Category: Blog

Ahh, Cinco de Mayo—margaritas, tequila shots, mariachi music, crowded bars and trouble waiting to happen. At least, that’s the U.S. version of this curious holiday. But here in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo passes pretty much unnoticed, except in the city of Puebla. This is because Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla, when the Mexican army beat back French forces in 1862.

Cinco de Mayo is every day in Mexico. Bands like this one routinely show up in small bars like this one (Bar Beto) in Tlaquepaque just to practice. It’s a party every day, not just the 5th of May.

Yes, that’s right, this margarita-guzzling holiday actually celebrates a minor military victory and does not represent Mexican Independence Day, as many believe. Mexican Independence Day is September 16, and that is a real party. Imagine the excitement and chaos of Mexico winning the World Cup (people gathering in the streets, jumping up and down, lighting fireworks) while simultaneously hosting a running of the bulls (drunkenness and tomfoolery) and you might begin to comprehend the awesomeness of that holiday.

(Note: This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence. We are diligently preparing for Sept. 16th by replacing our windows with bulletproof glass in ordering armor to allow us to make our way through the crowds.)

So, what I’m really trying to say is that Cinco de Mayo is no big shakes in our hometown of Tlaquepaque. But we’re not complaining and here’s why—every day we spend here in Mexico might as well be Cinco de Mayo. When we stroll from our house to the main square in the evenings there are always live mariachi bands playing, and often there are regional dancers performing in colorful costumes. Families gather to listen to the music and eat tasty food from the dozens of street carts lined up around the plaza. Music blast from storefronts and men and women sit outside to enjoy a beer or paloma in the warm spring air. And that’s just on weeknights. Weekends are even more celebratory. Families wander from bandstand to bandstand to listen to live music, and young couples put on their tightest and most bedazzled jeans to makeout on a park bench before going out to do a little salsa.

Why celebrate Cinco de Mayo once a year when you can live it every day?

That said, I’m grateful that Americans get a chance to experience the joyous, carpe diem attitude that Mexicans bring to their everyday life, even if it is just on the 5th of May. So get out there, drink some delicious tequila, toast your good fortune and maybe get into a little bit of trouble.

-Scarlet

We aren’t in Mexico right now. We’re not in California or New York either. We’re in Macon, Mississippi – and we have come to the realization that we are spoiled tequila brats. We are here to attend a family function (Scarlet’s family lives here) and today during our errands we went looking for ingredients to make a Pure Margarita.

This is an easy task in Mexico or California, but a little more effort (and money) is required if you want to pull it off in Macon, Mississippi.

Two Fingers, Aristocrat, and Pepe Lopez tequila

Two Fingers, Aristocrat, and Pepe Lopez tequilas are part of the (scary) selection at the Package Store in Macon, Mississippi.

The first, and most important ingredient, tequila, required a 30 minute drive to the “package store” – one of maybe two places you can get liquor here since until recently it was a dry county. Once we arrived, we realized that choice was not only limited, but scary. We never heard of “Two Fingers” tequila. “Aristocrat Silver” and “Pepe Lopez” didn’t ring any bells either, and considering they are all in the $14 price range, and none of them have “100% de Agave” listed on the label, we avoided them.

We spent a little more ($26) and opted for a bottle of 1800 Reposado, a 100% agave tequila made by Jose Cuervo.

Next ingredient – limes. We picked them up at Super Wal-Mart, in Louisville, Mississippi – which is a 30 minute drive from the “package store.” Limes were selling for 48 cents each. (Limes can be found on sale – 18/$1. – in San Francisco. Sure, the rent is higher, but the limes are crazy cheap.)

Super Wal-Mart also sells agave nectar. But not near the honey or sweeteners. We found it hiding over with the baking items.

So tonight, we plan to introduce the Pure Margarita to the nice folks of Macon. Maybe it will start a tequila revolution, and the “package store” will upgrade their selection of 100% de Agave tequilas in time for our next visit.

-Grover

We were invited to participate in a real "cata", or tequila tasting event, in Guadalajara recently. As soon as we arrived we realized these people were serious, and we were in over our head. (And we loved every minute of it.)

The legend of the sommelier, sitting in the cellar to taste and rate wines by candlelight, is alive and well in Mexico. Except here the cherished spirit is tequila and the expert tasters are known as “catadores.”

We recently had the opportunity to sit in with a group of catadores in downtown Guadalajara for an official “cata,” or tasting. We visited the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila, Vino Mezcal A. C. during one of their monthly tastings, and they were kind enough to let us taste along with them.

As soon as we entered the conference room where the tasting was being held—at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning—we knew we were over our heads. Setup in front of each chair was 10 glasses of tequila labeled only by number, and a small glass of vodka, a bottle of water and a plate of crackers, all to cleanse the palate. There were also spittoons (11 a.m. is awfully early to drink all 10 glasses of tequila) and candles placed around the room, presumably to represent the tradition of the sommelier.

