In case you haven’t joined the Streaming Generation, or lived without cable TV for awhile, Mad Men is a series set in the 1960’s about a fictional ad agency called Sterling Cooper based in New York City’s famed Madison Avenue.
[Editor’s note: I still can’t believe I was born during the Eisenhower administration!]
Tequila marketing being my thing, naturally, I’m drawn to the product placement of distilled spirits on the historically accurate show.
Along with adverts concocted by admen for cigarettes, bras, and washing
machine manufacturers, spirits companies like Seagram’s, Jack Daniels, and Jose Cuervo were also a part of the advertising renaissance, and not just on American soil. These early Behemoths of Booze also took the fight offshore.
And nobody can tell you more about those challenges better than José Zevada.
The Mad Man of The Caribbean
I finally met the charismatic Pepe Zevada, the maker of Pepe Z Tequila, accompanied by Glynn Bloomquist, (CEO and Chairman), and Guy England (South Texas Market Manager), of Empresario LLC, the first Texas company to create, brand, distill, import, and market spirits.
With the elegance and charm suggestive of silver screen Latino Hollywood hunks like Ricardo Montalbán or Fernando Lamas, and peppered with jokes and anecdotes of the “glory days,” you get the sense that you’re reliving spirits industry history, Mad Men style.
Over a delicious lunch at the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar on San Antonio’s renowned Riverwalk, Pepe regaled us with episodes of his life as the vice president of Brown-Forman in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. During that time, he traveled to 106 countries (Pepe speaks 5 or 6 languages fluently) introducing Jack Daniels to those parts of the world.
To Make a Long Story Short
To create a batch of Pepe Z takes over three weeks. He calls the blanco tequila the “mother” of the line, and claims that the selected agave is the key to a sterling product.
Pepe Z Tequila uses only lightly toasted virgin American Oak barrels (not charred) for its reposado and añejo expressions, and it is one of the lowest in methanol after distillation.
These time tested techniques have not only achieved an authentic, “old world” flavor profile, but it has also garnered Pepe Z some serious hardware in the form of medals and awards.
Flavor, Friendship and Family
Raised in Mexico of Spanish parents, José (Pepe is a common nickname for Josés) was brought up with strict moral values that have guided him throughout his life.
In his words, “I don’t do business without being friends, first.” He asserts, “The liquor business is a people business, not a laptop business.”
In the era dominated by contracted brands with glamorous images and no backstory, Zevada prefers to take a page from those legendary patriarchs of tequila and make every effort to meet and greet each of his customers, personally.
Part of the brand’s strategy is to nurture its relationship with its hometown of Austin, and then to solidify its embrace on the rest of Texas before conquering other states. This tactic has worked wonders as evidenced by the glowing testimonials given by his customers.
While his clients enthusiastically preserve their friendship with Pepe, Zevada gratefully acknowledges that, “My customers are part of the Z family.”
And, in a time where spirits are judged on perceived value, Pepe demands that his tequilas remain affordable, believing that luxury shouldn’t be so hard to come by.
Distinguished flavor, devoted friendship and defined family values is the method to Pepe Zevada’s effective–and infectious–“madness.”