Spend Saturday Night with Mike Morales & Tequila Penasco!

Join Tequila Aficionado for four courses of Texas BBQ, and Peñasco & Diva Tequilas this Saturday at Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse, 909 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX

Spend Saturday Night with Mike Morales & Tequila Penasco! http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4UB

Spend Saturday Night with Mike Morales & Tequila Penasco! http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4UB

 

 

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!

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!

Arte del Mezcal Texas Tour with Wahaka Mezcal

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On the evening of January 15, 2016, during the busy San Antonio Cocktail Conference weekend, Tequila Aficionado’s Mike Morales was invited to sit in on mezcal historian and author Ulises Torrentera’s Arte del Mezcal class and discussion.

20160115_194946As a bonus, the event was sponsored by the luscious Wahaka Mezcal brand and moderated and translated by its co-founder, Raza Zaidi.

The course, endorsed by mezcal’s regulating body, the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal (CRM), through its official document CRM/PD-069/15, would cover four main topics–

Pre-Hispanic beverages, raw material (maguey/agave), distillation and mezcal’s invention, as well as its history, myths, legends, culture and beyond.

The event was held at the intimate El Mirador Mexican restaurant and featured a delicious menu to accompany the entire line of Wahaka mezcals and Sr. 20160115_225556Torrentera’s discourse.

Ulises, considered a preeminent mezcal historian and icon, is the author of “Mezcalaria, The Cult of Mezcal,” and the owner of In Situ Mezcaleria in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Arte del Mezcal Highlights

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Introduction to Wahaka Mezcal

In the following snippet, co-founder, Raza Zaidi, introduces Wahaka’s core line of mezcals and the “one-off” creations by their maestro mezcalero, Alberto Morales.

Clay Pot Distillation

With a GoPro attached, another palenquero demonstrates the very rare method of mezcal fermentation and distillation in clay pots.

Raza later explained that such a technique was implemented because it was easily mobile and allowed movement to avoid authorities from confiscating copper stills.

The Legend of Mayahuel and the 400 Rabbits

Translated by Raza, Ulises explains what pulque is and the legend of Mayahuel and her 400 Rabbits.

Mezcal is More than the Sum of its Parts

According to Ulises, mezcal is produced using approximately 28 distinct varieties of maguey (agave), but there are many more variables that affect the final outcome.

As Raza Zaidi of Wahaka explains, mezcal is more than the sum of its parts.

Why Mezcal?

Co-founder, Raza, explains what compelled him and his partners to bring Wahaka mezcal to the world.

In whatever city you happen to be in, if you can catch Ulises Torrentera, Raza Zaidi, and the rest of the crew of Wahaka Mezcal, do so.

Your education on mezcal and mezcal production depends on it!

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

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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!

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 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!).

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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?

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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

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

One Thing

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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!

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 Takes to The Open Road

On The Road Again

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.

Lisa drives the RV.
Lisa drives the RV.

So, when my partner, Lisa Pietsch, suggested an RV road trip in late May/early June to get the rest of my possessions in Albuquerque, I was hesitant.

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.

donner_film_landingI’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?

Añejo the Cat doesn't travel well.
Añejo the Cat doesn’t travel well.

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.

#TheDreamIsReal

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.

The Crossroads of The Texas Mountain Trail

Route 66 and Diva Tequilas.
Route 66 and Diva Tequilas.

We arrived tired and hungry at our destination, the Good Sam campground in Van Horn, TX, just in time to catch a desert sunset.

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

Fun with the selfie stick.
Fun with the selfie stick.

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.

Family time.
Family time.

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!

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 Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila

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[Moises (Moy) Guindi, one of the two dynamic founders of Milagro tequila, and J.P. DeLoera, Milagro’s Texas Brand Ambassador, hung around after The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015. Tequila Aficionado Media chased down these two gentlemen for a rare chat at the bar of the luxurious Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

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Ambassadors For the Modern Mexico

The time was 1997, and Europe had just signed a trade MilagroAgaveagreement with Mexico.  It officially recognized such spirits as scotch and cognac, among others.  In turn, Europe acknowledged tequila and mezcal’s denominations of origin.  Even though Mexico had issued its Protection of the Appellation of Origin Tequila in the early 70’s, this agreement was the first step in tequila finally gaining the global respect it deserved.

MilagroHomeUp until then, it had been heavily marketed as a traditional spirit often depicted in rustic agricultural scenes of burros and roping charros.  But, a new millennium was near, and a bustling Mexico City was partying like it was 1999 with art, music, design and architecture.

For two young college buddies, Danny Schneeweiss and Moy Guindi, the Mexico City club scene was where tequila sorely lacked a more modern edge and feel.  It was then that they deliberately set out to propel tequila’s image into the 21st Century.