In front of the glasses were tasting sheets that asked you to rate each tequila according to a variety of qualities such as color, body, nose, flavor and finish. The tastings are blind and the brands are not revealed until all of the scores are tabulated.

This particular group of catadores has three different chapters — in México City, Aguascaliente & Guadalajara — and they all to go through this same process. The scores for each tequila are then combined and averaged. Each year, the academy gives out awards for the highest scoring tequila in each category (blanco, repo, añejo, extra añejo.)

At this cata we were trying a variety of extra añejos, with one or two añejos thrown into the mix.

The group was social and friendly and spent time chatting as the meeting began. Francisco Hajnal, the group’s leader, claimed the tasting officially underway and everyone immediately went to work, examining and sipping from the first glass.

I stared at my tasting chart, trying to grasp the complicated rating system (we ranked some qualities from 1-7, and others from 1-5 or 1-3) and make sure I was familiar with all the Spanish terms.

Tequila tasting can be daunting. I’m always surprised and impressed when people identify flavors such as wet cement, pineapple, and clove. But I found over time that the more tequilas you try and the more you think about the flavors, the better you get at detecting the different elements in a tequila.

Scarlet checking one of the 10 un-named tequilas for its color.

Although I’ve gotten a little better at tasting, my palate was really put to the test during the cata.

Extra añejos have some of the most complicated flavor profiles because they age in the barrel at least 3 years, in which time they soak up a wide variety of tastes and aromas.

Luckily, Grover and I had a pretty extensive collection of extra añejos when we lived in San Francisco so I was familiar with the flavor profiles, even if I could not say for sure which brand made the tequila.

It took about two hours for us to taste, rate, and re-taste each sample, and then tabulate our individual results. Finally, a group representative collected the tasting charts and entered the scores into a computer. (Our results were collected but not added with the others since we are not official members of the group.)

Next up was the truly exciting part—the reveal. Bottles of tequila were placed on a table in the order that the group rated them. There were audible awes and moans; some wondered how they managed not to recognize a favorite, while others were surprised they gave a high rating to something they had previously disliked.

We felt the same. All but two of the brands on display had been in our private collection at some point, but we did not recognize them in the blind tasting. For instance, Don Julio 1942 had long been one of Grover’s favorites, but he rated it in the middle of the pack, while Gran Centenario Leyenda was one of my top-shelf favorites and I placed it third, after what I previously thought was a good, but not as good añejo (Maestro).

We took our tasting responsibilties very seriously, yet somehow wondered if we were had any idea what we were doing.

What an enlightening experience! It just goes to show how your tastes and palate can change when you are comparing brands that you normally enjoy individually.

We also learned a lot about how the Mexican palate and expectations for tequila differ from our own. In general, the Mexicans gave qualities such as strong agave flavor, burn, and finish higher ratings than we did as Americans since we usually prefer smoothness and somewhat more subtle aromas and flavors.

Of course, all ratings are subjective and what makes a tequila good is whether you like it or not. The incredible thing about a cata is that all preconceived notions are stripped away and you are only left with your senses, enabling you define what you truly like.

-Scarlet

(Unfortunately, we cannot reveal how the catadores ranked the extra añejos. You’ll have to wait until the awards ceremony this summer to find out what brands won!)

Scarlet and I have been running around Mexico getting things in order, and although most things are very different here (compared to our lives in San Francisco), one thing remains with us at all times – our iPhones. Everything is new and interesting, so we’ve been using our iPhone cameras like crazy, attempting to capture it all.

The other day, when we were trying to solve our Internet woes, our friend David took us to a shopping mall in Guadalajara. It was just like a shopping mall you’d see in the United States – multiple levels, stores of all kinds, air conditioning, and lots of people. Very familiar and comforting. However…

Scene from a Mexican Mall

Scene from a Mexican Mall - Kids in huge plastic bubbles having fun. (Photo by Grover)

I can tell that I am a real gringo because I’ve noticed that there are certain times when I see something down here, and the first thing on my mind is, “Holy shit, there is just NO WAY this would ever happen in the USA.” So when we were walking through the mall, and saw children jumping around inside of giant plastic bubble balls floating in a pool of water (having a seriously fun time), I couldn’t help but instantly think that no insurance company in the U.S would ever allow this to happen.

They filled these bubbles up using a leaf blower, and all the kids were instructed to cover their ears because the leaf blowers are so loud. After the balls were filled up with air, they were sealed up air-tight, meaning that as the kids were jumping around they were burning off the available oxygen inside. See what I mean?! Insurance risk!!

But damn, it looked like fun. Too bad we can’t have any more fun in the U.S. – let’s thank the insurance industry for that.

I digress. Lots of friends are contacting us, saying they plan to visit – which we’re really excited about. Our apartment is large and nice, but when you’re on the sidewalk, looking at the front of the apartment, someone from the States might be worried. In Mexico, people are more interested in the condition of the inside of their houses than the condition of the outside. The streets are dusty and filled with potholes, and the sidewalks are cracked, uneven, and in some cases missing entirely. (Again, the American insurance industry would have none of this.)

