Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pSI’ve finally gotten around to binge watching Mad Men on Netflix.

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

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Vintage Cuervo ad

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

Jose “Pepe” Zevada and the story of the Z Tequila Brand from Z Tequila on Vimeo.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Iron Cactus menu.

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.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Fernando Lamas

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.

After 30 years with Brown-Forman, he went on to work as vice president for the classic spirits distiller Hiram Walker (Sauza, Kahlúa, Courvasier, Beefeater), until the merger of Allied Domecq.

To Make a Long Story Short

After persistent encouragement from friends in Mexico, Pepe Z Tequila was Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pSborn shortly after José retired from 35 years in the liquor industry.

But, in the tradition of the three generations of Sauzas, Don Julio González, José Cuervo and Don Eduardo Orendáin, Pepe was determined to only put his name on a quality tequila.

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.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Pepe, Guy and Glynn of Empresario.

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.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Pepe Zevada and Mike Morales.

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.”

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!

Thank GAD for Gracías A Dios Mezcal

[Long before the general public does, Tequila Aficionado Media often gets tipped off about new agave spirits brands that will be entering the market.  One such tip was for Gracías A Dios (GAD) mezcal.  We had no idea that we would bump into them during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference in mid- January, 2015.  Of course, we had to invite the co-founders to HQ to learn more about this hot mezcal label making amazing traction across the country.]

 

GAD To Meet You!

GAD_lineup

You can’t help but get wrapped up in the charm of Gracías A Dios mezcal.  You also can’t help but be drawn in by the infectious enthusiasm of its co-founders, Pablo López, Enrique Jimenez and Xaime Niembro.

Here, the trio introduce themselves.

Whose Idea Was It?

From a pure love of drinking mezcal, to owning a mezcalería (mezcal bar), to making lofty plans for the future, the three friends tell how their mezcal brand was born.

Invoking the Name Of GAD

The phrase, “gracias a Dios” (thank God) has been uttered by families in Mexico and throughout Latin America since the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

In this clip, the friends give their explanation behind the name of their mezcal.

Maestro Mezcalero de Matatlán

GAD_Oscar

In the town of Santiago Matatlán, considered the world capital of mezcal in Oaxaca, lives Oscar Hernández, the force behind Gracías A Dios.  A third generation Maestro Mezcalero, or Alchemist as Enrique refers to him, he learned his craft from the young age of eight years old.

The trio discuss how they came across such a talented distiller.

GADTobalaCuixe

Distilling from espadín agave at first, it wasn’t until Oscar met with the co-founders of Gracías A Dios, that he considered producing mezcals made from other types of agave.

Enrique and Xaime continue relating Oscar’s fascinating personal history.

Xaime expounds further on why they chose to work with Oscar Hernández, then demonstrates the purity of GAD’s specialty mezcals made from tepextate and cuixe agave.

The GAD Line Up

Pablo, Enrique and Xaime give us the rundown of Gracías A Dios’ core line, what type of barrels they use for aging, and how they decided on the proof of each of the expressions.

True Small Batches

Xaime describes the labeling plans for the Tepextate and Cuixe expressions and how they will tie in to a Texas-Oaxaca relationship.

Organic Investments

Each of Gracías A Dios’ agave expressions are certified organic.  Xaime details what investments and improvements were made to the brand’s palenque to meet those standards.

Xaime reveals what it takes to maintain GAD’s organic certification, including the innovative improvements made to the brand’s palenque that were invented by Oscar himself.

Wild Harvesting

Xaime chronicles each of GAD’s expressions and then illustrates the difficulty in harvesting wild tobalá.

Image Reboot

GAD_espadinOutside of their mezcalería, the partners had virtually no background in the
spirits sector.  Keenly aware of their limitations, they met with industry consultants for advice.

In this segment, Pablo, Enrique and Xaime recall their experience in bringing GAD to market, and how they managed to rebuild their entire initial concept and image from the bottom up.

These three amigos are the first to admit that Gracías A Dios is still a work-in-progress and are proactively solving challenges that unexpectedly crop up such as using synthetic corks versus imported ones from Portugal, and labeling special edition batches.

Love and Passion Will Take You Places

The GAD triad disclose how working together to get Gracías A Dios into the market has deeply and completely changed their lives.


GAD_shotThe partners all agree that their passion for great mezcal–long before it became trendy–is what fuels their love for GAD.

Cheers For Tomorrow

Xaime and his partners explain how their program, Cheers For Tomorrow, will tackle the Mezcal Industry’s sustainability issues and how the use of biofuel will play an important part of their palenque.

Continuing, Niembro describes how the used bagazo (solid waste) is recycled as an insulator during the roasting of agave piñas.