Making Tequila Fashionable

003In this clip, Moy recounts the journey he and Danny embarked on to chart Milagro’s agave forward flavor profile in an era where producers were masking their juice to taste like other spirits.

 One Foot in Tradition, One Foot in The Future

Here, Moy and Milagro’s Texas Brand Ambassador, J.P. DeLoera, explain Milagro’s distillation process which combines old style methods with modern machinery to achieve and enhance its unique flavors.

Further emphasizing their respect for old world techniques, both J.P. and Moy describe how their exclusive joven tequila, Milagro Unico, is made.

Sophistication In A Glass

Milagro’s unique bottles have long been sought after by collectors.  Moy DannyUnicoblames his partner Danny, as the creative mind behind reimagining tequila’s image in clubs and bars around the world.

Milagro was designed to evolve tequila from a red headed step child to a sophisticated gentleman in a classy container.  But, the partners also wanted it to educate consumers.  They added a stylized agave inside each hand blown bottle of their Select Barrel Reserve expressions to illustrate tequila’s true bloodline.

What’s In A Name?

Moy recalls the hilarious story of how Milagro got its name.

How To Sip Milagro

J.P and Moy define the differences between Milagro’s core line and the Select Barrel Reserve.

All This and Kosher, Too?

Thinking ahead, the co-founders of Milagro decided to make their tequila kosher, one of the few brands at the time to do so.  Their reasoning was more personal than you might think.

Where Are They Now?

MilagroBoxIn 2004, Moy and Danny entered into a partnership agreement with family owned super-premium spirits distiller, William Grant & Sons.  The UK based company eventually acquired a 100% stake in Milagro in 2006.  This allowed Milagro to reach nationwide distribution in the U.S. and in key global tequila markets.

Not ones to rest on their success, both Moy and Danny retained certain rights and still have responsibilities to the brand as Moy clarifies here…

Almost 20

After almost 20 years in existence, J.P. describes his strategies to Milagro’s current challenges in the marketplace.

Having birthed Milagro in the midst of the Agave Crisis of the late 90s that almost bankrupted them, Moy learned the hard lessons of staying ahead of the agave pricing curve.

What About China?

Unlike the major spirits brands who consider exporting into China as the next gold rush, Moy believes that a conservative “wait-and-see” approach is best for Milagro.

La Leyenda del Milagro

Both J.P and Moy share their views on the one thing that you should know about Milagro.

Looking Ahead

Demonstrating that they haven’t lost their entrepreneurial drive which spearheaded Milagro into tequila’s New Age and made them one of the top three most influential start ups in Mexico, Moy and Danny are currently involved in a partnership with Montelobos mezcal.

Whatever tequila’s future holds for the next twenty years, it’s a sure bet that Moy and Danny will be at the forefront pushing it, and Milagro, to further heights.

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!

Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine is Back in Texas

A Triumphant Return to Tejas

On this soggy and swampy St. Patrick’s Day, I was graciously invited to spend the afternoon at Sam’s Burger Joint by Mexican Moonshine creator and indie music rock star,  Roger Clyne.  He had arrived in Texas for a busy week of concerts at the famed music, media, film conference and festival, South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin.SamsPatio

With additional gigs in San Antonio and New Braunfels, this night he was slated to perform an acoustic set at Sam’s Music Hall with his Arizona Peacemaker compadre, Jim Dalton.  The rest of the band would catch up later as they traveled by bus.

Over a burger and a cerveza (and a few selfies), Roger and I caught up on current events.

When We Last Left Our Hero…

Simultaneous selfies.
Simultaneous selfies.

When we last saw Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers in 2013 and sipped and talked tequila on his tour bus, his then Texas spirits distributer had suddenly and unceremoniously dumped Mexican Moonshine tequila, despite its growing sales and Roger’s staunch Texas fan base.

Undaunted, he continued to seek more adequate representation for Mexican Moonshine in what is arguably one of the biggest tequila-consuming states in the Southwest.

This time around, Clyne elected to join forces with a much

Clyne's new guitar.
Clyne’s new guitar.

smaller, boutique distributer.  However, he is keenly aware that such a decision can be a double-edged sword in the spirits business.

As many brands of promise often do, they lean towards employing these specialty distributors in hopes of gaining more attention for their label than they would from large, impersonal corporations who are only interested in mass volume case movements and “what’s on spiff?” items.

Staff trainings on Mexican Moonshine’s finer points is key to seeing bottles moving off of the shelves and into customer’s hands and into local bars and restaurants.  A challenge he is certainly up for since he continues to conduct pre-show tastings of Mexican Moonshine to fans at selected clubs and concert halls.

Coming Back With a Vengance

RogerJimLuckily, the timing of Mexican Moonshine’s relaunch into the Texas market coincided with the Peacemakers’ assault on Austin during SXSW.