Horse Parking

This horse was parked across the street from our house in Tlaquepaque, right in front of the NO PARKING sign. (Photo by Scarlet)

So, to all our friends – don’t be scared when the taxi takes you into our neighborhood, and drops you off in front of our house.

The other day, as we walked out the front door of our apartment, I heard Scarlet say, “OH! A horsie!”

I turned around, and saw a horse (looking old and very tired) tied to the garage door directly across the street from our house. The garage door has a large “No Parking” sign painted on it. Immediately funny, of course. Scarlet instinctively reached for her iPhone to get a picture of it.

Once again, we encountered a Mexican anomaly, just a few steps from our front door.

Yesterday (Thursday) we completed our first distillery tour with some new tequila friends, Ryan and Clayton. We woke up early, and were driven to the Highlands to visit the distillery that produces Sol de Mexico and Corrido tequilas. (We reviewed Sol de Mexico already, and will soon do a review of Corrido.)

Corrido Tequila Distillery

A worker empties Corrida tequila from oak barrels in the Jalisco highlands. (Photo by Grover)

As we were walking through the distillery, some workers were emptying barrels, so I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few pictures. I love the sights and smells of a tequila distillery. The aroma swirling around a room filled with tequila being aged in barrels is instantly calming. I want someone to make a scented car air freshener with this smell because it would definitely calm me down as I drive.

Speaking of driving… we’ve been in enough taxi cabs to realize that, in Mexico, stop signs are merely suggested safety devices, everything is a passing lane, speed limits can be safely ignored, there is no reason to slow down for potholes and speed bumps, and it’s totally fine to ride inches from someone else’s bumper, there is no such thing as “child safety seats”, it’s OK to pack 15 people into the back of a pickup truck and drive on the highway, and nobody ever honks their horns and flips the bird.

NO WAY this would ever happen at home.

-Grover

radius-slide-2

We packed and stored everything we owned, sold one car and lent the other one to some friends, and let go of our beautiful apartment in San Francisco. We even figured out a fun way to get rid of our 85-bottle tequila collection. (There’s much more on that story to come.)

Finally, almost a week later, we’re starting to settle down here in Mexico. The weeks leading up to our move were hectic. Until recently, neither of us ever would have imagined that we’d be living full-time in the land of tequila.

Grover, and our luggage, in the Guadalajara airport.

Grover, and our luggage, in the Guadalajara airport.

We arrived in Guadalajara Thursday night, along with eight suitcases cases—four containing computer and camera equipment and four filled with clothes and personal items.

If you’ve ever been through a Mexican airport, you’re familiar with “the button.” As you go through customs, you need to press a big button, and if the light turns green, you can continue through without disruption. If the light turns red, they pull you aside and look at every single item in every one of your bags – essentially learning everything about your life by looking though what you’ve got packed.

In all our previous trips, we have had nothing but green lights into Mexico.

This time, with a cart loaded up with 8 large over-stuffed bags at the Guadalajara airport, somehow we knew that we would push the button and get the red light. I almost started to feel sorry for the security guy who had to tug and lift our suitcases to probe his hands through all of our stuff.

Grover’s camera bag, loaded to the max with gear, was one of the first to be checked. Right away we were asked if we were professional journalists. We said no – that we run a blog, and that seemed to be OK. Bag-by-bag he continued to search, but by the seventh suitcase he seemed to stop searching as thoroughly and eventually waved us through. Grover strategically placed the largest bag (which contained telephone and networking gear and several external hard drives) at the bottom hoping that this would be the case.

Several hours earlier, while still in our San Francisco apartment, we were already trying to figure out how we were going to get a large van-sized taxi at the Guadalajara airport. So imagine our surprise when our very determined taxi driver was able to fit all of our bags into one small taxicab. Our driver managed to do this (quite ingeniously) by repeatedly shoving everything into the trunk and slamming the door until it fit.

He drove us to our rented apartment in downtown Tlaquepaque. We had only seen pictures of the apartment on the Internet and were pleasantly surprised to find that it is even bigger and nicer than we imagined. But that wasn’t our biggest concern.

Almost immediately, we threw down our bags and grabbed our laptops to check the speed of the Internet connection. Disappointment. The download speed was not too bad but the upload speed—which is really important for us to be able to upload pictures and videos to this site—was slower than an old-school, dial-up modem.

Old-School DSL Modem

Old-School DSL Modem: 764k down, 36k up. Not good.

Grover ran some diagnostics on the network, and learned it was a retro DSL connection – the same type that he had 10 years before in his apartment in San Francisco.

After doing some research, we figured out that our best solution would be a 3G WiFi card. There are several on the market, and one in particular allows us to connect several devices at once, including our iPhones, by creating a local WiFi network.

We spent eight hours (literally, no exaggeration) researching and finding the right card. We went from store to store and mall to mall until we finally found a solution.

