Tequila Mandala Dinner at Mercado

[On March 4, 2019, Founder Alex Perez was on hand at a special Tequila Mandala Dinner pairing that took place at famed restaurateur Jesse Gomez’s second Mercado location in Los Angeles, CA.  Here’s Alex’s report on that memorable evening.]

Foodie Heaven

Tequila Mandala Dinner at Mercado https://wp.me/p3u1xi-69PWhat do you get when you combine one of your favorite tequila’s with a top rated L.A. restaurant?  You get foodie heaven!

I had the privilege of visiting Mercado Los Angeles during their Tequila Mandala dinner recently, and I was thoroughly impressed.

In all transparency, my senses had already been excited with their exciting take on Mexican cuisine when Mercado opened a location in Pasadena, CA.

As for Tequila Mandala, this fine line is on my favorites list.

Put it all together, with both owners and the chef in attendance, and it was truly an experience.

For Starters

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We were set up in a private area with some sixty guests who were anxious to get tasting.  Co-owner, Jesse Gomez appeared and welcomed all of us and got things going.

For starters, the attentive wait staff brought out jicama shrimp tacos.  Crispy breaded shrimp on a jicama tortilla with chile de arbol aioli and Mexican slaw that included bits of mango.

It was paired with the refreshingly tasty Tequila Mandala Blanco and was a perfect accompaniment withTequila Mandala Dinner at Mercado https://wp.me/p3u1xi-69P its notes of fresh citrus on the nose and sweet roasted agave on the palate.

Barbecue and Grown-up Cocktails

Next up was a beef rib, perfectly braised, with guajillo mustard BBQ sauce and BBQ potato chips as a garnish.

The beef rib was rich, smokey and melted in your mouth.  For the small portion that was served, it was very satisfying.  I wanted to pick up the bone and eat up the last piece stuck to it–so I did!

This dish was paired with a “Special Cocktail” served by the Mercado bar manager Caesar, and made with strawberry, pomegranate, Aperol and Tequila Mandala Blanco.

It tasted like a grown up’s Margarita.  I’ll be experimenting with this one in my own bar, for sure.

The plates kept coming and so did Jesse and Chef José Acevedo, catering to our needs.  Their service and attention to every detail was superb.

Childhood Memories

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Next on deck was sope de chorizo con papas with cabbage, salsa de molcajete, crema fresca, tomatoes and cotija cheese.

The sope took me back to when I was a kid visiting family friends in Highland Park, CA.  His mom would make delicious handmade sopes.

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I started with a knife and fork, then of course, I picked it up with my hands like it is supposed to be eaten.  And, the Mandala Reposado was PERFECT.

This is a great reposado and a good example of why I say reposados are making a comeback.  Wood and dried fruit on the nose, and the cooked agave still shines through on the palate.  Hints of oak, vanilla and coconut also make an appearance.

The Home Stretch

Tequila Mandala Dinner at Mercado https://wp.me/p3u1xi-69PAnother tasty offering from Mercado’s menu was roasted chicken on a bed of Mexican rice and mole Oaxaqueño topped with a crispy kale.  The nuttiness of the mole was complemented harmoniously by the Mandala Añejo.

This beautiful añejo has dried fruit, oak and vanilla on the nose and sweet dried raisin, oak and vanilla on the palate.  It’s an añejo that wants to be like its big brother Mandala Extra Añejo.

The Crown Jewel

Dessert was a chocolate Abuelita tres leches cake over berries and cajeta sauce drizzled on the plate.  My mouth is watering just writing this!

Paired with this decadent dish was Mandala’s crown jewel, the Extra Añejo.

In the glass, I smelled dried fruits and nuts along with hints of toasted oak.  On the palate, an explosion of honey, vanilla, dried raisins and wood notes.

It is addictive and dangerous.

At Your Service

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The hospitality at this Mercado and Mandala event was fantastic.

Co-owners Jesse Gomez and Chef José Acevedo and staff came around to every table making sure all our needs were met.  I experienced the same great service and attention to detail at the Pasadena location, too.

Humberto Ibarra, one of the owners and importers for Mandala, and brand manager Moises Rivera, were on hand and visited every table and guest, preaching the Mandala gospel.

I died and went to Foodie Heaven.

But, I’ll be back!

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

USA_Today_comIn early August of 2016, I received an email from USA Today asking me to weigh in on their craft spirits-themed Readers’ Choice contests, and in our case (at press time), the soon-to-be-launched craft tequilas list.

I’ll be honest, I dread these lists.  What’s worse is, I dread being asked to participate in compiling them.

Let me tell you why.