Clyne admitted that he has no delusions of becoming the next Margaritaville or Cabo Wabo, or any of the other celebrity-owned tequilas.  Like his music, Roger’s aspirations for Mexican Moonshine are much more independent.

“I want to be a Southwest brand of tequila,” he confessed.  “I have no dreams of entering large competitive markets where Mexican Moonshine will disappear in a sea of brands.”

Due to the heavy Mexican cultural influence of his rugged

Mexican Moonshine table tents
Mexican Moonshine table tents

Arizona upbringing, Clyne has not ruled out venturing into the world of other agave spirits in the future.

“But,” he adds cautiously with a sly smile, “let’s get some traction back in Texas, first.”

Guess Roger and I will have to talk about those distant opportunities next time over some street tacos and Mexican Moonshine.

ClyneCerveza

 ***

Enjoy the following snippet of Roger Clyne and Jim Dalton as they perform Marie during a sound check at Sam’s Burger Joint.

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!

Ambhar Tequila–The Recalibrating of A Brand

[Between seminars during the Fourth Annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to the Ambhar Tequila Relaxation Lounge inside the historic Sheraton Gunter Hotel where we finally sampled each expression of this elusive brand with a jaded past.

The following day, we caught up with the new Ambhar CEO, Jaime Celorio, at the acclaimed Bohanan’s Restaurant while the staff prepared for the busy dinner shift.]

The Deceptive Dragonfly

In the spirits realm, and in particular, the tequila segment, brands come and go for a variety of reasons–

Either the juice is not up to par,  or the ineptitude of the brand owners or importers causes a rift between them, or the marketing is all wrong.  You name it, it happens.

Every once in a while, a brand gets lucky and all the elements click and a star is born.

Partida’s Gary Shansby, a self-proclaimed student of one of Patrón‘s founders, Martin Crowley, once declared that a tequila brand needed three things to be successful–

Good juice, a pretty bottle, and a symbol with a story.

Ambhar appeared to have all three.

On the other hand, a tequila label could experience the worst

Ambhar Goddess review.
Ambhar Goddess review.

case scenario, but for some reason, it just doesn’t go away.

The latter may be the perfect example of what happened to Ambhar tequila.

All That Glitters…

Launched in 2009, Ambhar was originally based in Austin, Texas, but made its big splash on the Las Vegas Strip.

Ambhar Lounge logo.
Ambhar Lounge logo.

Owing to key friendships among the principals, Ambhar became a part of the Tropicana Hotel’s facelift in 2010 and established the Ambhar Lounge.

More key relationships allowed the brand to have a very visible presence, especially among the MGM properties.  Ambhar soon became Las Vegas’ go-to tequila for many events including several outdoor pool parties during the warmer months.

Then, things began to unravel.

After unbridled spending, Ambhar accrued a rumored debt of up to $2 million.  Another round of funding gave it a much needed infusion of $2.7 million from investors in 2011, but still, rumblings of unpaid bills and payrolls persisted.

Ambhar banner.
Ambhar banner.

To make matters worse, a series of ho-hum reviews, including this scathing blog by the OC Weekly, made Ambhar the butt of jokes among the tequila cognoscente who took particular issue with the label’s claims of being distilled five times.

It seemed that the powers behind Ambhar at that time had been blinded by the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, and paid a hefty price.

Saving A Broken Brand

Coming from a solid financial background, Jaime Celerio, CEO of the newly formed Ambhar Global Spirits, LLC., explains what attracted him to purchase the troubled label in 2013.

Challenges

Here, Jaime explains the dilemmas of taking over a broken brand and what is being done now to revive it.

Further, he illustrates the problems in dealing with the Nevada market, and which states Ambhar will target, instead.

 

Retooling

Ambhar Texas having fun at #SACC2015.
Ambhar Texas having fun at #SACC2015.

Overhauling the former sales and marketing division, Jaime Celorio has surrounded himself with both a young, enthusiastic crew along with some premier seasoned veterans to reestablish a foothold in Ambhar’s home state of Texas.

Damage control, and distancing itself from the past, also requires making some improvements to the packaging.

No tinkering will be done to the substantial and elegant bottle, but the corks will be changed from real to synthetic, and the stoppers, as well as the wearable dragonfly charm around the bottlenecks, will be made of a much lighter alloy.

To continue to win back customer loyalty and regain goodwill,

Ambhar barrel.
Ambhar barrel.

Celorio insists on concentrating on Ambhar’s strong points by demanding complete honesty and transparency on the website, subsequent point of sales (POS) materials, and from his sales team.

The More Things Change

When we met with the Ambhar Texas unit, they admitted that Jaime Celorio felt the brand itself would not have survived its tumultuous circumstances had the juice not been favorable in the first place.

Celorio next discloses the reason why Ambhar’s flavor profile, especially that of its añejo, remains intact even though it’s more labor intensive than the reposado expression.

