Golden State of Cocktails has established itself as the celebration of California’s diverse cocktail culture. From Napa Valley to San Diego and everywhere in between, GSC is the platform to showcase the state’s spirits and those who craft and serve them. The three-day festival celebrates the passion and ethos of these professionals who are helping change the way the entire nation drinks and enjoys spirits.
Across California’s three largest cities, Golden State of Cocktails provides an environment where the most respected names in the liquor industry educate the next generation of hospitality professionals and cocktail enthusiasts.
About Alexander “Alex” Perez:
Alex has an extensive background in wine and spirits, having been in the industries for many years. You’ll note his discriminating palate in the Sipping off the Cuff episodes he hosts weekly with M.A. “Mike” Morales.
When Alex fell in love with the under appreciated spirits of Mexico, Tequila and Mezcal, he made it his mission to educate the public on these fine spirits. Alex has interviewed many leaders in the Tequila industry and uncovered fascinating facts that you’ll see in his upcoming Founder’s Features as he releases historic industry interviews from his vault of tequila treasures.
“We are thrilled, excited and proud to be recognized as ‘Tequila Producer of the Year’ by BarBiz Magazine,” beamed Andres Garcia, Regional Sales Manager and family member of Embajador. “Our commitment as brand owners to our consumers, the industry and ourselves is that we will not cut corners or change how we produce Embajador Tequila.”
Reiterating the family’s mission of building a legacy, Garcia added, “Our goal is to have this same award winning tequila flavor profile and aroma for generations to come.”
The First Annual Bar Biz Spirits Competition was organized by the editorial and publishing staff of Bar Biz Magazine. Almost 100 spirits and mixers were judged by an expert panel of trade buyers, rating the liquid by its category and actual retail price.
Within these criteria, Embajador Premium Reposado seized a gold medal while Embajador Supreme Añejo secured a silver prize.
“It is a privilege and an honor to have earned these medals,” declared Garcia. “Quality over quantity has been our motto. These awards symbolize what we as a family successfully accomplish–crafting quality tequila.”
Embajador is no stranger to brilliant accolades within the tequila category of the spirits industry. In 2014 alone, it was voted gold and silver medallions at the famed Spirits of Mexico, as well as platinum, silver and bronze medals at the prestigious SIP Awards, both taking place in California.
The First Annual Bar Biz Spirits Competition followed a strict code for blind tastings. The judges granted no awards to spirits that they themselves would not import, distribute, buy or sell in their own businesses and within the price categories.
“Thank you to BarBiz Magazine, and to all those involved for such amazing recognitions,” concluded Andres Gacia.
“We are striving to see Embajador Tequila reach national distribution so that we may all celebrate the arrival of the Ambassador!”
Add multi-award winning Embajador Tequila to your spirits portfolio, now! Contact Regional Sales Manager Andres Garcia at email@example.com, or call 469-216-0567.
Girasoles Restaurant premieres this month on the Southern California restaurant scene, specializing in authentic recipes from six different regions of Mexico. Like its name, which means “sunflower,” Girasoles is fresh, exciting and colorful, serving authentic dishes in a dining room accented by fresh flowers and beautiful decor.
NORWALK, Calif., Sep 30, 2002 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — “We want our guests’ senses to be excited by the sights, sounds, tastes and aromas they’ll experience while dining at Girasoles Restaurant,” explains Eric Sanchez, spokesman for the family owned and operated restaurant opening this month in Norwalk, CA. “Our signature Regional Mexican dishes are served with a fine dining presentation and all ingredients are fresh from the market and prepared from authentic recipes from a variety of regions such as Puebla and Jalisco.”
Special features about the Girasoles dining experience include handmade tortillas; hand shaken margaritas using fresh lime juice; a selection of over 150 tequilas and mezcals; and meats that are wood-fire grilled for added flavor and succulence.
Signature dishes unique to Girasoles Restaurant not found at other establishments offering Mexican cuisine include: Pollo Enchipotlado, wood-fired grilled chicken breast with creamy chipotle sauce, served with mashed potatoes, grilled green onions and watercress salad; Camarones Chiapanecos, wood-fired grilled Black Tiger shrimp in traditional green mole (pumpkin seeds, tomatillo), served with white rice and grilled zucchini; Borrego Al Pasilla, wood-fired grilled, farm-raised lamb stuffed with pasilla sauce and served with frijoles and mixed greens; and Chile en Nogada, a poblano chile stuffed with pork, beef, candied citron, almonds, raisins, dried fruit, drizzled in walnut sauce and garnished with pomegranates and cilantro. Dinner entrees are moderately priced between $9.95 and $12.95.
