Category: Tequila Tours

Instagram photos from Tequila, Mexico

I’ve become addicted to Instagram. In the past few weeks I have been busy going through the images on my phone and sharing them through this really fun photo sharing community.

Many of the images have been tequila-related, of course. I’ve been shooting pictures of Mexico with my both my iPhone and my DSLR for several years, and have collected quite an archive.

Here are 10 of my favorite tequila-related images thus far (in no particular order.)

Mariachis

The charming pueblito of Tlaquepaque has a central building called “The Parian”. Besides being billed by some as the “Largest Bar in the World”, it’s a regular source of mariachi music and authentic Mexican music. Jalisco is just loaded with music, culture, food, and fun friendly people.

1146 Stairs

The distillery at NOM 1146 is called “Le Tequileña”, and it’s located in the town of Tequila itself. This distillery creates well-known brands such as Don Fulano, Tequila Uno, Pura Sangre, Artenom Seleccion (Anejo), and Asombroso. They have a giant barrel aging room that is underground – and this is the view looking up the stairs that lead to the barrel room.

Agave Leaves

This is a young blue agave plant growing along a wall outside of the famous Tequila Fortaleza caves at NOM 1493. This distillery is small and extremely old and visiting it like stepping inside of a time machine. The tequila made here (Fortaleza) is made using old-world methods – which is a big reason why it’s so damn good.

Jimador

In Tequila Valley, in the hot baking sun, we got to spend time with a real jimador in the agave fields next to the Tres Mujeres distillery (NOM 1466). He was able to harvest this mature agave in about 4 minutes. Afterward, it was our turn – using his coa, we realized just how difficult his job really is.

Cut Pinas

Mature blue agave plants stacked and ready to be cooked inside the La Alteña disillery in Los Altos, Jalisco. This distillery is the home of the amazing El Tesoro de Don Felipe and Tapatio tequilas.

Jesus Maria

While touring the little town of Jesus Maria in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, I walked into a construction zone, of what would eventually to become a convention center. As I looked around, this neighborhood boy was riding his bicycle on the smooth pavement inside.

Herradura Worker

The Herradura tequila distillery is a large, beautiful, impressive hacienda. Any visit to the Tequila Region of Mexico should include a tour of this historic spot. In this photo, a worker keeps an eye on one of the barrel rooms as we toured it.

Tequila Corrido

During a tour of PRASA (NOM 1526) in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, we wandered into the barrel room as a worker was busy pumping tequila out of some of the barrels so it could be bottled. This distillery is where Tequila Corrido, Sol de Mexico, and El Grado is made.

Miss Tequila

Miss Tequila (yes there really is such a person) made an appearance at the World International Tequila Conference, held in Guadalajara in 2009. Behind her is a background for Tavi Tequila, when the brand was announced for the first time during a press event.

Guadalajara Cantina

As much fun as touring distilleries is, it’s the end result that everyone enjoys most. Drinking it, preferably in an old Mexican cantina. This photo was taken at sundown, inside of a very old cantina in downtown Guadalajara, complete with old-style swinging doors. As one patron left the bar, the sun came shining through.

 
– Grover

The Museum of Tequila and Mezcal (Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal) opened in December 2010 in Mexico City. We, along with our friend Clayton Szczech, of ExperienceTequila.com, decided to pay a visit, take a tour, and see how it compares to other tequila-themed museums.

Now, to be completely honest, we’ve been to our fair share of tequila museums before and most leave us disappointed. (In our opinion, the best “museum” experience comes from the town and distilleries of Tequila, Jalisco itself.) So we were pleasantly surprised with our experience at this particular museum, which is located in Plaza Garibaldi, best known as being the home of los mariachi in Mexico City. (This is where you come to hire a mariachi band for a party, or just hang out and enjoy the music.)

The museum gives a general overview of the tequila and mezcal production processes, highlighting their rich Mexican history, and has an impressive bottle collection containing some very rare specimens, including old Porfidio and Siete Leguas bottles. It was also very refreshing to see that this museum is brand-neutral, meaning that all brands are equally represented.

After the tour, we went up to the top floor bar and restaurant, “La Cata.” This is where tours end with a little taste of both tequila and mezcal.

For $50 pesos (about $4 US dollars) you get entry into the museum as well as complimentary mini shots of tequila and mezcal on the terrace, overlooking Plaza Garibaldi. Definitely worthwhile.