Exhausted, we then hit La Faena, our new favorite mariachi bar in Guadalajara. If you buy an entire bottle of tequila in the bar, they will continuously bring you free and delicious food for the rest of the evening. They start with soup and snacks and eventually you get a steak, all accompanied by live mariachi music, singing families and a crooner wearing a lucha libre mask. Ah, Mexico!

But soon, our mariachi high was doused when we got home and discovered that our WiFi card didn’t work. Grover spent hours trying configure it using the various numbers, cryptic codes and directions (all Spanish) before he finally gave up.

We decided that we would go to the Iusacell offices (which sells the cards) first thing Monday morning to get it working. Our plan – to bring the device, and our MacBook, and not leave until they made it work.

Being as prepared as possible, we printed out a map with directions to our destination, and made our way to the taxi stand. We jumped into a cab driven by an old man who, we eventually learned, could not read – so he ignored the maps we gave him and instead yelled the same thing over and over while driving 90 miles an hour and weaving through rush-hour traffic.

Somehow we managed to drive past our destination at high speed, so we yelled “ESTAMOS AQUI!” (“we’re here!”) and he slammed on the brakes, and let us out.

Once we arrived at the offices, somewhat seasick and spent, we waited almost three hours for them to make it all work. The steps involved?

MiFi wifi 3G card

Our networking

1) Fix an error they found on the card.
2) Activate the card. (A multi-step process that required three different people.)
3) Register us with the Mexican government. (Apparently a new law has taken effect that every cell phone—which includes WiFi cards—must be registered to keep them from being stolen and to track possible narco-traffickers.)

There was no way we could have done this by ourselves.

So now, we have a better Internet connection but it’s still not great. Like any 3G network, when it is saturated, everything slows down. Only one of us can send files or do bandwidth-heavy work at a time. Despite this, we are elated to be here and start our tequila adventures.

We asked Olivia (our landlord) if there was any way we could upgrade the network, expecting a polite “no.” Just a few minutes ago, there was a knock at our door with some great news—she is going to install a cable modem capable of the kind of connection we had in our apartment in San Francisco.

“Hay una solución todo en México, excepto en muerte,” Olivia told us. (“There is a solution to everything in Mexico, except in death.”)

We have some very exciting news and stories to announce over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned, because this is just the beginning.

-Scarlet

We have a bit of TasteTequila.com news to report — On April 1, 2010, Grover and I are moving to Mexico. We’ll be settling right smack-dab in the middle of the tequila region so we can fill this blog with the most up-to-date and in-depth coverage of what’s happening in the world of tequila.

Stay tuned for frequent updates, interviews and video directly from the heartland of tequila. In the meantime, please excuse our spotty updates while we prepare to move. We promise to make up for it.

We will be staying in the beautiful town of Tlaquepaque, about 20 minutes outside of Guadalajara and in between the two most famous tequila production regions, the Highlands and the Lowlands. If you haven’t visited Tlaquepaque we highly recommend it. It is the perfect spot to experience the very best of Mexico with magical food, music, and culture in a safe and friendly environment. In fact, Tlaquepaque is where we were married last November and where we started doing all of the research that has gone into this blog over the last year.


Tlaquepaque – Images by Grover Sanschagrin

Since we’ll have our eyes and ears on the ground, let us know if there any topics that you’d like to see us cover. We’re planning to review hard-to-find tequilas, and write profiles about local tequila personalities and distilleries, and use the blog to tell the stories of the region.

For the moment, we are excited and getting ready to go. One of our main concerns was getting rid of the 80-plus bottles of tequila in our collection, which we obviously can’t take with us.

Our solution — a “Drain the Bar” party, where all of our friends could leisurely sample and taste everything on our bar – including the $350 bottle of Herradura Seleccion Suprema. Look for updates and videos from this over-the-top event very soon.

We’re giving up or lovely apartment in San Francisco, selling our car, clearing off our bar, and getting ready to plunge head-first into the land of tequila.

Hasta Mexico,

Grover y Scarlet

Click to VOTE

Vote for your favorite tequila website.

The other day, someone posted a link on Twitter to a list of “Top Tequila Sites,” and I got all excited. I immediately clicked on that link, hoping it would reveal a yet-to-be-discovered website (or two.)

When I got there, I was seriously disappointed. It was a crappy list, some sites had nothing to do with tequila at all, and the bulk of the sites were the product of a tequila brand’s marketing department. Useless!

So I decided that we should share OUR list of tequila sites. Which sites we consider to be the best. Fancy Flash-based animated sites with background music prepared by marketing firms on behalf of a big-name tequila brand do not qualify.

Instead, what makes our list – websites that are born and maintained out of passion and love for tequila. Websites that express an opinion, have a personality, and are free to say whatever they want.

These sites really DO exist, and we visit them nearly every day – and we’re not afraid to share them with you.

Take a look at our list and visit the sites mentioned. Then come back here and vote on which ones you like best. Let’s create a REAL list made by REAL tequila lovers!