It’s A List

In the Digital Age, everyone wants things in bite sized form and they want it now.  It is also proven that numbered lists draw attention.  And, there are so many of them out there on the Interwebs–

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover…

The 10 Best Ways to Cheat On Your Mate…

Six Ways Your Cat Plots to Kill You…

A Word About Your Sins

Ever wonder why those numbered titles are so enticing?7-deadly-sins

It’s because they are aimed at the 7 Deadly Sins.

A steadfast rule of copywriters is to compose content that elicits an emotional response from readers to take action.

To drive your particular sin even further to cause you to read the content, the word YOU is hammered into every title.

[Editor’s note:  See what I did with my title?  You choose which sin fits best for YOU.]

Craft Is A Buzzword

As we thoroughly examined in our reports, Craft Tequila:  WTF Does That Mean? Parts 1 and 2, the term craft has been kidnapped by marketers writing fancy copy to confuse the consumer.

Only 10?

gato sorprendido

While the instructions in the email required at least 20 selections from me, the contest will butcher the selections down to only 10–

Selected by those who are unaware of what a craft tequila really is, and…

Curated by someone whose job it is to find ways to engage USA Today’s readers.

It’s A Contest

check-list-red-wfjgrkbmmkvlWhen our COO, Lisa Pietsch, examined the contest website and the myriad of other pre-existing lists, she found that this is a clever way for USA Today to increase reader engagement.

Reader engagement translates to readers’ time spent on USA Today’s mammoth website, which in turn translates to money they charge advertisers.

The term we use is “sticky” as in spider’s web sticky.

Which leads me to–

Paid Advertisers 

Having been paid to ghost write Editor’s Choice lists in the past, I am fully aware that many times, spirits sponsors of major magazines and websites tend to sneak onto them.

This, despite my vehement objections to the editors that such a move invalidates the list altogether.

So, before any of the Usual Suspects wind up on USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards Craft Tequilas list, here are my selections.  Bear in mind, I was limited to only twenty brands.

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

In no particular order…

  1. Fortaleza
  2. T1 Tequila Uno
  3. Tears of Llorana
  4. Suerte
  5. Siembra Azul
  6. Siembra Valles
  7. Tapatio
  8. Tequila G4
  9. ArteNOM 1414
  10. ArteNOM 1580
  11. ArteNOM 1146
  12. ArteNOM 1549
  13. Trianon
  14. Pasote
  15. Embajador
  16. Alquimia
  17. DesMaDre
  18. Dulce Vida
  19. Don Fulano
  20. IXA

The Fallout

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Whether any of my selections make the cut, remains to be seen.

Depending on who the other “tequila experts” were that contributed to the final list to be voted on, the results, if nothing else, should be interesting.

One thing is for certain–

Not everyone will be happy.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Aficionado’s Tequila & Mezcal Road Show, Part 3

[From October 14 to October 28, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media, accompanied by 33 expressions representing 19 brands, embarked on an epic RV road show christened, The Dia de los Muertos Tequila & Mezcal Tour.  In these next passages, we recount the historic–and hysteric–highlights.] 

TacoGuild

Church, Tacos, and Tequila With Roger Clyne

Phoenix, Arizona

One of the highlights of Tequila Aficionado Media’s breakthrough Dia de los Muertos Tequila & Mezcal Tour was lunch with indy rock legend Roger Clyne of Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers.

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After graciously posing for a quick photo outside our Cruise America RV with Lisa’s boys, we anxiously followed Roger and his lovely and elusive wife, Alisa, inside the historic Taco Guild gastropub, a deconsecrated Methodist church where he had recently conducted an exclusive tasting for fans of his Mexican Moonshine Tequila.

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Having spent most of my young life inside churches, my first inclination was to

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speak reverently in whispers.  Like most places of worship, the Taco Guild had its original stained glass windows and acoustically high ceilings that amplified the din of the lunch time crowd.

It didn’t take long before whispering was futile and more tequila and cocktails were needed.

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Next On Deck

After ordering and savoring some delicious taco plates, Alisa and Roger clued us in on what was ahead for Mexican Moonshine tequila.

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Not only were they planning an extensive 2015 fall tour, but they were also gearing up for 2016’s annual Circus Mexicus.  But, there was another surprise–

The exclusive Mexican Moonshine extra añejo in a ceramic, commemorative 20th anniversary collector’s bottle depicting the “Fizzy Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy” album by Roger’s then group, The Refreshments.

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The band financed the effort so successfully via an Indiegogo campaign that the extra funds enabled them to parlay Mexican Moonshine as a featured tequila in twenty locations–including their own branded cantinas– throughout Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball club for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

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Tequila Tasting With Roger Clyne

A staunch reposado enthusiast, Roger was making it his personal journey to research extra añejos in order to help him define his preferred flavor profile

2015-10-21 12.39.43for Moonshine’s upcoming XA offering.

