will give me something cleaner and crisp. I like this method for my aged rums, and I prefer to drink them neatly. A pot still will step up the funk and I enjoy crafting cocktails with this style of rum.

TRL: What is the most important contribution youhave made to the rum industry?

Coconut Cartel is a gateway to a universe of rums. By cutting our aged rum blend to proof with fresh coconut water, albeit an untraditional approach, Coconut Cartel is a super smooth and approachable sipping experience. For consumers who are new to sipping rum, Coconut Cartel is a friendly, yet elevated, invitation into the category.

I can’t tell you how many times we hear people say “I don’t drink rum, but this is delicious and not what I expected!”. We are on a mission to taste and educate as many people as we can. We want this discovery moment to multiply, bring more people into the rum aisle, and explore what the world of rum offers.

TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

It’s given me the opportunity to combine my passion for food & beverage with my passion for entrepreneurship. I feel very fortunate to travel the world and share the flavors and culture of the place I grew up in and love so much by way of a bottle of rum.

TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about, besides rum? Why?

Dogs. I’m a weird dog lady. I don’t know why.

TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

At home in our outdoor Florida room. My husband has an amazing rum collection, so we’ll unwind after a long week by pouring a good sipper or making some cocktails. Otherwise, I often crave an Agricole rum daiquiri at Jaguar Sun with a cacio e pepe to follow.

TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe

If it’s nighttime, I’m usually going for an Old Fashioned. I make my Old Fashioned with 2 oz of Coconut Cartel, Angostura bitters, cacao bitters, real Canadian maple syrup, and of course an orange peel.

If I’m chilling outside in the sun, maybe by the pool, or I have friends coming over, I’ll whip up a rum punch. I’m doing 1 part Coconut Cartel, 1 part Uruapan Charanda or Ajornada Cachaca, pineapple juice, freshly squeezed OJ, lime, and grenadine, topped with club soda.

TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?

This category is by far the most dynamic of any spirit, but consumers just haven’t had the chance to dig into its depth yet. What most people know of rum today is the commercialization of just a few types of rum… and dare I say, the rums with the budgets to take the market by storm.

Rum has an incredible spectrum to explore, and I am excited that more people are taking an interest in the category and are curious about what rum has to offer. The trend towards agave spirits is a great example of a future that I hope to see for rum, where consumers will travel and explore to taste and learn about all the varieties out there. That said, we have work to do, and I am passionate about doing this work and bringingmore people into the category.

TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste a goodpremium rum?

My husband has become a pro at this! His method is to take you on a journey through many interesting rums to allow you to see how dynamic and delicious rum can be. When we have guests over, and they’re typically not rum drinkers, he’ll prepare a flight of rums.

He’ll start them off with a Spanish-style “ron”. So maybe a Zacapa, Centenario or El Dorado. These are sweeter, well-rounded, and buttery – a significant starting point. He’ll then move down the line toward something a little more powerful and higher proof, such as one of his many Foursquare. Here’s where the bourbon drinkers really go baffling (in a good way), and then he’ll finish with something high ester, like a Hampden Estate, which packs a punch and is super flavorful. By now, people are absolutely wowed and smitten by the journey. Lastly, he’ll bring in a wildcard Rhum Agricole or a Mexican Charanda to showcase something completely different.

This journey allows people to get a well-rounded experience of premium rums, and hopefully develop a desire to keep tasting and learning more. And of course, he always likes to cap off the experience with a Cartel Old Fashioned.

TRL: Is the commitment to sustainable development the key to success for the permanence of the rum industry in the world? Why?

Sustainability has become a must for all industries because consumers are demanding it in the products they purchase, and is key to the vitality and long-term success of any business in any category.

In the world of rum, sustainable measures can be taken in the actual production process and in the transportation and movement of goods. We are confident in the protocols and systems our distillery partners have in place to ensure the highest level of sustainability and environmental protection is achieved during every stage of the rum-making process.

As a brand, we prioritize localized production to minimize the amount of carbon emissions we produce in the transportation of raw materials and finished goods. We do this by sourcing as much as possible near our bottling facility in Guatemala. Our rum, coconut water, labels, and shippers are all made locally. Soon, we will source our glass and caps regionally as well, to reduce transport emissions as much as possible.

TRL: Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?

I would have said Alexandre Gabriel, but I already got to meet him at Tales last year and it was pretty freaking cool he knew who we were. It was a quick one though, so Alexandre if you’re reading this… drinks soon? Also, Todd Robinson of Copalli Rum I’d have to say “Thank you for making great rums with an amazing sustainability focus in Central America”

TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?

I’d love to highlight rum to draw attention to Central America, its vibrant culture, history, agriculture, and terroir.  Much like Oaxaca has become the epicenter of Mezcal, I believe we have a whole “rum valley” that is worth tasting and exploring, and everyone should experience the magic of Central America.

TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?

Bartenders are the backbone of our industry. They are the creators and tastemakers that guide us on multisensory flavor journeys – from taste, to smell, to presentation – and create a memorable hospitality experience while doing it. We trust bartenders to introduce us to new products, new flavor profiles, and how to tie them all together beautifully.

Bartenders play a very important role in bringing awareness to different spirit categories. They are pivotal in the trial, adoption, and education in the world of rums. More than any celebrity, they are the trusted influencers that most people look to when seeking to discover new spirits, learn more about the magic behind making spirits, and hopefully will continue to spark more interest to delve into the depths of the rum category.

TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?

We must do this together! The beautiful thing about rum is its variety and versatility – we all have our own lane and our unique propositions to the category. Together, as emerging brands, we can dust off the rum aisle and get it groovin’!

TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?