Where can you find well-known high quality tequilas sharing shelf space with obscure little-known brands that you can’t find in the United States? Be careful, or you may miss it.

El Buho, a small tequila store located just outside of Guadalajara in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, is jam-packed with tequilas that meet the approval of the store’s owner, Emilio – who personally tastes everything before it wins a spot on his shelf.

Each time we visit the Guadalajara region, El Buho is always on our list of places to visit. Surprises are always waiting for us because Emilio is always on the lookout for new and interesting tequila brands.

Not sure if you’re going to like a particular tequila? Just ask Emilio, and he may even let you sample it on the spot. Many of the brands in the store are available for in-store tasting. (Try that in the United States!)

I had the opportunity to interview Emilio in the store (video above.) We talked about some of his favorite personal tequila discoveries – a few of which can only be found in Mexico.

If you want to score some of the rare finds at El Buho, you’re gonna have to make the trip to Mexico. They aren’t able to ship tequilas to the United States. For tequila tourists, this store is a requirement.

Tequilas El Buho
Juarez 164-B
Tlaquepaque Centro
Jalisco, Mexico

Telephone: 36590863

A few blocks from the central square in the town of Tequila, Mexico, is La Capilla, a small cantina with a rich history and a steady stream of tequila tourists. This must-see tavern is owned and operated by a man in his nineties — Don Javier Delgado Corona, the creator of the popular tequila cocktail “The Batanga.”

The walls of the cantina are filled with photographs of tequila industry giants who have pulled up a bar stool, sipped on a Batanga or a shot of tequila, and listened to Don Javier talk about Tequila’s rich and colorful history.

Don Javier is no stranger to tourists. His guest book, now on its third volume, is thick, heavy, and full of the signatures and stories of his visitors.

As tequila tourists ourselves, we recently made our pilgrimage to La Capilla to meet Don Javier. We asked him to make a batch of Batangas for us (and our camera.) He told us the story of the drink, how it got its name, and the little-known “secret” to its flavor.

 

The Batanga: Tequila Drink Recipe

  1. Use a highball, or tall glass
  2. Use a lime wedge to coat the rim of the glass
  3. Dip the rim in a dish of salt to coat
  4. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into the glass
  5. Add ice to fill the glass to the top (preferably with large-sized cubes)
  6. Add a really generous shot of blanco tequila to the glass, filling it about halfway
  7. Top off the remainder of the glass with Coca-Cola
  8. To honor Don Javier, stir with a big knife, the secret to its flavor

.

If you’re planning to visit the town of Tequila, make sure you carve out some time to meet Don Javier, order up a Batanga, and listen to a few stories. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s still a rewarding experience.

La Capilla Cantina
Calle México and Hidalgo
Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico

So you’ve scored some awesome tequila during your vacation or trip, and you want to get it home without breaking. I’ve been in this situation countless times – and have developed a few basic rules that, when followed, will increase the chance that your tequila will arrive safely at your destination.

If you’re like me, packing is a last-minute sport, and you need to do it quickly, and on the cheap. My rules are designed for people like me – with poor planning skills, no special packing materials, and a whole lot of precious tequila cargo.

Thankfully, by following my own rules, I’ve never had a bottle break, and I’ve never had an issue with security or customs.

11 Rules of Safe and Hassle-free Tequila Packing

1.) Only pack sealed bottles.

When you’re leaving Mexico, before you can check your luggage, they will hand inspect the contents of every bag. They’re mainly looking for a few things – like perishable food and plants – and if you’re carrying any liquor bottles, they want to make sure that they haven’t ever been opened, and that each bottle is sealed from the factory. If a bottle isn’t sealed, they won’t let you check it. So try to make it easy for them to see that the bottle is still sealed.

2.) Make it easy for airline & security personnel to access.

During these hand searches, don’t make it too difficult to access your bottles. If they have to dig around inside the bag and move everything that you’ve carefully packed, you’re going to have to re-pack everything all over again in a hurry as other people are waiting in line behind you. This includes wrapping your bottles all tight and secure in bubble wrap – which might seem like the best way to protect the bottles, but you’ll have to unwrap them all during the security process.

3.) Keep things right side up.

I always like to make sure that my bottles aren’t upside down. If your bag has wheels, make sure that the bottom of each bottle points to the wheels. This will prevent any major problems in the event that a cap comes loose. Be aware of how you will naturally be carrying the bag, and place the bottles accordingly in the bag.