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Known for their varied and extensive tequila menu,

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naturally, an impromptu tequila tasting ensued courtesy of the Taco Guild’s gracious bar manager.

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After selecting and sampling a variety of tequilas from other producers with varying production methods,

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including some exclusive ultra añejos from behind the Taco Guild’s sacred bar for over an hour, it was time to say goodbye to Roger and Alisa.

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After supplying the Clynes with a bottle of blanco tequila and an añejo mezcal (for educational purposes, of course!), we hefted our bulging bag of leftovers onto the Cruise America RV.

Playing Catch Up

On the way back to our RV park, we stopped at the local supermarket to stock up on supplies for the what we expected would be the crown jewel of our tour–

The Grand Canyon.

After catching up on our required social media chores, a light dinner was in order along with sips of Mestizo Mezcal to chase away the creeping chill of the Arizona evening.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Aficionado’s Tequila & Mezcal Road Show, Part 2

[From October 14 to October 28, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media, accompanied by 33 expressions representing 19 brands, embarked on an epic RV road show christened, The Dia de los Muertos Tequila & Mezcal Tour.  In these next passages, we recount the historic–and hysteric–highlights.]

Inspired In Albuquerque

With the help of Mezcal Legendario Domingo, Lisa and I brainstormed about our black water tank problem.

We would contact Cruise America RV’s headquarters in Mesa, AZ via their Facebook page, and make an appointment with their service department.  Since we were already fans, this impromptu visit would also serve as more content for Tequila Aficionado and Lisa’s personal blog.

Brilliant!

Get Your Kicks

Get your kicks

Having trekked from Albuquerque to Phoenix a few times before,  both Lisa and myself were aware that portions of Interstate 40 coursed along the Mother Road, historic Route 66.

Mother Road

And having lived in New Mexico for many years, I knew that a stop at Route 66 Casino for more photo ops was a must, especially because Route 66 Tequila had come on the tour, as well.

Route 66 CasinoIt was a memorable pit stop for us.  We made a few new friends and had fun doing it!  Check out this video highlight.Route 66 Casino Arrow

 

 

 

 

By The Time I Get to Phoenix

Once we left New Mexico in the rear view mirror and entered Arizona, the scenery changed and so did our mood.

Looking forward to our lunch date with Roger Clyne of Mexican Moonshine in the next couple of days, we decided to enjoy his latest CD, The Independent, and sing along–with hand puppets.

Don’t judge.  It was a long drive!

After a mid-evening check-in at the Desert Shadows RV park in Phoenix, coupled with a late dinner, a snifter of Route 66 tequila for a nightcap seemed appropriate.  But, not too many.

Our appointment with Cruise America’s service department to address our black water tank problem loomed early the next morning.

Cruise America Headquarters

Things-RVers-Say

An impressive fleet of RVs greeted us at Cruise America’s headquarters in Mesa.  Its size and depth was deceiving with ample showrooms inside.  No matter which department we dealt with, though, the company’s dedication to customer service was first rate.

While the service department examined our damaged RV, we spent time speaking with Vice President, Michael Smalley, on several topics concerning Cruise America’s long history and company philosophy.

You can watch the interview here.

Thank You, Cruise America! 

An hour later, the head of the service department conferred with Mr. Smalley.  Knowing that we were pressed for time, Michael advised that the quickest way to get us back enjoying the road and working on our tour was to switch us to a newer RV rather than to have us wait any longer for repairs on the black water tank.

After unloading clothes and supplies from our old RV and reloading the new one, we waved goodbye to our friends at Cruise America and shuttled back to our RV park in Phoenix.

That afternoon, Lisa was expecting her longtime friends and members of her writer’s group, and she was bound and determined to introduce them to fine sipping tequila from Casa 1921.

 The Butterscotch Martini Girls

Once we were safely back at Desert Shadows with a brand new RV, Lisa regaled her friends with 1921 La Crema.  You can view their official introduction to this tequila gem here, and their rave review here.

As for me, I took the time to sit underneath one of the many fruit trees near our space, lit a cigar, and enjoyed the rolling clouds that signaled a cooling monsoon shower just before sunset.

Arizona Plate

Tomorrow, we’d have some Mexican Moonshine in the forecast, courtesy of Roger Clyne.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Aficionado’s Tequila & Mezcal Road Show, Part I

[From October 14 to October 28, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media, accompanied by 33 expressions representing 19 brands, embarked on an epic RV road show christened, The Dia de los Muertos Tequila & Mezcal Tour.  In these next passages, we recount the historic–and hysteric–highlights.