Sharing the Mezcal Experience

GAD_sharing

Long term plans for the group and the land surrounding their palenque include a boutique hotel, restaurant, and a complete mezcal experience for visitors.

In this snippet, the trio discuss where they see themselves in five years and spill the beans on a specially blended Mezcal Del Cura that’s in the works.

Pablo and Enrique continue the conversation by revealing GAD’s plans for replanting different types of maguey and other projects within the region of their palenque.

Free Your Mind–And Your Taste Buds!

Team GAD divulge the one thing that they would like their audience to know about Gracías A Dios mezcal.

Pablo, Xaime, and Enrique have no intention of changing their methods create a more industrialized mezcal.  Their long term mission remains staunchly intact–

To get their small batches to the right audience who will honestly and passionately cherish and appreciate them as much as they do.

Gracías a Dios!

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Tequila Adventures at The Texas Restaurant Association Market Place

[On June 28 and 29, 2015, San Antonio-based Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to participate with Embajador Tequila at the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place in Dallas.]

Texas Restaurant Association Market Place

When the call came from Andres Garcia, Embajador Tequila’s sales manager, to accompany him to the state’s largest tradeshow at the Texas Restaurant Association in Dallas, we jumped at the chance for another road trip.

The Texas Restaurant Association serves, educates and supports the restaurant 0628150946bindustry in Texas.  Alternating trade shows between Houston and Dallas, this year’s event was held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center next to the luxurious Omni Hotel in the heart of downtown Dallas.

Embajador would be participating in conjunction with ProMexico, a government entity that promotes Mexican companies in order to contribute to its economic and social development and strengthens the country’s image as a strategic global business partner.

Witness the brief ribbon cutting ceremony of the ProMexico section of the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place on June 28, 2015 in Dallas.

Big D

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Aside from classic travel slogans (“We do things bigger in Texas,” and “It’s like a whole other country”), my only exposure to the city of Dallas was like everybody else’s who didn’t hail from Texas–the beloved Dallas TV show.

0629150925a~2Overlooking the sweeping downtown skyline from the window of our room on the 19th floor of the Omni Hotel, you could almost hear the show’s theme song.  The Ewing saga kept us glued to the set every Friday night.

The bigness of the city was certainly reflected in the size and scope of the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place.

 The Highlights

Inside the section reserved for venders involved with ProMexico, Embajador was awarded a commanding corner booth that Andres decorated with bottles of his tequila.

Resembling a duty free perfume counter at an international airport, Embajador wowed fellow venders and attendees for the two straight days of the Market Place.

Above, Andres Garcia samples Embajador Tequila to attendees at the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place.

Hectic as most popular trade shows are, we did manage to check out a few of the 0629151507dozens of participating businesses and products.  Among other venders at the Market Place were…

Texas Specialty Beverage–carrying an array of products like Tropics Natural Infusions, a 100% natural fruit infusions with a slew of tempting flavors as wild as 4 Berry and Ice Cream.  Catering to specialty foodservice for premium cocktails and smoothies, as well as culinary and savory applications, they even concocted a signature margarita using Embajador reposado.

Zodiac Vodka–an American-made craft potato vodka. Produced from farm to bottle using 100% locally sourced ingredients, based in Idaho (of course!).

0629151104

New Mexico Green Chile Company–a family owned company of brokers and distributors of the state’s prime crop (and a personal favorite of mine!), Hatch green chile, direct to distributors and restaurants throughout Texas.

Every product or service one could think of, from coffee service to professional barbecue grills, was featured in the Market Place.  Similar to the Sabor Latino Food Show that we had attended in California earlier this spring, the organizers also provided a separate location for all Texas-based spirits that participated in the event.

0629151104aIt was no surprise to run into Empresario, a merged entity made up of Austin-based liquor companies who aim to give global distillers like Brown-Forman a run for their money.  Among the partners are Pepe Z and Republic tequilas.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home 

Rather than make the long drive home from Dallas to San Antonio in rush hour traffic, Andres Garcia and I decided to visit one of the city’s favorite places for tacos and tequila–Tacos And Tequila!

Earlier in the day, several members of the chain’s management and 0629151912ownership had stopped by Embajador’s booth seeking new tequilas and mezcals to add to their already extensive selection.  We decided to return the favor and visit the Routh Street location for dinner.

Tableside Guacamole

Emphasizing fresh ingredients in all their menu items at Tacos And Tequila, we were treated to tableside guacamole.

Freshness Philosophy

Manager Zak Baron explains the chain’s freshness philosophy.

What’s Up With the Rebar?

0629151911

Tacos and Tequila has a unique way of expanding their bar and displaying even more agave spirits.  Zak explains…

The Secret to A Successful Menu

0629151950

Pinning down the secret to Tacos and Tequilas’ agave forward menu.

One Thing

0629151931

Zak and bartender Nadine reveal the one thing you should know about Tacos and Tequila.