4.) Don’t place bottles too close to any side of the bag.

You never know what’s going to happen in transit, and how your bag is going to be treated. I always assume that the bag will be thrown, dropped, and come into contact with other bags. So I always make sure that there is some cushion space around all sides of the bag.

5.) Don’t pack bottles directly in contact with other bottles.

I never pack bottles so there is glass-to-glass contact. If the bag is dropped or thrown, bottles crashing together could easily break. Also, keep in mind that during the entire flight, there will be constant vibration coming from the plane, it could end up breaking your bottles over time as they grind together.

6.) Jeans make great packing material.

I like to pack my bottles in jeans because they’re easy to get at (and quickly repack) during inspections, and the pant legs can completely surround the bottles. Also, some bottle designs contain corks that could come loose during the trip. By folding the pant legs over the cork, and tucking the pant under the bottle, you’re adding another layer of protection so the cork doesn’t come loose.

7.) Don’t overload the bag with tequila!

Remember, bags have a weight limit, and bottles of tequila can be heavy. Most airlines will charge you extra if your bags weigh more than 50 pounds. If you have access to a scale (at home, or in your hotel room), check the weight before you get to the airport.

8.) Avoid using bags that don’t have any support.

Duffel bags, backpacks, and other soft-sided bags aren’t ideal for transporting bottles. The lack of support will mean a greater chance of bottle damage. If you don’t have any other choice, and you pack carefully, you can still use one of these bags – but you won’t be able to fit as many bottles into it as you can with a bag that has more support.

9.) Plastic bags can help in case of breakage.

In the event that a bottle breaks during transit, the use of plastic bags can help you clean up the damage. It’s not going to be able to fully contain the spill, but it will make it easier to clean up the broken glass. Some people think that they should seal the bottle in a series of plastic bags to prevent the tequila from coming in contact with the clothing inside. This isn’t a good idea because it makes the bottles difficult to access during security screenings. If you have any clothing that is really important or delicate, and you want to be sure that no tequila comes in contact with them, place those items inside of a sealed large clear plastic bag instead.

10.) Don’t use newspaper as packing material.

Newspaper and magazines don’t make good packing material for heavy tequila bottles. They can compress during transit and end up leaving large gaps inside the bag where items can shift and bump into each other.

11.) Spread the weight evenly throughout the bag.

Remember that other people are going to need to pick up the bag throughout the journey, and if the bag is heavy on one side, it will be an unexpected surprise to these people. This could result in your bag being dropped and/or falling over and creating additional points of impact. An unbalanced bag can be very easily damaged.

 

Do you have any of your own rules to add to this list? If so, please contribute them below!
 
– Grover

 

When we lived in foodie San Francisco, my friend Max turned me on to a great blog called “Mexico Cooks!”. The blog is run by Cristina Potters, who moved to Mexico some 30 years ago and has spent considerable time studying local and regional cuisines, as well as Mexican culture and traditions. Her blog is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in Mexico, and her knowledge of Mexico cooking rivals that of the great Diana Kennedy.

Scarlet (right) guides Judy (left) and Cristina through a tequila tasting at our home bar in Mexico City.

We recently read that Cristina had moved from her home in Morelia to our neighborhood in Mexico City, and we couldn’t wait to meet her. We invited her and her partner Judy over for an informal tequila tasting to talk about the food and drink of Mexico.

Cristina generally prefers mezcal, while Judy prefers tequila, so we knew it would be an interesting evening. Cristina says she prefers mezcal because it doesn’t have the burn that she feels when drinking tequila. However, when we gave her all-natural tequilas with no additives (reposados from Los Abuelos and Casa Noble) she didn’t feel the burn. (Maybe we could convert her after all!)

In the end, it didn’t matter who preferred tequila or who preferred mezcal, because the important part is that we all love Mexico. It reminded me that being a tequila lover is more than just having appreciation for a spirit – it’s about culture, tradition and way of life. You cannot separate tequila from the country that makes it, just as you cannot separate Mexico’s amazing cuisine from its wonderful people.

Cristina Potters, of Mexico Cooks!

Cristina Potters, of Mexico Cooks!, sits at our home bar during a tequila tasting in Mexico City.