You can also view a complete video playlist of our adventures on our YouTube channel here…]

On A Dark Desert Highway

Somewhere outside Carlsbad, New Mexico

 

On a dark stretch of highway in southeastern New Mexico, a road weary Lisa Pietsch guided the Cruise America RV that Tequila Aficionado Media had rented for the historic Dia de los Muertos Tequila & Mezcal Tour.

Avoiding oncoming eighteen wheelers hauling oil and speeding two-ton diesel  trucks, she counted the minutes until she reached her destination for the night, the Carlsbad KOA campground.

Suddenly, she gasped as a huge piece of truck tire appeared in the high beam headlights ahead of her.

With no way to avoid the giant twisted remnant on the two lane highway without swerving and fishtailing the thirty foot RV, she gritted her teeth, straddled the rubber and hoped for the best.

A resounding ka-thunk ka-thunk let her know that she had successfully survived what could have been a perilous situation.  It wasn’t until the next morning that Lisa discovered what had actually happened.

Uncomplicated Sipping

Feeling like the castaways from Gilligan’s Island, what was supposed to have been a leisurely six hour drive from San Antonio, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico turned into a 9 hour ordeal that began with early morning packing and stocking the RV.

Once we parked and hooked up the water and electricity at the campground for the night, Lisa announced that all she wanted was something uncomplicated to sip on for a late evening nightcap.

Malinalli blanco fit the bill perfectly.

Black Water

After a sluggish morning, we decided to drive for Carlsbad Caverns in the early afternoon.

Unhooking the RV, Lisa noticed the damage to the black water tank.  The coiled tire we had straddled the night before had poked a sizeable hole.  If any of us needed to use the bathroom while we were on the road, it would spell disaster, especially for those following behind us.

With fingers crossed, we headed to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

To The Bat Cave!

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After struggling with our selfie stick trying to capture a family photo outside the park sign, we hustled into the visitor’s area for a mid-afternoon tour of the caverns.

Once inside, we were met with this alarming notice–1016151439a

Bats are dying!

While we weren’t able to manage a tour of the Caverns’ famed bat exhibit that featured the Mexican free tail bats, there was enough important information to post in the above article.

Attack of The 10 Foot Martians 

1016151716 1016151717aOn our way back from Carlsbad Caverns just before nightfall, we were able to do a bit of souvenir shopping and picture taking with carved bears and aliens.

We had no idea that the alien culture was so prominent in Carlsbad, but we were sure that Roswell, our next day’s whistle stop, would have more than enough little green men to spare.

In the meantime, we appropriately eased into the  gray, stormy evening with Tromba tequila.

The Truth Is Out There

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From the moment that Alien Tequila hopped aboard our Tequila & Mezcal Tour, I knew that a stop in Roswell, NM at the UFO Museum was a must.

Walking through this charmingly quirky city with a bottle of Alien Tequila hidden in a bag made these photos even more delightful.

1017151250aAfter more souvenir shopping, it was off to our stop for the next two nights at my old stomping grounds in Albuquerque.

R & R

Having stayed at this particular KOA campground during our first family RV outing earlier in the Spring of 2015, we were familiar with the amenities and felt comfortable enough to enjoy some down time.  The driving had taken its toll on Lisa, so a two-day respite was just what she needed.

JLP Margaritas were the order of the evening.  After catching up on emails and drafting blogs, Senda Real made an appearance, as well.

Finding Photo Ops

When you’re stuck behind a computer from 5 to 8 hours a day like Lisa and I usually are working to make Tequila Aficionado Media even more interesting, compelling and educational for you, finding ways to create more inspirational photo and video opportunities is challenging.

Stepping away from the home office and being on the road really lends itself to “outside-the-box” creativity.  If you remain open to possibilities, even the simplest things can serve to generate epic social media content and articles.

Which is exactly what we needed since we were still faced with the dilemma of the damaged black water tank.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Corner Restaurant Fuels the Fire of Austin’s Craft Tequila Scene

[In mid-February 2016, at the suggestion of Andres Garcia, Regional Sales Manager of award winning Embajador tequila, Tequila Aficionado Media met with Brian Jaymont, General Manager of the Corner Restaurant, inside the JW Marriott in the heart of Austin, Texas.

We were first exposed to the fine hospitality of the JW Marriott on our second visit to the Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention.  The JW Marriott will again be the host hotel for the 2016 edition of TBNA, with the tasting event taking place at the famed Brazos Hall.]

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Local Flavor at Corner Restaurant

“Their braised short rib street tacos are to die for!” exclaimed Andres Garcia of Embajador tequila.

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Biting into the first of my three tacos, I wholeheartedly agreed.