The dessert category pays particular attention to authentic South of the Border traditional sweets, enticing diners’ sweet tooths with such dishes as Flan de Naranja (orange flavored custard); Pera Rellena de Queso Crema (pear filled with cream cheese covered with hojaldre paste served with pear sauce and flowers); Arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding); and Crepas de Gajeta (crepes in a sauce of goat’s milk and caramel).
Head Chef Victor Sanchez has studied at the California School of Culinary Arts/Le Cordon Bleu Program. The restaurant’s Sous Chefs have over 15 years of culinary experience in Mexican Cuisine.
Girasoles Restaurant is open daily for lunch between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., serving dinner nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. A Kid’s Menu offers a selection of entrees moderately priced between $4.50 and $6.50. Brunch is offered every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with an affordable a la carte menu offering items in the $6 to $8 price range. Reservations are recommended by calling (562) 462-9099. Girasoles Restaurant is located at 11600 E. Rosecrans Ave. in Norwalk, CA. To access the complete menu, log onto http://www.girasoleskitchen.com.
Unlike some tequilas, most of my moves have never been smooth–or without incident.
For the better part of 18 years, I lived in New Mexico. After a year long stay in my home state of California, I moved my personal residence and headquarters to San Antonio, TX to helm the newly revamped Tequila Aficionado Media almost two years ago. In all that time, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars in storage fees.
The plan was to rent a Cruise America RV and to take her two home schooled boys with us, along with the two cats, the dog, and turtle, on a 7-day trek through parts of west Texas and southern New Mexico.
Since Lisa would be doing all the driving, she would break up the trip to no more than 5 or 6 hours before stopping at a reputable and clean RV park for a day or two. We would simply retrace our route on the return trip, as well.
I’m not going to lie. Visions of the ill fated Donner Party crossed my mind.
Apart from the usual concerns about cost and current gas prices (which Lisa will tackle in blog posts of her own), my more pressing questions were–
Could the cats get along with the dog? Would the boys freak out without wifi? Would we even survive the first night together in the close quarters of the RV? Could we all just get along?
Luckily, the good folks at Del Bravo tequila supplied us with bottles of their Peñsaco, Diva and Route 66 tequila to calm my nerves. Brand Of Promise(TM) winner, JLP Craft Margaritas also came along for the ride.
Undaunted (and armed with a hashtag), Lisa pursued her dream of taking the kids and experiencing part of the Desert Southwest on the open road.
After a couple of hours outside of San Antonio, we stopped for lunch and took stock of our surroundings inside the RV. So far, the ride was quite comfy.
Dinner in the RV and generous pours of Route 66 reposado tequila were on the menu after a long drive. Later that evening, the campground’s flawless wifi kept us on top of our personal and Tequila Aficionado duties.
It wasn’t until the next morning, though, that we were able to appreciate the stark beauty of this historic west Texas location.
Tequila Road Show
A short two hours or so later, we entered the El Paso, TX city limits. Here, Lisa Pietsch and I reveal our desires for the Tequila Aficionado Roadshow that we were planning for late summer/early fall 2015.
Old Stomping Grounds
We made great time into the Duke City area and settled into the spacious Albuquerque North KOA campground in Bernalillo, NM.
Later that evening, accompanied by a full moon rising above the Sandia Mountains and some JLP Craft Margaritas, along with a celebratory cigar for me, we hopped onto the park’s wifi for a little social media fun.
How to Shop for Your RV
With the idea of shopping for a bigger RV still fermenting, we weren’t too keen on dealing with pesky and persistent salesmen. Lisa and I decided to take a walk around the KOA park to see what Americans were RVing in.
That’s when we ran into this beauty–
Meanwhile, Back in Van Horn…
After a couple of days in New Mexico, we mounted into the Cruise America RV and made our way back to Van Horn, TX to spend a restful two days recuperating from driving and moving some of my possessions.
