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Tequila Tapatío And The Source of Life

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Tapatío logo poster

Tapatío logo poster

On two separate occasions, Carlos Camarena, the third generation master distiller of El Tesoro de Don Felipe and the equally famous and classic Tequila Tapatío, stepped outside of Las Perlas mezcal and tequila bar in the heart of downtown Los Angeles to enjoy a cigarette.

Taking in the scenery of a chilly and overcast Sunday afternoon in early June, he witnessed the pursuit of a purse snatcher by LAPD, and then an attempted carjacking by another perpetrator while the police were arresting the purse snatcher!

Carlos smiled and shook his head.  Surrounded by movie cameras and flood lights outside the front entrance to Las Perlas, his only thought was…

Another average day in LA.

La Perla Tapatía

Once inside the rustic and darkly lit Las Perlas, one of the more complete tequila and mezcal bars in Los Angeles, one realized that the movie cameras weren’t there to record street crimes or another TV reality show.  They were there to film an historic event–

The triumphant entrance of  the iconic Tequila Tapatío into California and the rest of the United States.

The press wall.

The press wall.

Jeff Couch and Vaughn Halyard, the co-partners of Congenial Spirits, a nimble distributor focused on boutique, handcrafted spirits, and the chosen distributor for Tapatío, had the foresight to sense the importance of documenting its US premier, even adding a professional photographer and a press wall for that red carpet feeling.

The invitees, comprised of LA spirits industry professionals and mixologists, settled in and Raul Yrastorza, the general manager and curator of Las Perlas, began the introductions for this question and answer segment with the guests of honor.

The Charbay Connection

Producing wines, ports, liqueurs, aperitifs, vodkas, rums, and whiskies at the famed Charbay Winery & Distillery in St. Helena, CA, Marko Karakasevic is also the importer of Tapatío under his Marko K Spirits of California banner.

Marko, a bear of a man who looks more like a right tackle for the Oakland Raiders instead of a barely 40 year old 13th generation master distiller, jokingly explains:

“In a family of distillers, no fruit, no root, is safe.”

Here, Marko recounts his first meeting with Carlos Camarena that lead to his family being invited to distill its own brand of Charbay Tequila at La Alteña distillery.

Heads, Hearts & Tails

So what do master distillers talk about in the wee hours of the morning over endless tequila?  Distillation, of course!

Carlos Camarena and Marko Karakasevic tell the story of their awkward first encounter that turned into what can only be an enduring relationship based on mutual respect and admiration.

The Upside Down World of Agave Spirits

Carlos chuckled that Miles Karakasevic, Marko’s father, the retired 12th generation master distiller of Charbay, and he did not get along that evening.

Whenever Carlos tried to explain the physics and biochemistry of tequila distillation versus the distillation of other spirits, it was in complete contrast to Miles’ years of education. 

Bullshit was uttered more than once.

“It’s not right!” exclaimed Marko.

Carlos discusses the upside down world of agave spirits distillation in depth…

Why Did It Take So Long To Get Here?

On my first visit to La Alteña in 2006, I asked Carlos what would happen if there was a sudden demand in El Tesoro de Don Felipe.  Would he be able to fill orders, or be forced to cut corners?

He declared that at any given time, he had approximately one million liters of tequila in storage to handle any spike in demand.  There would never be any need to cut corners and suffer a loss in quality.  No doubt, his policy also carried over to the Tapatío brand.

Here, Carlos demystifies his reasons for taking almost 76 years to bring Tapatío into the US market, and gives a bit of family history, as well.

During the course of the question and answer session, Congenial Spirits’ Vaughn and Jeff made sure that each of the Tapatío expressions were being served to the crowd in specially branded Tapatío shot glasses, starting with the 80 proof blanco and ending with the stellar Tapatío 110 proof.

Sipping it immediately brought back fond memories of my first trip to La Alteña and tasting this tequila directly from the still.

It hadn’t changed a bit.

Cocktail Hour

Drinks menu

Drinks menu

Once the Q & A ended, it was time to unleash the infinite possibilities that Tapatío 110 could provide.  Amanda Gunderson, Tapatío’s brand ambassador and designer of the evening’s drinks menu, wowed the crowd with her signature cocktails.