Boasting a menu devised by celebrated Executive Chef Jennifer Etzkin, Corner’s fare is billed as “modern Texas cuisine served with an urban flair.”

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Featuring regional ingredients, coupled with stunning views and an inviting atmosphere, our lunch couldn’t have been better paired than with two Glencairn glasses of Embajador Platinum blanco.

In The Beginning…

20160211_140943Brian Jaymont, General Manager of Corner Restaurant, is a true tequila aficionado and student of agave spirits.  He is also well-versed in Texas micro-brewed beers, wines, whiskies and bourbons.

Along with the stellar tequila selection of the Corner, Brian’s also been responsible for the enviable tequila array at the JW Marriott’s San Antonio property, the Hill Country Resort & Spa’s Cibolo Moon tequila bar.

Below, Brian discusses how his passion for tequila and agave spirits began and eventually led him to do more in-depth research.  He also reveals how he’s been able to infuse that passion into the properties he’s worked in.

To date, Cibolo Moon is the only bar in Texas that is certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) with a “Distintivo T.”  The entire staff has undergone thorough training, tasting and testing to achieve this certification.

Brian beams with pride as he describes the enthusiasm with which the entire staff at the JW Marriott’s Hill Country Resort & Spa’s Cibolo Moon embraced their Distintivo T training.

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At Brian’s insistence, plans are in the works for the staff at Corner Restaurant to also be “T” certified.

During his tenure, Jaymont was also involved in the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa’s famed Salúd tequila bar.

 Who Has the Best Toys?

Here, Jaymont describes the dynamics of Austin’s craft beverage scene and how he, the Corner Restaurant and Marriott are fueling the fire.

Geeking Out With Brian Jaymont

Brian shares his routine before choosing a new tequila and admits to personally using the NOM List as a way to find other tequilas to try.

What Bourbon, Wine and Tequila Have In Common

Brian asserts that there are hidden similarities to tequila that both bourbon and wine share.

A Blanco Guy

Brian Jaymont explains his personal preference for unaged, blanco tequilas.

Move Over, Bourbon!

Jaymont dissects the steady transformation of Austin’s bourbon-centric palates that are now drawn to Texas-based aged tequilas.

Micro-Local Focus

Brian defines Marriott’s “micro-local” focus highlighting Texas craft beers, wines, spirits, including tequilas.

The Corner proudly pours Austin-based tequilas, Embajador, Dulce Vida, Tequila 512, and more to come.

Glencairn–The Preferred Glass

Brian reveals why he chose Glencairn glasses to serve Corner’s tequilas.  No lime or salt needed–ever!

From Education to Enjoyment

How General Manager, Brian Jaymont motivates his staff to make sure the customer has a pleasant experience with the tequila’s available at the Corner Restaurant.

Supporting Local Businesses

Supporting Austin’s local micro-brewers, distillers, and brand owners to give the visiting tourist a memorable experience, and to keep Austinites coming back for more.

It’s refreshing to find a global hotel chain like the Marriott offer its guests a more local approach to their dining and drinking experience.

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Deciding where to spend your next Taco–or Tequila–Tuesday should be a cinch!

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

For Sale by Owner: Tequila

Jurado_wide_final(1), for sale, tequila

Most of the requests we receive from tequila brand owners and importers here at Tequila Aficionado Media are for our current ad rates and special promotions.

Their goal is to achieve maximum coverage over several of our powerful social media networks in order to gain worldwide exposure for their agave spirits, whether it’s tequila, mezcal, sotol, raicilla or bacanora.

It’s not often that we’re confronted with a reverse situation, however.

In a rare turn of events, one particular tequila brand owner has asked us to help peddle one of the most exclusive tequilas we’ve ever encountered.

Exclusivity Breeds Demand

Following the path of one of the infamous co-creators of Patrón tequila, and brazenly emulated by such standard brands like Partida, the Black Swan of Tequilas has it all and more.

Adorned with a wearable engraved symbol, this beveled sleek and sexy bottle is crowned with a unique and patented locking cap.

Extensively photographed by a Grammy award winning art director, its image exudes elegance, naughtiness, high fashion and luxury all at once.

This platinum blanco tequila comes equipped with a cult following among the elite.  Sipped and lauded by a who’s-who of economic, political, financial, and international leaders and celebrities.

Hell, it even has its own sultry theme song!

A statistical anomaly in the spirits industry, every minute detail was carefully crafted and painstakingly devised to entice the global traveler.

What About The Juice?

It’s got the goods!

Distilled by a well-known maestra tequilera at one of the most trusted distilleries in Mexico, its flavor is bright, yet, traditional.  Strong enough for a man, but made by a woman.