The outpouring of well wishes and the sharing of family vacation memories from our friends and followers on social media, made us pause and reflect on our own individual family outings.
The pros of being location independent far outweighed the cons of what the open road had in store (besides rush hour traffic).
And, had we not returned to the campground in Van Horn, we would’ve missed the opportunities to bond over these gems…
Living The Dream
Stay tuned to Tequila Aficionado later this month for a special announcement about our first ever Tequila Road Show to the Windy City of Chicago and how you can come along!
In mid-August of 2014, the organizers of the 6th Annual Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, which took place on October 11, 2014, graciously asked Tequila Aficionado Media CEO, Mike Morales, to participate as a judge. Their unique, take-at-home blind tequila tasting competition used the Tequila Matchmaker smartphone application to score and bestow awards. You can review the results of the tasting competition here.
I dreaded tests and pop quizzes in school. I never did well on them no matter how long I studied. The only answer for someone like me to improve his grade was to do extra credit work. Often, that meant the blessing of the occasional take-home test.
aficionados in finding tequilas that are suitable to their taste preferences. It also allows enthusiasts to rate and grade brands on a sliding numerical scale.
Grover has introduced Tequila Matchmaker in some of the leading and trending tequila bars in the US. The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine is the first event to exclusively use the Tequila Matchmaker app for its blind tasting competition.
In this Facebook interview, Grover shares some of his thoughts on the aftermath of the competition.
TA: So…did the results amaze you?
GS: Not really. I wish there were more brands involved so we could get a better comparison.
Last year, when we announced the results, several brands were in the room. They immediately asked questions about the judges. This gave me the idea to “test” the judges as a way of giving the brands an idea of who they were dealing with.
So, duplicating a tequila as a way to “judge the judges” was my answer. A total experiment. Not totally scientific, but definitely interesting.
TA: Did they know who the judges were this time around?
GS: No, we didn’t disclose which judges gave which scores. Also, all of the judges, except for one, did well.
TA: Did they know the names of the judges on the roster?
GS: I believe so.
Also, rating these tequilas from home is a totally different method than rating them with all of the judges in the same room. Not that any one is better than the other, just
that they are different.
I would actually like to try an experiment where the same judges rate things at home, and then again, together (like the SOM [Spirits of Mexico competition] format) and then see the differences.
GS: I also want to experiment with the order of the selection. We can actually use our app to create a random order for each person, so nobody will have the same [order].
TA: That would be a cool variable.
GS: For me at SOM [Grover was a judge at 2014’s contest], palate fatigue is an issue, so it would be interesting to see if tequilas at the end of the line tend to do better. I am fascinated by blind ratings, so I’m having a blast trying all these new experiments.
GS: I know that the SOM guys insist that spirits must be evaluated in the morning, but that seems a little odd to me. I think the judge needs to be consistent, but should be able to choose when they drink. I don’t usually drink in the morning. usually. :-). There’s an element of “real life” that isn’t present when you drink Tapatio 110 at 9am.
TA: Did the certified catador do better than was expected?
Before I go into my pros and cons of rating tequilas using the Tequila Matchmaker app for the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, let me get a few pet peeves off my chest.
Judging Competitions–What A Concept!
In all my time studying, analyzing and observing the Tequila Industry, not once have I ever known any tequila enthusiast, purist, newbie, connoisseur, collector or consumer (let alone brand owner and/or importer) to be happy with the results of any spirits judging competition.
The older the judging tournaments are, the more importance their annual medal counts are given by an unsuspecting public who only purchase award winning beers, wines and spirits based on their perceived value, instead of trusting its own taste buds.
Those long running competitions become more expensive to enter, forcing smaller more deserving brands out and leaving the larger, transnational corporations with deeper portfolios and bigger budgets to duke it out.
Accusations of alleged backroom negotiations for awards has also been an issue, of late.
And let’s not forget the most lucrative part of the tasting event–
Paying for the rights to use the competition’s branded medals and seals in addition to the entry fees per spirits expression submitted.
Yet, spirits brands in general, and tequila brands in particular, continue to allocate hard-earned marketing dollars toward entering these yearly competitions for the privilege of hanging neck tags from their bottles or affixing stickers onto their labels named for precious metals or gemstones.