Names like Lolita Swizzle and La Alteña guaranteed that everyone in attendance would get a feel of what it would be like to visit Tapatío’s legendary distillery.  To say that these cocktails were lethally delicious would be an understatement.

La Alteña signature cocktail.

La Alteña signature cocktail.

Be aware that Tapatío 110 proof will not only shine in your cocktail and take you back to the Highlands of Jalisco, but it will sing to you for the rest of the evening.  Definitely, sip wisely.

The Source Of Life

Since many in attendance weren’t as well versed in the science of distillation as Carlos and Marko were, I asked Camarena how he would define distillation to a lay person.

Here’s what he had to say…

When Tequila Tapatío can be considered the source of life on this planet, there can be no such thing as just an average day in LA–or anywhere else, for that matter.

***

View more photos of this momentous event on our Facebook page here.

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The Evolution of the Tequila Bar by M.A. “Mike” Morales

mike morales, the evolution of the tequila bar, tequila, la capilla, mercado

Tequila Aficionado’s Mike Morales describes in a dynamic format with text, video, and photos, the evolution of the tequila bar from old Mexico to present day Santa Monica.

Excerpt from The Evolution of the Tequila Bar:

From the early 1930s to the late 1950s, Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema exposed the world to Los Tres Gallos Mexicanos (The Three Mexican Roosters), popular male mariachi singers of the day.  Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante and the legendary Javier Solis often portrayed gallant singing cowboys suffering from unrequited love and heartbreak.  Those definitive black and white movies also gave a glimpse inside the iconic cantinas, the first real tequila bars, where these films’ most memorable musical moments occurred.  Experience it by clicking here!

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The Concept Behind Mercado

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“The brainchild of long time friends, serial restaurateur Jesse Gomez and celebrated Executive Chef Jose Acevedo, Mercado, recently voted Los Angeles Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of 2013, has rapidly gained destination point status even among locals.”

Click here to see Mike Morales’ Mercado interview.

 

Located in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica, Mercado serves as the third installation of a classic and contemporary Mexican restaurant group that includes El Arco Iris in Highland Park and Yxta Cocina Mexicana in Downtown LA. With an inventive mix of food, atmosphere and tradition, Mercado reflects the heart and soul of Mexican dining. Architect Poonam Khanna designed the modern and intimate space for an upscale and comfortable experience.

The menu exemplifies the cuisine and flavor of Chef Jose Acevedo’s and co-owner Jesse Gomez’s Mexican roots, featuring items such as Chef Acevedo’s signature carnitas, created from a recipe handed down through generations. With tortillas made by hand daily, the finest meats, poultry and seafood, enchiladas and tacos, produce from the local farmer’s market, flavorful sauces and everything made from the freshest ingredients, Mercado offers handcrafted Mexican cuisine, artful design, a warm atmosphere and friendly service. 

Mercado’s bar offers over 60 premium Silver, Reposado and Anejo Tequilas, as well as mescal, and 12 draft and bottled beers. Try a creative cocktail like the New Fashioned or Del Bosque. We have happy hour at the bar and communal tables Monday through Friday from 5 to 7pm, Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 6pm.

Click here for the Mercado website.

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Unlocking Mercado’s Mexican Spirits Treasures

mercado, santa monica, tequila, fortaleza, mexicoWelcome to Mercado where they keep the spirits of Mexico locked in a treasure chest of amazing proportions!

Click here to see Marco open the vault!

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Masa Azul: Behind the Rock…

Behind the bar on a busy night at Masa Azul in Chicago

Masa Azul has been featured on Thrillist’s spring Must-Dos in Chicago!

What: Put back one of 90 tequilas on Cinco de Mayo
When: May 5th
Where: Masa Azul
The extensive tequila list runs from blancos to single-barrel extra anejos, and includes a selection of mezcal and lesser-known sotol, aka the NEXT mezcal.

Visit Masa Azul

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Visit Masa Azul’s website

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Masa Azul on Facebook

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We are proud to be the first in Illinois to offer Tequila Alquimia! This artisan line is owned by Don Adolfo Murillo, one of the brightest minds in the tequila world! Not to mention one of the nicest people you could ever meet! Come by to taste these amazing tequilas, including the 6 year aged Reserva de Don Adolfo!

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