Your Next Step

Seriously interested in doubling down on the fast growing and far reaching Luxury Spirits category with a turnkey approach?

Good!

What’s next?

Glad you asked.

Contact me at mike.tequilaaficionado@gmail.com and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.  But…

Only if you’re all in.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The BIG Business Of Kosher Tequila, Part IV

Why Go Kosher?

dulce vida, anejo, tequila, kosher tequilaThat’s what we asked several Kosher tequila and mezcal brand owners and ambassadors.  Some of their reasons may surprise you.

Richard Sorenson, Founder of Dulce Vida Tequila, the only 100 proof organic tequila to date, comes from an organic foods background having developed the first USDA organic energy drink on the market to gain national distribution.

“Kosher certification is not something we focus heavily on,” admits Sorenson.  Yet, in Dulce Vida’s case, it legitimizes and solidifies the company’s pledge to the consumer to be “authentic and pure.”  

In fact, Sorenson does not believe that “organic and kosher certification are mutually exclusive” and instead, go hand-in-hand.

Lisa Barlow, co-founder with her husband, John, of Vida Tequila.vida tequila, kosher tequila

“Kosher means ‘fit  or appropriate.’  Some people think that all tequila (blanco) is kosher.

“One thing we do, under kosher certification, is to use a kosher certified yeast for the fermentation process.  Not all brands do this. 

I love kosher law in general, and feel it’s been something I’m proud to say VIDA is.

“I know it’s trendy now to say you’re Kosher but for us it’s something we have been proud of since launching in 2007.  To me it shows we care about the quality of our 100% Agave Azul line of tequila.

“I’m proud our product carries the kosher logo.”

Camille Austin, brand ambassador for Montelobos mezcal–

“To be Kosher is to guarantee, in all aspects of production, that all standards of cleanliness which the Jewish religion requires are met. 

“This is an interesting subject I’ve touched with Ivan [Saldaña, developer of Montelobos mezcal] quite a bit, as well.  In mezcal production, as you know with its diversity, a number of things can be crucial elements to ensuring all requirements are fulfilled.

“For starters, guaranteeing there are no animal products (meats or insects) that contaminate the process. Therefore, a traditional Pechuga mezcal could not be considered Kosher.

“Another important element would be to ensure that all animals involved in production are treated with dignity and respect as is the case with our beloved mule Rambo, who pulls the Tahona to make the Montelobos mash.

“We thoroughly pick through all our raw material, the espadin [agave], one by one, and make sure there are no worms, beetles or other insects.

“Fermentation is key as not all yeast used to make agave spirits has a Kosher origin.  In the case of Montelobos, we ferment naturally in open air, without adding yeast, for a controlled period of no more than 7 days.

montelobos, kosher mezcal
The many facets of Montelobos mezcal.

“There are many organizations globally that are dedicated specifically to audits and certifications such as this.  At Casa Montelobos, we are certified and audited every few months through the OU, or Orthodox Union, based in New York City which is one of the most strict and internationally recognized Kosher organizations in the world.

“On the back label of each bottle you will find a big circled “U” identifiable with this organization.

“You could say that to be certified Kosher is to be disciplined, consistent and organized in your production process.  It is a demonstration to those, albeit those who enjoy your product as consumers or those who are your mezcalero piers, that you are an open book with how you make your product.

“At Montelobos, although a quite small production, we are very proud of the final product and are committed to maintaining the cleanest and most natural standards to make our mezcal.”

With help from Leyenda del Milagro’s brand ambassador, J.P. DeLoera,

Moises Guindi, co-founder of Milagro explains:

“As you may know, kosher certification is related to certifying that a product complies with a set of rules stated in the Jewish religion. 

“That said, Tequila in its essence and based on the laws that regulate tequila production (NOM) would be with some exceptions I will point out, Kosher.

“That said, in order for a product to be Kosher, it requires an audit to ensure it does not fall into the exceptions that would make it non-Kosher.

“These exceptions, in the case of tequila, would be related in adding additives or flavoring agents that may contain a non-kosher ingredient.  Other exceptions would be certain yeasts and the aging in barrels that contained non-kosher products beforehand such as Brandy or Wine.

“The Kosher certification also requires that there are no insects inside the bottles so quality controls to ensure this are required.

“On the  commercial side, being Kosher is an enabler for all those consumers being Jewish or not that are looking to buy products that do not contain any non kosher ingredients.”

From Cesar Barba, Production Planning and Warehouse Coordinator at Milagro’s distillery:

“As Moisés stated, Kosher is a certification to ensure the Jewish community that the production process is compliant with the Jewish religion.

“That being said, this certification is made annually by a certification house that sends a rabbi to make sure that the agave, the distillery, and the barrels (if used), are all Kosher compliant.