 Into The Sunset

All in all, a more than worthy trade show in the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place, topped off with a memorable celebratory dinner at Tacos And Tequila–

Dallas really does do things bigger and better!

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Tequila Aficionado Media Celebrates Día de los Muertos 2015 On The Road

Announces Unprecedented Partnerships with Top Tequilas!

For Immediate Release!

August 26, 2015, San Antonio, TX:  Beginning October 14-28, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media takes to the open road accompanied by top tier tequilas destined for the Windy City of Chicago to celebrate the popular Día de los Muertos remembrance holiday.

Palazzo

What began as a whimsical idea during a family RV vacation early in the spring of 2015, has turned into a monster tequila tour packed with stops at specially selected points-of-interest along the way, photo opportunities, and out-of-the-box social media marketing and promotion for tequila brands on a budget.

Initially scheduled for late August 2015, Lisa Pietsch, Tequila Aficionado mexican moonshine anejo, roger clyne, peacemakers, tequila,Media’s COO, admits that, “…the response from agave spirits brands was so overwhelmingly positive that we were compelled to move the tour dates to October to accommodate brands that wanted to come aboard.”

The change in tour dates notes M.A. “Mike” Morales, CEO of Tequila Aficionado Media, was fortunate for the participating tequila partners since, “…the end-of-year push for the spirits industry traditionally begins in October and lasts throughout the holiday season.”

Adds Pietsch, “Now, Día de los Muertos is an integral part of that celebration to Latinos and tequila aficionados alike.”

At press time, participating tequila brand partners are…

Currently, these tequila partners are scheduled to be featured on the following days of Tequila Aficionado’s Día de los Muertos Tequila Tour—

14-OctEmbajador Blanco
15-OctEmbajador Reposado
16-OctEmbajador Anejovarietals
17-OctLunazul Blanco
18-OctLunazul XAageGateImg
19-OctMalinalli Blanco
20-OctMalinalli Extra Anejomalinalli
21-OctTitanium Blanco

titanium, tequila, flight of sites, tequila aficionado

22-OctDulce Vida 5yr Extra AnejoDulce_Vida
23-OctRoute 66 Reposado

route-66-slide11

24-Oct1921 La Crema

la crema

25-OctDiva Blanco

diva

26-OctMexican Moonshine Blanco
27-OctMexican Moonshine Reposado
28-OctMexican Moonshine Anejo

mexican moonshine anejo, roger clyne, peacemakers, tequila,

As other interested agave spirits climb aboard Tequila Aficionado’s Día de los Muertos Tequila Tour, this list and the calendar of open slots will be updated.

tequila aficionado, dia de los muertos tour, rv trip 2015
Click on map to see full route in Google Maps

For all the details on the Día de los Muertos Tequila Tour and how your agave spirit will benefit with Tequila Aficionado Media’s powerful, exclusive, out-of-the-box (and affordable!) social media brand exposure, click 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!

Barrio Café–A Tequila Oasis

[In an industry of cookie-cutter airport cantinas, it was refreshing to experience a little bit of the local flavor at Barrio Café during a recent layover at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport’s Terminal 4.]

*Yawn!*

Frequent flyers are a highly sought after target market.  Just ask any company that pays top dollar to advertise in in-flight magazines.  They’ll admit that a temporarily sequestered audience with nowhere to go (but up?) is a gold mine.

But, with security protocols being what they are now, bored and isolated travelers awaiting the next leg of their trip desperately seek to pass the time at engaging airport bars/restaurants with strong food and drink selections, and even stronger wifi.

What struck me most about Barrio Café, however, was that it was a tequila oasis in a sea of food court cuisine.  Coupled with an informed and educated staff, and my ears perked up.

The Original Comida Chingona of Phoenix

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, along with her partner, Wendy Gruber, opened the first Barrio Café in the Calle 16 neighborhood of Central Phoenix in 2002, and it quickly shot to culinary stardom.

Inspired by regional dishes from Oaxaca, Ensenada, and the Yucatán, Chef 0514151503Silvana transforms them with a French twist to create, as it reads on their menu, “some seriously bad ass Mexican cuisine.”

Chef Silvana’s acknowledgements are as long as your arm, too!

Highlighted by an induction into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame in 2004, voted as one of the Top 9 Mexican Chefs by MSNBC Latino in 2010, and four James Beard award nominations in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Employing local graffiti artists and muralists to illustrate and beautify each location, Barrio is notorious for attracting eclectic customers–from low riders to politicians.

 Not Your Mother’s House

Beloved and admired by Chef Silvana’s long term café employees, server Brittany Sabo proudly elaborates on this and other locations, its founders, and Barrio’s varied menu.