 

The Top 10 Best Tequila Websites*

(*in no particular order)

1.) Tequila Gringo

TequilaGringo.comWe like this site because it’s totally real and down-to-earth. The site is full of very nice, short and effective reviews of many different tequila brands. It’s updated often and the Tequila Gringo’s opinions should be respected — he knows what he is talking about.
The site also has a unique navigation structure. It is quite useful, and we haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere. You can browse through reviews based on flavor (citrus, vanilla, caramel, spice, floral), in addition to the more standard categories (blancos, reposados, anejos, and liqueurs & cremes.)

If you’re a fan of tequila bottle art, the site has a section for that too. Bottles fit into categories like “modern,” “funky,” and “Mexican Classics.”

http://www.tequilagringo.com

2.) Ian Chadwick Forum

Ian Chadwick ForumActually, the full name is “The Blue Agave Forum” but we just call it “The Chadwick Forum” around our house. This is the online hangout for all of the hardcore super zen-master tequila freaks.

There is a huge amount of information here, and I find that once I am there, I can easily stay distracted for hours, reading about tequila in one message thread after another.

It’s a very active message board. Each time I think I’ve discovered something new or special, I’ll do a search on their message board and in almost all cases, someone has already been talking about it.

Some of my personal favorite threads are “Tequilas to avoid” and “Treasure hunting.”

http://www.ianchadwick.com/forum/index.php

3.) The Sayulita Tequila Journal

Sayulita Tequila JournalThis is the blog of Gabbi Villarrubia, and it is awesome. We love it. We were fortunate enough to hang out with Gabbi in Sayulita, Mexico, last November. Super nice, really smart, and loves to drink — especially tequila.

His blog is very well-written, with original content ideas, like “Patron vs. Cuervo” and “Mixtos, Bum Wines, Cheap booze and more drunk for your buck.”

Always entertaining, he’s the kind of guy that you just want to hang around with — and his blog definitely reflects that. Gabbi definitely knows tequila, and when we were in Sayulita, we hung out in the SFT Tequila Bar, talking about tequila for hours, while drinking tequila, of course.

If you can’t hang out with Gabbi (and Mark) in Sayulita, his blog is the next best thing to being there.

http://sayulitatequilajournal.com

4.) The Tequila Whisperer

The Tequila WhispererLIPPY! This is like going to a weekly online tequila party hosted by everyone’s tequila-buddy, Lippy. Tuning into his live show (Thursday nights, 7pm PST) is seriously like going to a party where tequila is the star.

Lippy loves to talk, loves to sing, loves to play air guitar, loves to listen to classic rock and roll, and loves to taste tequila. On his show, he gets to do all of these things at the same time.

When you tune in, you’ll see and hear Lippy, and be able to participate in a live chat with him (and the other viewers) through an integrated chat window that shares the screen. The chatter is very active and its obvious that his audience are mostly tequila experts. He even takes phone calls and has special guests “on the air.” Fun stuff.

He’s also a wealth of information and, like the name of his site suggests, he REALLY gets into his tastings. It is common for him to exhibit orgasm-like facial expressions when he tastes something REALLY good.

We highly recommend tuning in for his show. It makes for great Thursday-night entertainment, especially when you drink right along with him.

http://tequilawhisperer.com

5.) Ryan Kelley – Tequila Examiner

The Tequila ExaminerRyan Kelley is a freelance writer and bartender in San Diego who writes a tequila column for Examiner.com. If it has anything to do with tequila in the United States, then it’ll find its way to The Tequila Examiner.

We are impressed with the sheer volume of content that he produces. News about tequila, drink recipes, tequila events, bar and restaurant reviews – it’s all fair game.

Another useful section of his site are his series of “Tequila 101″ stories. Our favorites include:

Tequila 101: How do I drink a shot of tequila?

and then…

Tequila 101: How do I slam tequila?

and also…

Tequila 101: What is sangrita and how do I make it?

(His Sangrita recipe involves a cucumber! That’s interesting.)

Reading his stories is like having access to your own tequila bartender and news service, all in one.

http://wwww.examiner.com/x-14072-Tequila-Examiner

6.) PocoTequila.com

PocoTequila.comThis is a beautifully designed website that has a nice list of links to tequila brands, tequila retailers, and tequila websites. It also contains drink recipes (Margarita, Paloma, Tequilada, Mango Sol, and Playa Amor are some), and a fun little area dedicated to vintage tequila bottle labels.

It looks like the site is a labor of love, and work in progress because a few areas aren’t finished yet. I visit this site often, and as soon as I see the newsletter signup form on the site (it is “coming soon”) I will be adding my name to the list.

http://pocotequila.com

7.) TequilaAficionado.com

TequilaAficionado.comWe anxiously await the new, “Version 3″ of this website. Currently, it is under construction. We’ve been following the site in the past, and found it full of potential to really be powerhouse resource for tequila fans.

