We drank three rounds with Vampire Diaries stars Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder
The former costars are launching Brother's Bond Bourbon on May 1.
Sitting side by side in their new Malibu creative space, Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley are talking about Malcolm Gladwell. Or rather, they're talking about bourbon when things somehow lead to Malcolm Gladwell. In his book Outliers, Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something. "The Beatles played for 10,000 hours together," Somerhalder says. "Bill Gates programmed for 10,000 hours before he started Microsoft." So what does this have to do with these former Vampire Diaries stars who are launching their own bourbon? "We've had 10,000 hours to perfect our friendship," Wesley says with a laugh. "10,000 hours to figure out how to tolerate one another. And we mastered it!"
Put another way, they've had 11 years to perfect their bond, which is approximately 150 fewer years than the vampires they played on the hit CW series. For eight seasons and 171 episodes, Wesley and Somerhalder played vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore — Stefan, the good brother with great hair and a crippling blood addiction, and Damon, the bad brother who tried to disguise his big heart with enigmatic one-liners and the occasional snapped neck. The series launched both actors to stardom, but it also gave them an idea: After years of drinking bourbon — which was really iced tea — on the show, what if they created their own?
In early April, the former co-stars sat down to drink three rounds with EW via Zoom. Unlike Stefan and Damon, they weren't drinking to sublimate blood cravings or to forget that they've got a thousand-year-old vampire after them. This time around, they were drinking to celebrate.
On May 1, they will launch Brother's Bond — "we couldn't name it Brother's Want to Kill Each Other," Somerhalder jokes — a nod to their time playing on-screen brothers and also to their real-life friendship. EW joined them for three of their signature cocktails and while it's unlikely they could out-drink the Salvatore brothers, they're certainly better at having a good time.
ROUND 1: MYSTIC CHARMER (BOURBON, HONEY SYRUP, LEMON JUICE, GINGER ALE)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did the idea for Brother's Bond start while you were on The Vampire Diaries?
PAUL WESLEY: Yeah we've been talking about doing this for a decade. For those who haven't seen the show, we played brothers who drank bourbon on-screen. Off-screen, Ian and I also bonded drinking bourbon. Obviously we weren't drinking bourbon on-screen otherwise, well, his performance would've been a lot better. He would've forgotten even more lines. [Laughs] The reality is we would finish shooting and we'd go to the bar or we'd go to our homes or whatever, but we'd always kick back and have a bourbon so we developed this love for bourbon.
SOMERHALDER: It's the only way that we could actually tolerate each other. [Laughs]
WESLEY: So we fell in love with it. And when the show ended we finally had some time and we really put this thing together. We're just so proud of it.
SOMERHALDER: We did this in the middle of a global pandemic together. We spent eight years on TV together only to now, now that we're on year 11 together, this is the longest relationship I've ever had.
Let's talk "firsts." What was your first alcoholic drink?
WESLEY: I grew up between America and Poland. I was never one of those kids that was like, "Oh my god I can't wait to turn 21 and start drinking!" I never went through that phase because we looked at it as: You drink when you're having dinner. So I don't remember what my first drink was but I never went through that phase of college alcohol madness. It was just something that adults would have when they were bonding.
SOMERHALDER: I'm from New Orleans, my grandmother was French. You'd have wine at dinner, and she would sometimes give me a little spoonful. It wasn't taboo. All the parents would get together after church on Sundays and drink mint juleps on the porch and we'd have little sips. Those were very special times. It was never about alcohol. It was more about family.
WESLEY: With that said I will say I developed my appreciation for bourbon while living in the South while filming.
SOMERHALDER: We were in Atlanta for eight years.
WESLEY: I wasn't introduced to dark spirits or bourbon until then and I realized, "Oh wow this is my kind of drink."
Career-wise, what was your first audition?
WESLEY: I started doing theater in elementary school and then I was doing this theater workshop in New York City and an agent saw me and said, "Hey do you want to audition for a soap opera?" And I was like, "Yeah, of course." So I auditioned for the soap opera and I got the job.
SOMERHALDER: You were young, right?
WESLEY: Yeah I was really young. That was my first real audition. I had done like a couple little commercials but I'd never really auditioned, I was more like an extra. But that was my first real audition and I got the gig. The show got canceled like three months later. [Laughs]
SOMERHALDER: What show?
WESLEY: It was called Another World. I don't think I was the first choice but regardless I got the part. [Laughs]
SOMERHALDER: I want to say my first audition, either at school or for a production, was like fourth grade maybe. Then I remember being in my first play when I was in sixth grade, like a full-scale school production. It was really cool. I knew very early this is what I want to do. [Turns to Wesley] you and I been doing this a long time.
WESLEY: [To EW] Why's he looking at me so seriously? That was so intense.
SOMERHALDER: I'm just saying that's pretty cool. We've been acting like we like each other for 11 years but we've been acting for a damn long time.
WESLEY: But we're still not any good.
SOMERHALDER: No doubt, but we have an amazing bourbon and that's all that matters.
WESLEY: If you drink a lot of Brother's Bond our performances get better.