“The rabbi sent by the certification house is like an external auditor, so it varies depending on the auditors’ availability, hence why there is no particular rabbi coming to OPTE.  Also, there are some “surprise” visits during the year to make sure we are still Kosher compliant.

“We are certified with KMD, whose logo can be seen in the back label, but there several other certification houses and they are all recognized worldwide.

“The main advantage of being Kosher certified is that you can reach a very specific market niche.

milagro“Given the previous statements, we are Kosher because:

–       We are Kosher certified.

–       Our third-party distiller partner is Kosher certified.

–       We use Kosher certified products from non-animal origin during our production process.

–       Our barrels did not hold any non-Kosher products.

–       We have annual certification visits and one or two audits during each year, depending on the external auditor’s (rabbi) availability.

“Moy basically shared that one of the most important processes to scrutinize is fermentation, where producers may add non-kosher yeast and other additives i.e.:  urea.”

DeLoera concludes, “Finally, a neat story is that Danny and Moy are from different Jewish backgrounds.  Danny is from the Ashkenazi heritage, and Moy from the Sephardim heritage.

“Because Jewish weddings demand all products be Kosher, and Danny and Moy wanted Milagro at their weddings (of course!).  Initially Milagro was certified by agencies from each and both Jewish traditions.  Now it is a bit of good banter, and the one that stands is KMD, which is from the Sephardim tradition, and KMD is known to hold the strictest audits and standards.”

See The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila videos here.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part III

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequila from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

Still confused about the Kosher dietary laws and how it could affect your favorite agave spirits?  Then, check out Part 1.

Interested to learn more about how these agave spirits brands came to be certified kosher?  See Part 2.

If you’re a…

Tequila and Mezcal Consumer–

Arm yourself.

Both KMD and KA-Kosher supply lists of kosher certified alcoholic beverages.  As we mentioned in Part 1, so does the Chicago Rabbinical Council.  In each instance, be aware that when it comes to tequilas and mezcals…

All Lists Are Flawed!

kosher tequilaUnlike the CRT’s NOM Lists that are updated roughly each month, these kosher lists seemed not to have been touched in years.  And of the brands that were listed, more often than not, were now, sadly, extinct.

Upon closer examination of the KA-Kosher list, many of the certified tequilas are brands distributed in Mexico only.  The American kosher consumer is left out in cold (unless you’re on vacation in Mexico during the holidays!).

In another instance, tequila Embajador is listed as kosher.  When contacted, neither the importer nor the owners of the distillery was aware that the brand was certified.  When they contacted KA-Kosher about the discrepancy, a rabbinical coordinator admitted that Embajador’s certification had lapsed, likely years ago, but whose name still appeared on the list.

In KMD’s case, a quick search reveals that many of the popular global brands listed are suspect and known to process tequilas with diffusers.

In light of new industrial processes like diffusers and their use of sulfuric acid in catalyzed hydrolysis of agave, how can these tequilas be kosher–or even organic–for that matter?

We recently reached out to the cRc and confirmed in a phone conversation with a Rabbinical Coordinator that (at press time) it is taking steps to update its list of kosher tequilas, and, hopefully, adding mezcals.

In the meantime…

How Do I Tell If The Tequila Or Mezcal I Purchase

Is Kosher?

Glad you asked.  First, let’s dispel a few “kosher myths.”

Aren’t All Blanco Tequilas Kosher?

At one time, that was the general point of view by kashut authorities, until the use of glycerin became widely known as an approved additive in the tequila normas.

Here is an article on the OU’s (Union of Orthodox Rabbis) stance on “blenders” such as glycerin in the case of alcoholic beverages.

A Word About Barrels

Another rumor going around is that aged tequilas aren’t considered kosher.

Dulce_VidaNot so when you consider that one of the most popular kosher brewers on the planet, Shmaltz Brewing Company, ages all their lines, including their recent 2015 holiday offering,  Chanukah in Kentucky, in used Jim Beam and Heaven Hill barrels.

Dulce Vida’s 5 year Extra Añejo is also kosher, aged in used red wine barrels from Napa Valley.  (And, yes, there are kosher wineries in Napa.  Google it!)

Richard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida writes, “The barrels are Rombauer Merlot and Cabernet barrels.  They are gorgeous barrels and all have the Rombauer logo emblazoned in the wood.”

Without going into too much detail, in a phone conversation with the Rabbinical Coordinator for the cRc, he informed that if a particular barrel was first used to house kosher wine, then generally speaking, that barrel could be used in aging spirits.  He also mentioned that there was a way to kosher-ize (referred to as koshered) barrels for aging wines and spirits.