So, there’s not much to write about at the moment, but we’re looking forward to the day when the new-and-improved version comes to life. (Once it does, we will update this review.)

http://tequilaaficionado.com

8.) Tequila.net

Tequila.netThis is the Wikipedia of tequila websites. We use it constantly when we’re looking for the finer details of a particular tequila brand. The depth of the information available on this website is quite amazing, and I’m wondering where it all comes from!

From the site: “TEQUILA.net is an online community of Aficionados and consumers who enjoy the unique flavors and characteristics of Tequila, Mezcal, and other Spirits of Mexico.”

Tequila.net is one of the websites we visit most often because it is extremely useful. We’re grateful it exists, because it makes our job much easier.

http://www.tequila.net

9.) RanchoTequila.net

RanchoTequila.netThis is the personal blog of Drew Townson, a veteran rock/roots musician, guitarist, recording engineer, producer, freelance writer, pro-audio consultant. His website is all about tequila, and he is not afraid to share his opinions.

The title of one of his posts: “I Hate Don Julio Blanco With Every Fiber Of My Being!”

At the top of his blog, he’s got a picture of the full lineup of Siete Leguas tequilas, including the not-yet-available-in-the-states D’Antanio extra anejo. This right there tells me he’s got great taste in tequila.

“There’s nothing better than good tequila, and there’s nothing worse than bad tequila,” Drew Townson says on his blog. We have to agree.

http://ranchotequila.blogspot.com

10.) TasteTequila.com

TasteTequila.comAnd finally, there’s us. We’re inspired by all of these other sites, and I hope that shines through.

Each website on this list has its own personality, which brings something unique and special to the table.

Our approach is that drinking tequila should be fun. It should add good things to life, and should be part the celebration of live. We hope our website is an extension of this view.

Note: As we were constructing this post, the poll (which is being hosted on the PollDaddy system) was discovered, and people started linking to it before we could get this post finished. Oh well.  We weren’t attempting to be sneaky or self-serving at all. Consider this a lesson learned. Do the poll LAST in the process!

Salud!

— Grover

Our latest video featuring Mark Alberto Holt and Gabbi Villarrubia, our tequila experts from Sayulita, Mexico, is all about tequila and hangovers. I asked them to address the hangover issue because people ask me about it all the time – and I always tell them that if you drink GOOD tequila that’s made from 100% pure agave, you won’t get a hangover.

Mark and Gabbi explain why this is true.

You should remember that there is a difference between a “hangover” and just straight out alcohol poisoning. If you drink an entire bottle of high quality tequila by yourself, you might not feel so great the next day, but that’s because you’ve pushed it too far and not because tequila is a sure-fire hangover inducer, as some people wrongly believe.

Personally, I find that if I drink even a little bit of these “mixto” tequilas (tequila that isn’t “100% de agave”) I’ll end up getting a headache and feeling crappy the next day.

So, stick with the pure stuff, and your body will thank you.

— Grover

Scarlet and Grover Sanschagrin with a nearly empty bottle of Dos Lunas añejo, the tequila of choice served to guests at their wedding reception in Tlaquepaque, Mexico.

Scarlet and Grover Sanschagrin with a nearly empty bottle of Dos Lunas añejo, the tequila of choice served to guests at their tequila-themed wedding reception in Tlaquepaque, Mexico.

It was late at night, and the hotel bar was closed. Luckily, the cleaning crew was on call to keep the tequila flowing, so we sat and talked for hours about Mexico, about tequila, and about life. We were only one day away from the end of our “tequila vacation,” and there was much to talk about.

At the bottom of our shot glasses were little glass-blown figures that were almost always covered by tequila (thanks to the attentive cleaning crew.) My shot glass contained a Mexican flag, and Grover’s glass had a tiny blue agave plant. Every once in a while we’d be treated to one of our favorite mariachi songs playing quietly in the background through the hotel sound system.

I met Grover through my friend, Alexis. One evening I watched him slam a perfectly good shot of 100% agave tequila as if it were the same nasty stuff he drank in college, and encouraged him to slow down and taste it. He did, and he was hooked.

Soon after we found ourselves meeting up in tequila bars all across San Francisco, trying all of the tequilas we could get our hands on. Bar after bar, we talked about traveling to the Tequila region of Mexico, to visit the motherland of our bonding beverage. This would be our “tequila vacation.”

Two years later, we made that trip – as friends.

In January 2008, we stayed at the Quinta Don Jose Boutique Hotel, in Tlaquepaque, Mexico. This is located right in the center of Jalisco, the region of Mexico where tequila is made.

We were wrapping up our late night conversation in the hotel when we were suddenly interrupted, not by the cleaning crew, but by Grover himself.

“You just got to the flag,” he said, pointing to my shot glass. With my last sip, the level of tequila was now below the little glass-blown flag.

“Oh, I think this will have to be the last shot for me,” I responded, thinking he meant I was due for yet another refill.

“No, that’s not what I meant,” he said. “I promised myself that I would tell you something as soon as you got to the flag. And well, now you’re at the flag, so I have to tell you.”

“Oh, uh, OK,” I said nervously.