Round 2: BLOOD BROTHERS (BOURBON, LEMON JUICE, SIMPLE SYRUP, PORT)
SOMERHALDER: This is a whiskey sour but the brothers' way. What we love about this is a whiskey sour people know but you just add that little bit of port on top of it and that beautiful hint of oak really balances out all the citrus.
WESLEY: I'm like a whiskey sour and you're the port.
SOMERHALDER: No you're just sour. [Laughs]
On The Vampire Diaries, you all drank iced tea in place of bourbon, so can you drink iced tea anymore or were you done with it by the end of the show?
WESLEY: I'll tell you a funny iced tea story. We were obviously drinking the iced tea quite often and when you're on set, you're doing take after take after take after take and you take a sip in a scene, well for continuity you have to do it essentially from every angle. So the first season I couldn't sleep. I was jittery, I thought I was nervous. Turns out I was just consuming so much caffeine. So season 2 we switched it out to decaffeinated iced tea.
SOMERHALDER: Season 1 we were lunatics because we were drinking this tea.
At the start of Vampire Diaries, you all got apartments next to each other so you could rehearse all the time, right? Did you end up rehearsing a lot?
WESLEY: We flew to Atlanta together so we could find apartments. We literally got out of the car, it just so happened we were wearing the same outfit.
SOMERHALDER: No we arrived at the airport. When I met you I pulled up and I had a hybrid car, we had some flashy rims on it and really tinted windows--
WESLEY: We had white T-shirts--
SOMERHALDER: We were wearing the exact same clothes.
WESLEY: Same jeans--
[IN UNISON]: Same boots--
WESLEY: And the same glasses.
SOMERHALDER: And the same backpack.
WESLEY: And backpack.
SOMERHALDER: Oh yeah we had black Ray Bans!
WESLEY: We pulled up to the hotel and they were like, "Are you guys in a band?" [Laughs]
SOMERHALDER: We looked like the Blues Brothers, I'm not kidding you.
WESLEY: The show hadn't premiered yet. It was really funny.
SOMERHALDER: It hadn't premiered yet, we hadn't even shot it yet.
WESLEY: We spent a ton of time rehearsing.
SOMERHALDER: That's why we wanted our apartments next to each other. We knew that we needed to be brothers but we wanted to rehearse everything.
WESLEY: Hey you know what, in this new creative space should we get a bunk bed? [Laughs] And then have sleepovers and talk bourbon?
SOMERHALDER: Big brother gets the top bunk.
WESLEY: You do try your best to form a bond with whomever you're working with because you spend a lot of time together. With us it came pretty easily. I think a lot of our synergy, we joke around about it but the truth is, we are kind of different.
WESLEY: I think that's what kind of allows it to sort of co-exist. I think when people are too similar, at first it can be great but then it ends up kind of wearing itself out in a way. We're so different that he brings what he brings to the table, I bring what I bring to the table and it just sort of blends nicely. I think that it's a unique but really fantastic synergy for not only friendship but business.
SOMERHALDER: It's also been tested. You're talking about over a decade of testing. He and I, we helped build a massive pop cultural phenomenon of a television show together—
WESLEY: In all humility.
SOMERHALDER: I do say that all in humility but built on the backs of us and our cast and our whole production team. But this dude and I had to show up every day and love what we were doing, respect one another, and build on it every single day. I mean it, our souls are in this bottle.
WESLEY: Don't quote me on that.
ROUND 3: BOURBON TEASE (BOURBON, GINGER KOMBUCHA, LEMON WEDGE, GINGER)
It's also important to note that your company isn't just about bourbon. What made you all decide to direct some of your proceeds elsewhere?
SOMERHALDER: The idea is millenial consumers and Gen Z consumers, they want to know that the companies that they are spending their hard-earned dollars supporting are going to something that is meaningful, that these companies are good stewards of their environment, their corporate structure, their communities, whatever it may be. That's why we are so proud of this company. It's not just building these incredible cocktails or even bourbon you can drink warm out of the bottle--
WESLEY: I think what he's getting at is we have give-back component. A portion of all of our sales is going towards regenerative agriculture. What Ian says is totally accurate, I think these days if you start a company you have to think about how you can give back
SOMERHALDER: Scientifically, we know regenerative agriculture can stop climate change in its tracks. Regenerative agriculture can literally put climate change in our rearview mirror and in a time in which we need togetherness more than ever, this is the ethos of our company, it's bringing people together.
WESLEY: One of the other things that I think is so special about our brand, or at least what we stand for and the ethos of our company, we're not interested in just selling alcohol. We're interested in people purchasing this and experiencing a bond with whomever they're sharing it with. I know it sounds kind of cheesy but it's true, alcohol is meant to be consumed in celebration, in kinsmanship, as a bond and so we really want, the Brother's Bond name, yeah okay it's a nod to us, but at the end of the day it's a bond with whomever you're sharing this drink with. That's so important for us to really note to our fans and to people that are buying this, to really enjoy this with someone.
SOMERHALDER: The idea is you can bring people together with an authenticity and a story that makes people feel good while doing good.
WESLEY: I thought my last word was best.