Research shows that some cooking utensils can be boiled or blowtorched to be spiritually cleansed.

In a follow up email with this cRc Rabbinical Coordinator, he wrote:  “Kosherizing a barrel which was used to store wine is a complicated and detailed process.  One method involves thoroughly cleaning the barrel, followed by a series of fresh water rinsings.”

The rabbi cautions, however, that, “Due to the complex nature of this process, it should only be undertaken by a recognized and reputable kosher agency.”

It goes without saying that each instance should be judged by that kosher agency on a case-by-case, or barrel-by-barrel, basis to ensure proper koshered rules were followed.

To learn more about the beliefs behind kosher wines, click here.

Isn’t Pareve Enough?

pareve-370x260-300x212This one’s tricky.

A food or drink item labeled pareve means that it can be used together with either a dairy product or a meat product and will not lead to the mixing of meat and dairy as per Jewish dietary instructions.  If you’ve perused the aforementioned lists above, you’ll see that term used after each brand.

Keep in mind that all agave spirits are fermented products.  Depending on the distillery’s fermentation process, they could be using enzymes and yeast accelerators that could come from animal sources that are prohibited by the Jewish dietary laws, and hense, not pareve.

To investigate pareve further, click here.

So, circling back to your original question–

Kosher Tequila, Or Not Kosher Tequila? 

Given the unreliability of the existing kosher lists in circulation, and the lack of transparency on behalf of multinational corporations that mass produce tequila and mezcal, proceed like any other tequila aficionado and–

Check The Label!

Similar to NOM numbers, and organically certified products, search for the seal of a trusted and well-known kosher certifying agency.  Familiarize yourself with their seals and logos shown in Part 1.

Any reputable agave spirit brand that claims to be kosher will proudly display the kosher seal they qualified for–and paid for the privilege of using–somewhere on the bottle or label.

Bottom line…

Santera_K

If it’s not there, it ain’t kosher.

***

In Part 4, discover why certain tequila and mezcal brands decided to “go Kosher.”

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part II

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequilas from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

But first, if you’re a…

Tequila or Mezcal Brand Owner

…take a quick peek at Part 1, in case you’re still in the dark about what being kosher means.

Next, before you decide whether being certified kosher is the right move for your brand, here are a few things to consider.

Reliability

siembra_azulDoes the rabbinic field representative of the kosher certifying agency actually understand the tequila or mezcal making process?  Is this person willing to do his due diligence?  And, is he willing to be on-site and to participate at each stage of the certification process?

David Suro, importer and brand owner of the famed Siembra Spirits brands of tequila and mezcal, recalled only positive experiences with the rabbi who oversaw the kosher certification of the first batches of his tequila, Siembra Azul.

“The rabbi was thorough and always there,” recalls Suro.  “I was very comfortable with someone who cared that much.”

(Tequila Treasure Bottle Hunters take note:  Only the first three batches of Siembra Azul were ever designated kosher.)

Is It A Hassle?

Depending on the agency you use, your particular distillery, and if your processes and recipes are consistent, you may be subjected to only one on-site audit and subsequent annual fees to continue using the kosher seal.

Other agencies could require unannounced visits by rabbinical field representatives to determine if your brand should continue to carry its hechsher.

What About Going Organic?

dulce vida, tequila, reposadoRichard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida Tequila that is both organic and kosher, admits that the company tends to focus more on being certified organic, but doesn’t feel the two certifications “…are mutually exclusive, but go hand-in-hand.”

This helpful article on the EarthKosher website could help you weigh the differences and similarities of the two certifications.

What’s All This Gonna Cost?

Here’s where it gets sticky.

Depending on the brand’s (or distillery’s) needs, an approximate cost could range from $25,000 pesos ($1437.98) per year, to tens of thousands of dollars– per batch!

The price varies from business to business, and from industry to industry.  Your best bet is to get an on-site estimate from a respected agency and then determine…

What’s My ROI on Kosher Tequila? 

Baron-TequilaDepending on which estimates you believe, you could be missing out on your cut of a multi-billion dollar market.

With the spirits industry anxious to tap into Millennials, you might heed the words of Mordy Dicker, Executive Vice President of Business Development for KEDEM/Kayco, who was quoted in this 2015 Kosherfest press release, “‘People think positively about kosher food.  It’s become trendy.’  Dicker said millennials, vegetarians and people who are glucose intolerant can now find what they need in the kosher space.”

Perhaps they should be looking for your tequila or mezcal, as well?

***

If you’re a tequila or mezcal aficionado and want to “keep kosher,” or simply a consumer looking for new kosher sipping experiences to share with your friends and family, we’ll show you how in Part 3.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!