“I think you and I get along really well, and our friendship is really nice and easy and comfortable, and I think we should be more than friends,” he said. “We would make a really great couple and I am hoping that you’ll consider it.”

I was certainly not expecting that – but I was ready with five really good reasons why I was not a good match for anyone, and did my best to discourage him.

He didn’t buy into any of my reasons, and I really wasn’t sure if he was serious, or if it was the tequila talking.

“We’d make such a great couple, and we’d have the best relationship ever,” he said. “Trust me.”

When the plane touched down in San Francisco one day later, it marked the official end of our tequila vacation, but marked the beginning of our adventure as “boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Our first joint project was starting TasteTequila.com, a blog where we could share tequila musings and recommendations with the world. We knew that in doing so we would need to go back to Mexico and learn more about the history and culture of tequila and gather more content for the website.

We planned another trip to Guadalajara in April of 2009 and setup two days of tours with a local tequila consultant. Once again, we stayed at the Quinta Don Jose Boutique Hotel and on the last night of that trip, sitting just a few feet away from where he made his first confession in the hotel bar, Grover pulled out a ring and proposed.

Tequila expert David Ruiz conducts a full tequila tasting lesson for guests at the wedding.

Full tequila tasting lessons were conducted for guests at the wedding.

Grover is known for not being able to keep things to himself. If he’s excited about something, everyone knows it. So I was completely taken by surprise. He had somehow managed to keep a straight face for several days.

I said,“Yes.”

By morning we had booked the entire hotel for a November wedding with a tequila theme. We would be married in the same spot where our relationship began and where he proposed.

Our Tequila Wedding

Now when most people think of a wedding they think of champagne—all bubbles and sweetness and pretty glasses perfect for toasts. We had something else in mind. We wanted to welcome our guests upon arrival in Tlaquepaque with the warm relaxation that comes after just a few sips of fine agave. We wanted them to share in the culture of Mexico, its fine food and drink, and to sit back and enjoy a lively mariachi band with a cabellito in hand, full of the sweet and potent spirit that soothes away aches and worries and restores one to life.

In short, we wanted tequila.

So we planned a welcome cocktail hour of margaritas and a reception dinner that would feature the finest tequila. We envisioned each table with its own bottle of the spirit – our favorite tequilas.

While we were preparing for the big event we wondered which brands of tequila we should have on hand. We made a list of all our favorites, and at the top of the list was a fantastic tequila called Dos Lunas, which is only sold for export outside of Mexico.

The añejo, which we keep stocked in our home bar, is rich and balanced but still retains a bright agave flavor. Dos Lunas would be a natural choice for the wedding since even non-regular tequila drinkers tend to like it, we thought, but we weren’t sure if we could get enough bottles down to Mexico.

Then we discovered that Dos Lunas is actually produced in Tlaquepaque by the Tequilas del Señor distillery, which Grover visited over the summer. He had made a few connections at the distillery and they were gracious enough to facilitate us getting 12 bottles of Dos Lunas for the reception – Dos Lunas Blanco, reposado and añejo – all tequilas you couldn’t normally get in Mexico. We were thrilled. We knew our guests would go crazy for it.

To carry the tequila theme even further, we wanted to show our guests where Dos Lunas was made, so we setup a tour of the Tequilas del Señor distillery the day after the wedding. We wanted our guests to learn about the history of tequila and how it was produced as well as sample the fine tequilas available in the tasting room. (Tequilas del Señor also makes Herencia de Plata and Herencia Historico, a special extra añejo they began bottling in 1997 to celebrate the year tequila received its denomination of origin., meaning that only 100% agave spirit produced in 5 states of Mexico can legally be called tequila.)

The Tequila Soaked Reception

Barrels of Dos Lunas tequila sitting in the tasting room at the Tequilas del Señor distillery. Yumm.

Barrels of Dos Lunas tequila sitting in the tasting room at the Tequilas del Señor distillery. Yumm.

We’re not sure how many bottles of blancos went into the margaritas at our welcome reception, but we were keeping track on the day of the wedding. We started the morning with 27 bottles of beautiful, pristine, delicious 100% agave tequila, thinking of course, that we’d leave any unconsumed bottles as a gift to the hotel bar, but by the end of the evening, after the dinner and the dancing, after the 1 a.m. taco cart run, there was not one bottle left.

That’s right—55 guests and 27 bottles of tequila in one evening! Now, keep in mind that not everyone was drinking tequila. Some people preferred wine or vodka and there was one pregnant guest who wasn’t drinking at all. But something quite amazing happened: many non-regular tequila drinkers found that they enjoyed sipping on tequila. They discovered the warm, happy high of a tequila buzz and not one person got sick from drinking tequila (you can attribute those sick-on–tequila college days to mixed tequilas like José Cuervo. In general, you do not get sick by drinking 100% agave tequila unless you mix it with a lot of sugar – blended margaritas – or go completely overboard.)

Our guests’ “tequila conversion” had to do with the fact that they were drinking very smooth and pleasing tequila such as Dos Lunas and that they had learned how to drink it properly.