At the end of the day, it seems like everyone who participated in the competitions scored some sort of hardware and the rest of us are left shaking our heads in dismay or agreement.
I was once told by a very respected spirits writer that a unified scoring system was good for an event should the organizers decide to hold other branded spirits competitions.
Whoever said that a templated numerical scoring method used to grade different kinds of spirits was appropriate for tequila tastings? Diffusers aside, tequila itself is so unique, it doesn’t compare with the flavor profiles of all other spirits, so why rate them that way?
How about a rating system that’s good for the juice instead of one that’s good for the show? (BTW…one already exists.)
Pros And Cons
Pro–scoring on the Tequila Matchmaker app is amazingly simple.
Con–There’s no numerical rating for the tequilas’ appearance on the Tequila Matchmaker app. Takes the whole sensorial feeling out of tequila tasting. Only your nose and mouth get to have all the fun.
Pro–Shipping two ounce samples is neat and cost effective for the organizers of the show.
Con–See what happens when minis are compromised. (Warning: It’s not pretty.)
I particularly found that my sealed reposado samples were extremely alcohol-y even after sitting at room temperature for a couple of days.
Pro–It’s lovely to take your time judging samples at your leisure. I agree with
Grover that it saves on palate fatigue, too.
Con–I miss the camaraderie of other expert judges and learning from them. It ups your game like playing one-on-one with LeBron James or batting against Clayton Kershaw.
Pro–Depending on my schedule, I chose what time of day to judge my samples.
Con–According to the guidelines set forth by the original Mexican Tequila Academy, tastings should begin by 11 AM when a catador’s (tequila taster’s) palate is freshest. [See also their tequila scoring sheet and criteria.] This article here explains where this custom began.
Pro–I knew which glassware and other tips and tools to use to make me, as a judge, more effective.
Con–The lack of uniformity and protocol among the judges could have affected the final results.
Pro–It was exciting to use Tequila Matchmaker’s breakthrough scoring system.
Con–I can’t, in all honesty, say that I was pleased with the awarded outcomes or my graded performance.
The Monterey Bay Tequila and Cuisine Festival has announced the winners of their 2014 blind tasting.
Blind tastings were conducted over the past month by judges from around the country and compiled using the Tequila Matchmaker App. Following are the winners of the Monterey Bay Tequila and Cuisine Festival:
Hailing from the famed blue agave growing region of Atotonilco in the highlands of Jalisco, the family owned Embajador Tequila stunned the Spirits of Mexico competition by capturing the gold medal in the añejo category.
“We feel like sweepstakes winners!” exclaimed an overjoyed Andres Garcia, Embajador’s Regional Sales Manager. “Taking the gold medal for our anejo at the Spirits of Mexico tasting competition is breathtaking.”
And just like their global brand ambassadors, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan, one of the hottest mariachi troops in Mexico, Embajador tequila swaggered into the blanco and reposado segments of the competition and claimed twin silver honors.
“We are ecstatic over winning two silver medals for our reposado and blanco, too,” added Garcia. “We’re extremely proud of the consistency in Embajador’s flavor profile and quality.”
The Embajador family is adamant about crafting superlative and distinguished tequila.
It uses only its own estate grown 100% blue weber agave that is carefully tended for 8-10 years. Baked in an adobe oven, the piñas are shredded using water from the distillery’s own aquifer, and then fermented from 3-5 days. After double distillation, the luminous Platinum expression is rested 40 days in stainless steel vats to ensure a complete balance of character.
The captivating Embajador Premium Reposado is rested for a period of eight months in American and French Oak barrels, while the gold medal winning Supreme Añejo is aged with devotion for one year and six months in American and French Oak barrels.
This has been a year filled with accolades for the small batched Embajador tequila. In April, it racked up a glimmering platinum title at the prestigious SIP Awards, while their other expressions garnered silver and bronze prizes, as well.
“Getting these esteemed awards is a symbol of our family’s determination, commitment and dedication to producing high caliber tequila,” said Garcia, “and that’s the better part of winning.”
Entering tasting competitions and gaining recognition for accumulating awards is only part of Embajador’s strategy to grow the brand.
“Acquiring the gold and silver medals provides us and our distributor sales team with a tequila that we can be proud to stand behind and be assured it’s top-notch juice,” explained Garcia.