So, if you’re just starting to enjoy tequila, read Cristina’s blog and other resources on Mexico because it will no doubt deepen your appreciation for this great drink and the people, history and culture that go along with it.

Viva Mexico!

Bartender at the St. Regis King Cole Bar in Mexico City.

The bartender at the St. Regis King Cole Bar in Mexico City, pouring a shot of Reserva de los Gonzalez reposado.

Some drinks, like beer and pulque, seem of the people, while others, like champagne and scotch, jut seem more elegant. One of the things I love about tequila is that it can be both a casual and formal drink.

That means I can enjoy a tequila in a rough and dirty cantina in a not-so-nice area of town, or I can enjoy a fine tequila at a posh bar.

We had the opportunity to sample some tequila in very elegant setting when we recently went to meet up with some friends at the St. Regis hotel’s King Cole Bar here in Mexico City. If you’re local and you haven’t been, go. The bar is well-appointed and comfortable, with an ample balcony that overlooks the Diana fountain, boasting impressive city views.

St. Regis hotel - King Cole Bar

A trolley full of tequilas at the King Cole Bar, inside the St. Regis Hotel in Mexico City.

While the St. Regis does not have a large tequila selection, they have more bottles than most. The first thing that caught our eye was a trolley full of tequilas, including Siete Leguas’ D’Antaño extra añejo, which is excellent. We nearly fell over each other reaching for the bottle since we have never seen D’Antaño in the DF before. Unfortunately, on closer inspection we realized the bottle was old and had been open for some time so most if the alcohol had evaporated. (To our amusement, we also noticed that the lower-end tequilas, like Jose Cuervo Traditional, were thoughtfully placed in an ice bucket at the top of the trolley, to cut the flavor.)

King Cole Bar menu

The tequila menu at the King Cole Bar, in Mexico City. (Prices are in pesos.)

We looked around to see what other treasures the St. Regis might be hiding. While they did have some higher-end tequilas, such as Don Julio 1942 and Herradura Selección Suprema, much of the selection was the usual suspects from the big brands. However, they did have the Reserva de los Gonzalez line, and we both ordered a reposado. Our drinks came in Reidel glasses with tasty little shots of sangrita. As we waited for our friends, we perused the rest of the tequila menu. I noticed there were a couple of mezcals inserted in the tequila list, like little trapdoors into smokiness.

Once our friends arrived, we moved to the impressive balcony, where our Reidels of Tequlia Gonzalez seemed like the perfect drink to enjoy dusk fading over Mexico City.

We we knew we might be drinking shots in a rowdy cantina much later in the evening, but we also knew that tequila’s versatility would allow us to stick with the same tasty drink all evening—formal or not.

- Scarlet

I love a good cantina. The doors swing open and you walk into another place and time—a friendly environment where drinking, friendship and conversation get respect, a place where you can go whether you are alone or with a crowd.

Montejo Cantina, Mexico City

The bar at the Montejo Restaurante Bar has more tequila than most cantinas in Mexico City.

Here, there are no pretentious people, fancy $15 cocktails, or throbbing music you have to scream over to be heard. Instead, you get a straight-faced cantinero who has been there forever, serving straight, honest drinks, like tequila.

This was just the place we were in the mood for the other night when we slipped into a cantina named Montejo Restaurante Bar, in Colonia Condesa. It’s not as old and classic as many of the cantinas in Mexico City, but the service, atmosphere and bar did the trick. In fact, Montejo has a wider tequila selection than many bars here, and by that I mean 24 bottles, rather than six or eight.

Montejo's tequila selection.

The lineup of tequilas behind the bar at Montejo Restaurante Bar in Mexico City.

We settled in with a Siete Leguas reposado and a Centinela reposado, and proceeded to enjoy the sangrita (just spicy enough) and delicious salted, oily peanuts which are a cantina must-have, in my opinion.

It was a Monday night but the place was hopping—after work crowds eating dinner, couples enjoying straight tequilas and snacks, and a live band.

Siete Leguas and Centinella

Siete Leguas reposado (left) and Centinela reposado were the first drinks we ordered.

Two tables over a young man was making a show of ordering up some mezcal, inspecting the bottle and sampling it as though it were a fine wine. This caught our eye, not only because it was unusual, but also because the mezcal bottle had a Patron-like lime-colored tag on its neck. We would have seen what all the fuss was about, but the table emptied the bottle and there was none left to sample. Instead, the waiter brought over another mezcal, Zignum reposado.