Future Focus

In this snippet, Celorio recounts the improvements since rebooting the brand, and its focus for the future which includes sales in Mexico and exporting to China.

Here, Celorio discusses the focus on the dragonfly logo and what it means in China.

Cinco Vodka logo.
Cinco Vodka logo.

It’s Not All About Tequila

Like a good portfolio manager, Jaime Celorio has diversified by establishing a sister company to compete in the vodka sector of the spirits market.

The Texas Vodka Trail

In this clip, Celorio reveals plans for Cinco Vodka’s distillery based in San Antonio, Texas.

Cinco Vodka–Imported All the Way From Texas

Jaime further reviews plans for the Texas Vodka Trail Tour and its similarities to tequila distillery tours in Mexico in aiding to educate consumers.

In this portion, Celorio considers how competitive the vodka market is in Mexico, and where you can find Cinco Vodka.

So…Why Tequila?

Jaime Celorio, gives his explanation as to why he chose to sell tequila in the first place.

Same Old Friend, Whole New Character

Described as his “elevator pitch,” Jaime Celorio, gives us the one thing he wants people to know about Ambhar, and shares his vision for its future.

Whether in the US, Mexico, or even China, look for the recalibrated Ambhar tequila to continue to make splashes, but in a much more precise, targeted and cost effective way.

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!

San Antonio Cocktail Conference Media Party

Media party invite.
Media party invite.

[The fourth annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference was held from January 15 to January 18, 2015 here in San Antonio, Texas.  Tequila Aficionado Media attended with particular interest in all events surrounding agave spirits.]

Wednesday Night Media Party #SACC2015

As most of San Antonio’s cocktail culture creatures were safely at home in their jammies on the eve of the opening of the Fourth Annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference, every foodie, cocktail and spirits blogger, writer, photographer or pretender from all major cities in Texas, hobnobbed, photographed hors d’oeuvres for future food porn, and took selfies while collecting their official press credentials and tickets for their requested seminars from the organizers’ public relations company.

The St. Anthony Hotel, considered the Grand Dame of hotels in

Ornate brass ram.
Ornate brass ram.

downtown San Antonio, was the site of this evening’s sedate affair for the thin press corps.

The Venue

Having hosted such dignitaries as Eleanor Roosevelt and Princess Grace of Monaco during its illustrious history, this early 20th century monumental inn was San Antonio’s first luxury hotel.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its importance to this city’s nightlife can’t be denied.

Eagle above doorway.
Eagle above doorway.

With a recent renovation under its belt, the lobby’s grandeur alone was impressive.  The St. Anthony’s timeless elegance would also be the site of the Waldorf on the Prairie soiree later that week.

Edwardian-era furnishings, high ceilings and crystal chandeliers made most of us feel underdressed, and the DJ spinning hip hop for the millennials in the group, seemed anachronistic.

After a greasy and unappetizing crab cake morsel, it was time to

Griffin.
Griffin.

hit the bar.

The Roca Patrón Roadshow Rides Again

The Roca Patrón roadshow finally hit San Antonio, and the response was unimpressive and underwhelming.

In sharp contrast to the all-out event that Tequila Aficionado Media attended in Austin, Texas at the Brazos Hall in late summer 2014, the San Antonio media’s introduction to Roca Patrón and Patrón’s other lines, was hardly noticed.

No Snifters.
No Snifters.

And, even though this was a major cocktail conference, only a small crew of four bartenders took orders from a prepared menu of Patrón signature drinks that included a build-your-own Old Fashioned using each of Roca Patrón’s expressions.  It left no room for imagination, and a lot to be desired.  But, hey, it was an open bar.

We preferred to sip the Roca Patrón reposado neat since we had determined it to be the star of the line up.  Our bartender that evening agreed, but, sadly, only rocks glasses were available to sip from.

In the end, the juice’s nose and flavor unceremoniously dissipated into the hip hop’s baseline.

Not the average photo booth.
Not the average photo booth.

Ready to call it an uninspired night with no reason to linger, we were again distracted by Patrón.

…But First, A Selfie

With an unusual take on the traditional photo booth, Patrón hired a photographer who encouraged willing souls to pose for black and white photos with, or without, their Patrón signature cocktails in hand.

A separate printer would instantly spit out the Patrón branded selfies where another assistant would graciously frame them for you.  You could even text the photos to your own cell phone.

Lisa and Mike representing Tequila Aficionado Media.
Lisa and Mike representing Tequila Aficionado Media.

Never missing a chance to educate their audience on its products (and to mine more followers on all its social media platforms) the back of the frames shared Patrón production factoids (“Did you know the high quality agave used to produce Patrón is slow baked in small brick ovens for 79 hours?”) while the inside flap invited us to share our photos on their social media accounts with specific hashtags.

Well played, Patrón, well played.

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!!