“These trophies are great sales and marketing tools that give us the opportunity to present Embajador to any retail buyer and be confident that it will add value to their premium tequila shelf selection,” he described.
“We plan on celebrating these awards with a big ‘Thank You’ to all the people behind the scenes that made Embajador Tequila what it is today,” continued Andres. “We value their hard work, long hours and integrity.”
Gratefully, he added, “Thank you Spirits of Mexico for celebrating and acknowledging this noble spirit.”
Not accustomed to sitting on their laurels, Andres Garcia admitted, “We plan on commemorating this triumph by popping a few bottles of Embajador Tequila. Salúd!”
Distributors/Vendors: Contact Andres Garcia, Regional Sales Manager, to discuss the benefits of adding Spirits of Mexico gold medal winner Embajador Tequila to your portfolio at firstname.lastname@example.org. More details on Embajador Tequila on their website here. To learn more about the Spirits of Mexico, click here.Spirits Writers: For an in-depth interview with Andres Garcia, call 469-216-0567. Hurry–slots are filling up fast!
Tequila Brands and Producers Have Already Sailed Into the Sucker Hole
For those new to the expression, a “sucker hole” is a colloquial term referring to a spate of good weather that “suckers” sailors into leaving port just in time for a storm to resume at full force and wreak havoc on the ship and crew.
For both Tequila Brand Owners and producers of a certain size, their ship has already sailed, and the storm is now closing in on them. Some in denial, others looking through rose-colored margarita glasses, still believe they can navigate through to that glimmer of light on the horizon. However, the perfect storm of doom looms just past the horizon of hope, and will soon envelope and destroy most, if not all, in its wake.
Oh, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that only a few of the big and the very nimble will survive.
This is because of a number of factors, primarily that too many of us bought in to the Yankelovich and similar studies that declared premium and above 100% Agave Tequila brands as the next big thing.
While the premises of these market premonitions were undoubtedly true, too many of us jumped headfirst into the juice just before the world economic decline. Six hundred brands have turned into 1200 brands in less than five years. The growth of the market has been dramatic compared with other distilled spirits, yet, it’s still relatively small, ranked only 4th in US volume. It has not grown fast enough to accommodate all of the entries into the field.
Resistance is Futile – Change is at Hand for the Tequila Market
The Gravy Train Wreck Ahead
I’m sure that for many of you, in just reading the title of this article, your blood pressure has escalated, and you may already be misdirecting your anger at the author.
For others who have experienced the many similar economic paths to consolidation in the global beverage industry, you have already accepted that change has to occur, and you will soon better understand and appreciate the math behind what I am about to lay out, and why everything I’m about to outline here will happen in due course.
For those of you who have your personal fortunes riding on the Tequila Train, both prominence and profit may still seem to be so close that you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or beyond the next bend. But, I’m sorry to say that for most of us in the biz, the light at the end of the tunnel is that of an oncoming locomotive. This will be a catastrophic collision, albeit in slow motion, that will drain your resources and your resolve.
What can be learned from the Russians? (Excerpted from JustDrinks.com)
The global economic crisis has had a significant impact on the Russian spirits market, changing market dynamics and briefly halting the much-lauded premiumisation trend, according to current research.
A recently released report from the International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR) on Russia’s spirits market claims that the downturn has also led to “…disruptions across the supply chain, with many suppliers and distributors going bankrupt or halting production. For healthier companies, however, it has presented an opening to establish their brands and take market share…”
The Silver Tequila Clouds have a very Dark Lining (Excerpted from Global market review of Tequila – forecasts to 2013 www.researchandmarkets.com )
The history of the Tequila industry has been one of boom and bust. Sales rose during the 1940’s only to collapse again in the mid-50’s. Export sales rose steadily from the 1960’s onward, although domestic sales fell sharply in the 1980’s due again to an economic slump, and the severe Mexican economic crisis of the early 1980’s resulted in plummeting sales.
The market was again disrupted by a critical shortage of Agave beginning in the late ’90’s, which served to hold back the category’s international development as brand owners were forced to divert limited supplies to the core US market, and quality perceptions were damaged as some manufacturers moved from 100% to 51% (Mixto) Agave products.
Today, that dynamic is in reverse, and the market is in oversupply. More and more 100% Agave products are coming into the market. This is helping to raise quality perceptions, and in turn, demand is surging not only in core Mexican and US markets but across a number of other countries.