Zignum reposado, a mezcal

Our final drink of the night was a shot of Zignum reposado, a mezcal that tastes just like tequila.

After our last mezcal experience, we had our doubts, but we gave it a smell and were shocked to detect no smoky mezcal nose. The smoke is always what kills it for us, so we couldn’t resist ordering a shot. My first impression was that it was sweet, like honey, vanilla and mint, and smoke-free

“What is this?” Grover asked. “It tastes like an añejo tequila.”

Soon, we were inspecting the bottle—it was stamped with “100% agave” and carried an organic label—hell, it even had a NOM, just like tequila.

Uh-oh, I thought. If someone can make a mezcal that tastes like tequila, is labeled similarly (enough that the consumer can’t tell the difference), priced cheaper and unburdened with stringent regulations, what does this mean for tequila?

We pondered this on our walk home. When we arrived, we immediately looked up the brand online, only to find that Zignum mezcal is made by Coca-Cola.

Is Coca-Cola also in the tequila business and we don’t know about it? Obviously, it saw an opportunity in the burgeoning mezcal market and pounced.

Something about this just doesn’t sit right. Mezcal dressed up to look like tequila is an insult to both mezcal purists and tequila purists. But maybe not—maybe the purists don’t matter and this is just a way of presenting a spirit in a new way.

Whichever it is, I can’t help wonder, if cantineros only serve straight, honest drinks, what’s this?

(We know you have some thoughts so please share!)

-Scarlet

Pulque Bar

Pulque, a milky white fermented drink, is served up behind the bar at Los Insurgentes, Mexico City.

Pulque, once considered a sacred drink reserved for the Aztec upper classes, is a bold, new player on the Mexico City drinks scene, but this time it’s definitely for the masses.

Made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant, it is tequila’s drunken uncle—a bit sloppy and unrefined, and plagued with spontaneous fits of numbness and hallucination.

We went to a neighborhood pulque bar, Los Insurgentes, with a few friends last weekend, so Grover could sample this ancient drink for the first time.

Los Insurgentes, Roma Norte, Mexico City

The sign on the front of the building illuminates the way to Los Insurgentes, a pulque bar in Mexico City.

“I should really eat something before we go – I do not want a pulque hangover in the morning,” he said as we were leaving.

“Oh, don’t worry. You will not get drunk on pulque,” I said. “You’ll take two sips and switch to beer.”

He looked at me doubtfully, grabbed a handful of chips, and we were on our way.

Los Insurgentes doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s an old building on a busy thoroughfare in the Roma Norte neighborhood. But once we entered, we realized the place was a cavernous old home, with multiple rooms shooting off the central bar, all of them packed with people.

Inside Los Insurgentes

The second floor of Los Insurgentes was full and busy.

Searching for our friends, we climbed to the second floor, scoured through four crammed rooms, and finally landed on the third floor, where there was another bar and a DJ spinning music in front of a flickering wall of video. There were our friends, all of them bravely holding clay mugs of pulque, unlike the majority of patrons, who were drinking beer.

Most people drink flavored pulque because natural pulque can be a bit too much to take—it has a rather foul odor and taste. If you’ve ever had fermented soybeans in a Japanese restaurant, you know what I’m talking about.

The flavors on tap for the night were tamarind, oat, and strawberry. I suggested the sweet tamarind flavor to Grover, and we got a mug to share. (Later I tried a friend’s oat pulque, and it was even better.)

Grover stood looking at the viscous, brown drink with hesitation and then took a sip.

Pulque

Grover snapped this picture of the tamarindo-flavored pulque we were served at Los Insurgentes.

“Hey, it’s not too bad!” he said, with surprise.

“Here – try my natural,” our friend John said.

“Figures John is drinking natural – he’s such a hardcore,” Grover said. Then he took a sip and his face showed it all.
“Man, that is nasty!”

I tried it and agreed.

Suddenly, even our tamarind was undrinkable. We switched to beer.

While the idea of pulque may have brought people to Los Insurgentes, it was the beer, music and crowd that kept them there. Sure, it’s fun to try pulque, to like or not like it, and perhaps have you legs turn to noodles after a few mugs, but for most it’s a novelty drink.

Beer at the pulque bar

At Los Insurgentes, a pulque bar in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood, most people drink beer.