At the welcome reception, our tequila consultant had kindly shown the guests how to taste tequila, what aromas and tastes to look for, and how to appreciate the flavor of agave. We also asked the hotel to whip up a batch of our favorite sangrita recipe as a tequila companion.

The Distillery tour

Wedding guests took a tour of the distillery where Dos Lunas is made, Tequilas del Señor, in Tlaquepaque, Mexico.

Wedding guests took a tour of the distillery where Dos Lunas is made -- Tequilas del Señor, in Tlaquepaque, Mexico.

The next day, at the tequila friendly hour of 11:30 a.m., most of our guests were up and ready to take the distillery tour. Juan Bernardo Torres Mora, from the distillery’s public relations department, took them on a detailed and in-depth tour covering the history of tequila, the distillation process, and a primer on tasting tequilas. At the Tequilas del Señor tasting room our guests tried six different tequilas– the Herencia de Plata blanco, reposado and anejo, plus two flavored after dinner tequilas (almond and coffee) and the Herencia Historico 12 year extra añejo.
At the end of the tour, we were pleased to see that many of our guests purchased tequilas from the distillery to take home with them. (We helpfully reminded them that they could legally take home two bottles each and that tequila makes a great Christmas present!)

Maybe a tequila themed wedding isn’t right for everyone, but considering how many happy guests we had and how many new tequila admirers we created, we couldn’t imagine a better ending (and beginning!) to our tequila romance.

-Scarlet

(Left to Right) Tequila Lapis Anejo; mini-bottle Gusano Rojo Mezcal Joven w/worm; "Scarlet y Grover" mini-barrel - a gift from Tequilas de Senor distillery; Aha Toro Anejo; Don Julio Anejo; Pueblo Viejo Anjeo; Tequila Castelan Anejo; Tequila Esperanto Select Anejo; Centinella Anejo; Tequila Ocho Anejo; Tequila El Mayor; Tequila Castelan Reposado; La Cava de Mayoral blanco; Tequila Oro Azul; El Tequileño Reposado; Cazadores Anejo; Herradura Anejo; Gran Centenario Reserva del Tequilero; Partida Anejo; Dos Lunas Anejo; Gran Centenario Anejo; Pueblo Viejo Orgullo; Tequila Fortaleza; Heradura Seleccion Suprema; Gran Centenario Leyenda; Don Julio 1942; Maestro Tequila Anejo; Siete Leguas Anejo; Don Julio Real; Siete Leguas Reposado; Siete Leguas Blanco; Tres Manos Anejo; Tequila D'Antaño (Siete Leguas extra anejo); Casa Noble Blanco; Casa Noble Anejo; TKO blanco; a bottle of partially consumed JR Storey wine; Tequila Stallion anejo. Not shown (because the bottle is too damn tall) Clase Azul anjeo.

(Left to Right) Tequila Lapis Anejo; mini-bottle Gusano Rojo Mezcal Joven w/worm; "Scarlet y Grover" mini-barrel - a gift from Tequilas de Senor distillery; Aha Toro Anejo; Don Julio Anejo; Pueblo Viejo Anjeo; Tequila Castelan Anejo; Tequila Esperanto Select Anejo; Centinella Anejo; Tequila Ocho Anejo; Tequila El Mayor; Tequila Castelan Reposado; La Cava de Mayoral blanco; Tequila Oro Azul; El Tequileño Reposado; Cazadores Anejo; Herradura Anejo; Gran Centenario Reserva del Tequilero; Partida Anejo; Dos Lunas Anejo; Gran Centenario Anejo; Pueblo Viejo Orgullo; Tequila Fortaleza; Heradura Seleccion Suprema; El Diamonte del Cielo; Gran Centenario Leyenda; Don Julio 1942; Maestro Tequila Anejo; Siete Leguas Anejo; Don Julio Real; Siete Leguas Reposado; Siete Leguas Blanco; Tres Manos Anejo; Tequila D'Antaño (Siete Leguas extra anejo); Casa Noble Blanco; Casa Noble Anejo; TKO blanco; a bottle of partially consumed JR Storey wine; Tequila Stallion anejo. Not shown (because the bottle is too damn tall) Clase Azul anjeo.

We haven’t done an update lately, so I thought I would take a few minutes today and size up the current inventory in our home collection.

Don’t get confused with my use of the word “collection,” because all of these bottles are here for only one reason – to drink. No matter how pretty the bottle is, it goes in the recycle bin when it’s empty.

Our bar currently contains 37 bottles of tequila, 1 mini barrel of tequila we received as a gift, 1 mini bottle of mezcal, and 1 bottle of wine (all visible in the picture.) Not shown, because they are stored below, are 12 other bottles of tequila (including a bottle of El Tesoro de Don Felipe), mostly backup bottles to ensure that we don’t unexpectedly run out.

:-)

So that’s 49 bottles of tequila, total. Hmmm. I’d like to make that an even 50. What are we missing?