Help Conserve Water, Drink Tequila

The Barrio Café bar inside Terminal 4.
The Barrio Café bar inside Terminal 4.

With a tequila selection as assorted as their clientele–from the Usual Suspects to Arizona based smaller brands–their list also includes eye-opening tequila flights.

Here, Brittany reveals Chef Silvana’s future plans for a possible private label tequila.

Precioso, Hermoso, and Ready for You!

A snifter of 7 Leguas tequila.
A snifter of 7 Leguas tequila.

The idea of catering to short term secluded audiences hasn’t escaped big name tequila companies.  But, that warm cozy feeling of being welcomed into a neighborhood bar and restaurant is an unexpected quality not usually found in cookie cutter cantinas.

For years, Jose Cuervo has licensed branded Taberna del Tequila bars in airports around the US.  The Blue Mesa Taco & Tequila Bar at Dallas/Ft. Worth International, has long been an Herradura (Brown-Forman) stronghold, as well.

Airline travelers eventually come and go, but a snifter of good tequila and a house taco of cochinita pibil at the Barrio Café in Terminal 4 could very easily make you miss your connecting flight.

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!

Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant–It’s In The Blood

2014-08-22 19.57.43Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant’s humble beginning exemplifies the meaning of the Latino American Dream. 

Voted a Reader’s Choice award for Best Mexican Restaurant in 2014 by the Wichita Eagle, the family owned chain has been in business for nearly 50 years pioneering its style of Mexican cuisine and feeding generations of families in Wichita, Kansas. 

On a bustling and muggy Friday night in late August 2014, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to meet with the proprietors of Felipe’s, the Lujano family, at the northeast Wichita location of their four venues.  

Family Is Everything

Felipe's logo.

 2014-08-22 20.59.43It is the family patriarch, Don Roberto Lujano, who captures all the attention.

Strolling through the clean and brightly decorated restaurant, Don Roberto, brother of the deceased Felipe for whom the restaurants are named, visits every table to shake hands with his regulars.  He responds with a wide grin and a kind word as people of every race, creed and color call him Papa.2014-08-22 20.58.13

In the next two clips, Don Roberto’s son, Miguel Lujano, manager of the northeast restaurant on Woodlawn Blvd., recounts Felipe’s vast history as the first establishment to introduce Mexican cuisine to Wichita in 1967.

Think You’ve Tasted It All?

I’ve ingested just about every single style of Mexican food.  From glitzy chain restaurants with signature tropical fruit-based tequila drinks, to hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop diners that serve handmade tortillas and guacamole, I truthfully thought I had tasted it all.

2014-08-22 20.20.01

Not the usual “gringofied” spicy Mexican food that is served in the corporate-owned eateries, Felipe’s relies heavily on a medley of traditional herbs, spices, and heirloom family recipes.  Still, they are not without its own unique cuisine challenges as Miguel Lujano explains…

Mild vs. Hot 

2014-08-22 21.12.04With the influx of more Mexican and Mexican Americans into Wichita establishing diners of their own, Felipe’s continues to find ways to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.

Noting that their customer base is trending toward more spicy hot ingredients, the Lujano family has taken advantage of this turnabout by adding some picante to their signature dishes.  Don Roberto Lujano and his wife, Maria Teresa, still cook in the kitchen with most dishes made from scratch.

And in a state whose liquor is controlled (state run), the task of obtaining more authentic tequilas for Felipe’s emblematic cocktails can be even more challenging, especially when competing restaurants plagiarize them for their own menus.  The secret, Miguel Lujano insists, is educating their customers.

Maestro Dobel Special Edition
Maestro Dobel Special Edition
Felipe's Special Edition selection.
Felipe’s Special Edition selection.

Miguel admitted that it also helps to be friendly with representatives from Glazer’s and Standard Beverage Corporation, liquor distributors who share his passion for tequila.  Through his relationships, Felipe’s has been able to acquire such sought after tequilas as Suerte, Siete Leguas, Demetrio, George Clooney’s Casamigos, and participate in Maestro Dobel’s Special Edition program.

2014-08-22 22.53.24

 

Craving Felipe’s

Here, Miguel Lujano explains how Felipe’s is so artful at getting their customers to crave their cooking and cocktails.

Three Keys To Success

Miguel Lujano shares his father’s three keys to a successful Mexican restaurant.

In The Blood

In a city that has seen its Hispanic population boom from a scattering few in 1967 to close to 60,000 strong in 2014, Felipe’s has actively enticed the unpredictable tastes of its community over the decades.  But, what keeps the Lujano family passionately pushing the limits of their traditional fare?

Simply put–

It’s in their blood.

***

Enjoy this Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita…

Felipe's signature recipe for homemade sangrita.
Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita.

 

2014-08-22 22.26.35
and Miguel’s signature Margarita.

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