Of course, I was in an old pulqueria long ago where I saw the other type of pulque drinkers—the true hardcores. They drank cup after cup, then belligerent and desperate they begged for a liter to take home at closing time. Two men didn’t make it home, but instead passed out under their tables in a slick of slimy white pulque.

Tequila may have the “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor” reputation, but I think we know which drink that rightfully belongs to.

-Scarlet

Pulque: el viagra Mexicana.

Written above the bathroom door inside of Los Insurgentes is “Pulque: el viagra Mexicano” which means “Pulque, the Mexican Viagra.”

Since we arrived in Mexico City we’ve been searching for the best tequila selection in town, so when we heard about La Casa de las Sirenas’ 146 bottles we had to give it a try. This restaurant/bar in the Centro Historico is a classic old-school establishment, situated right behind the city’s famous Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María, with views of the bell tower.

La Casa De Las Sirenas

Don’t be fooled by the wonderful tequila menu painted on the wall of La Casa De Las Sirenas, in Mexico City.

As you approach from the street, you see a charming cantina atmosphere in the bottom floor with an extensive tequila menu painted on the wall. Many of the brands listed there are hard to find here so we began to get excited about their collection. A 100-year-old waiter in a white shirt and black bowtie handed us the menu, which was somewhat paired down from the wall menu, but still much longer than the four brands normally offered in these parts.

Grover asked for a Chinaco but the waiter replied that they didn’t have it on hand. Maybe in the restaurant upstairs, he said, but we’d have to buy a meal to drink there.

La Casa De Las Sirenas

Our bartender was nice, but a bit slow in his delivery of our order. Too bad he wasn’t able to serve us any of the nice tequilas that are painted on the wall.

We’d already eaten dinner so we asked them what they did have in the downstairs bar. Turns out it was a paltry selection of six or seven common brands. Although the bar shelves were filled with tequila bottles we soon realized that most of them were empty or contained only dredges.

“Where are the 146 bottles of tequila you advertise?” we asked the waiter.

“Most of the good tequilas are upstairs in the restaurant,” he replied.

We resigned ourselves to a shot of Correlejo and Tres Generaciones with only a cheesy ’70s Mexican movie on the TV to accompany us.

The waiter, although very kind and attentive, moved at the speed of a fat drop of agave syrup on a cold day and it seemed unlikely that we would get a second drink anytime soon.

We decided to go upstairs and use our charm and business cards to try to persuade them to let us sample their more expensive tequila collection without eating.

La Casa De Las Sirenas

To get the “good stuff”, we were told we needed to walk up a few steep flights of stairs to the restaurant. The same stairs that waiters must navigate with loads of dishes.

After we climbed three sets of stairs to the upper balcony where the other bar resided disappointment started to set in again. There was a small bar with a variety of empty bottles and a few high-priced brands, but nothing to boast about. We estimated that although La Casa de las Sirenas might have 146 bottles only 20 of them (at the most!) contained tequila you could order.

However the atmosphere of the place and the view were quite charming, so if you fancy a Correlejo, a Cazadores or a Tres Generaciones, you might want to give it a try.

As for us, the search continues.

La Casa De Las Sirenas

La Casa De Las Sirenas in Mexico City.

La Botica, Condesa

La Botica, in Colonial Condesa, Mexico City.

Mexico City has a lot on offer–world-class cuisine, culture, a great nightlife and an almost endless variety of things to see and do. But ironically the one thing it doesn’t have is a rich variety of tequila. Sure, there’s tequila in every cantina, restaurant and bar, but it’s limited to just a few brands. The most common are Don Julio, Herradura, El Jimador and Cazadores. As tequila lovers, this is clearly not enough.

Since we arrived in the capital last week, we’ve been trying to figure out why there is such a dearth of tequila and what chilangos (denizens of Mexico City) are drinking instead. The answer, it appears, is mezcal. Mezcalerias dot the city, specializing in a wide variety of mezcals from Oaxaca and other areas. And, most bars and restaurants have mezcal on the shelf, at prices similar to high-end tequilas. Mezcal cocktails are all the rage, and there’s even a mezcal-themed hotel here.

Grover and I went to one of the more popular mezcal chains last night to see what all the buzz is about. La Botica has 8 locations, including one in Spain, and our waiter told us they have plans to expand to the US and Canada.