The outlook for the category has rarely been better, and Casa Noble Tequila president and COO David Ravandi commented, “Tequila is entering a stage of consolidation in the world markets. It is no longer a fad. The fact that 100% Agave Tequila exports have increased tremendously over the last two years is extremely positive for the product’s outlook in the years to come.”
US Tequila Importation is a Sucker Bet
“My cousin will make the best Tequila for you Mr. Gringo”
“So, my friend, you want a great Tequila brand? We will make it for you. Just fifty percent cash up front to start the process.”
Unfortunately, far too many have fallen for this old gag. Relying heavily on the forecasting reports of the early 2000’s that suggested that luxury Tequila would be the next big spirits category after vodka.
With dollar signs in their eyes, the believers drank the Tequila Kool-Aid, most of them spending way too much to buy a brand, custom molded bottles, etc. But the worst part was that this left little if any money for marketing. Many did not even understand brand marketing inflation was happening right under their noses.
It had started soon after Patron hit 100,000 cases in volume in 2001, and the cost to market a Tequila brand in the US went from $1 to $10M per year. Today it takes at least $20M per year just to play in the same ballpark as Patron’s $50M plus, Sauza’s $35M plus, and Cuervo’s $30M plus marketing budgets.
Who could have predicted that a “realistic” business plan for the next successful ultra-premium Tequila brand calling for only 10,000 cases in the first year would end in it’s investors taking a bath?
The problem with this equation is three-fold:
1) Pricing: Unlike vodka and white rum, 100% Agave Tequila is just too expensive to produce and bottle in Mexico. Unless, like rum, vodka and mixto Tequila, it is able to be shipped in bulk and bottled near the final consumer, the cost involved with 100% Agave Tequila is always going to be too high to attain critical volume and profit levels.
2) Volume: US mass volumes are best when a spirits category is between $9.99-29.99/750ml. One hundred percent Agave Tequila is currently profitable only at the upper ranges when higher volumes are attained.
3) Distribution: The US “3-Tier” Distribution System is at best an oligopoly, and 19 states run a monopoly. Of the 1200 plus Tequila brands, want to guess how many they want to carry? Well, after the top 20, you are very lucky to be “special order only”. If you are fortunate enough to live in the states of California or Arizona, where one can be both the importer and distributor, you will find yourself driving your precious Tequila brand around to each account in your car.
Without product volumes or market clout, you will be hard pressed to get even an appointment, let alone a vender number with the chain restaurants and grocery stores. These major chain stores like Chili’s, Chevy’s, Costco, Kroger, etc., drive at least 85% of the combined volume in all but the control states. Without access to the chains, your market becomes the handful of privately owned, “Mom & Pop” accounts that usually know that small independent distributors are easy prey for bending the law on consignment, stringing out payments, or not paying at all.
While driving your own brand around certainly makes time for the personal touch and focus, these hand-selling efforts prove to be the most inefficient ways to distribute one Tequila brand. Your glass ceiling to fame and fortune becomes that next level of chain distribution that can only be had by a state-wide delivery system of the large wholesale distributor.
With Tequila segment Pricing, Volume and Distribution all against you, one will need to have a lot more money than the brands of the past in order to simply survive in the US.
Tanks-a-lot for Nothing
Call the tank maker and raise your stocks of liquid now!
Unfortunately, most of the mid-sized Tequila distilleries have bought into the notion that Agave prices will go up in the very near future. They base this notion on the boom and bust cycle of the past, and like Lehman Brothers, believe that they have successfully timed the market.
Greedily, many producers are now mortgaged to the hilt in order to produce all the Tequila that they possibly can afford to store in stainless tanks or wooden barrels. Fear of the impending Agave price increase that has yet to happen (and may not for many, many years) has seemingly forced them all into a squirrel-like stockpiling frenzy.
Are they storing Blanco, like acorns, for the hard winter ahead? These stored nuts of liquid demise are in reality winds conspiring to produce the perfect storm for all but the most financially secure and/or nimble producers.
Copyright 2010 International Tasting Group (ITG), All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, ITG is the legal copyright holder of the material on our blog and it may not be used, reprinted, or published without our written consent.
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.
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.
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.
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.