La Botica, Inside

Inside La Botica, a mezcal bar in Colonial Condesa, Mexico City.

I was expecting a somewhat upscale place, but when we arrived in their Colonia Condesa location I was surprised to see a bunch of young people sitting around small tin tables, on folding chairs with Corona emblazoned on the back. The mood was definitely scrappy and low-key. The menu was handwritten on a piece of flimsy cardboard. The bar was more impressive, done out in a pharmacy style with dozens of glass medicine bottles containing your poison of choice.

La Botica mezcal menu

The mezcal menu at La Botica in Colonial Condesa is hand-written on cardboard.

The house rules are that you have to order food with drinks, which turns out to be a good thing. We ordered tamales verdes and asked the waiter for the best mezcals he had. Out came a blanco called Minero, a reposado, a dry blanco selection from Oaxaca, and one from Tabasco. Also, a sotol with no apparent name. Now, we’ve mentioned before that we aren’t big mezcal fans so if you’re a mezcal lover stop reading here, lest you have to be waste your evening sending us angry missives.

None of the choices were to our liking – the smokiness, the astringency, the plastic aroma just didn’t sit well. It was frustrating because behind all of that we could smell truly good things, like butter and citrus and a beautiful oakiness from the reposado. Were we trying the subpar mezcals? Perhaps, but our waiter assured us that they were of high quality and we just had to “get used to the taste.”

La Botica mezcal bar

Behind the bar at La Botica – many different small-batch mezcals are available.

Despite the drinks, the food and the atmosphere was fun. It had an underground feel that is probably part of what has made mezcal so trendy in Mexico City. It’s not the Don Julio your grandfather drank. There’s also a wide variety of small producers and by acknowledging and enjoying their mezcal, people feel like they’re giving back to their people and culture. I get it, but I still miss my tequila.

During my night job, I sip tequila. But during the day, I work with photographers via my company – PhotoShelter. Usually, my two worlds don’t mix. But back in July, that changed when Scarlet and I attended the Mayahuel Awards, which is like the Academy Awards for the tequila industry, run by the Mexican Academy of Tequila Tasters, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

As we entered, I immediately noticed lots of really nice images of the agave landscape and people working in the tequila industry. I looked closer, and noticed that the photographer’s name was Ben Olivares – a PhotoShelter user. It was at this point I realized my two worlds just conveniently bumped into each other.

I approached Ben, introduced myself and he was very surprised to see me there. But we quickly agreed to keep in touch and meet up in person again later.

A few weeks later, I arranged to visit Ben at his home so I could conduct a video interview with him. We talked about marketing and creating your own opportunities as a photographer – things that tend to be very interesting to other photographers. The interview ended up in a blog story called “6 Steps To Conquer A Niche Photo Market“.

The video also features many of his incredible images from the Tequila Valley (three of which will be hanging on our walls shortly.)

If you’re a photographer AND a tequila lover like me, you’ll probably really enjoy this video, but there still plenty for a tequila fan to enjoy too.

- Grover

Imagine what it would be like to give a tequila presentation to two Presidents and a Prime Minister, all of who are eager to find out about the history, culture and nuances of tequila.

Sounds pretty nerve racking, right? Well, this is exactly the situation tequila expert Miguel Cedeño faced earlier this year when he hosted U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a tequila tasting and primer.

However, Cedeño, being a well-recognized tequila expert, author, teacher, master distiller and scientist, managed to pull it off with apparent ease.

We sat down with Cedeño recently to talk to him about the experience and how he answered President Obama’s questions: “What’s your favorite tequila?”

He filled us in on the protocol of hobnobbing with presidents, which tequila President Calderón prefers, and where he sees the industry heading.

See our exclusive video here:

Watch and learn!

-TasteTequila

For some tequila lovers it’s not enough to simply go to the store and pickup their favorite brands. They crave the rare, the undiscovered, the known but forgotten—in short, they like to hunt for tequila treasures.

We recently met up with two treasure hunters after a very big haul. Our good friend Mark Alberto Holt, creator and the SFT Tequila Bar in Sayulita, and his friend David Yan, Marketing Director for Casa Noble tequila in Mexico, just finished ransacking the “cage” at the La Playa warehouse in Guadalajara. For those of you who are unfamiliar with La Playa, it is one of the largest liquor store chains in Mexico, carrying dozens of tequila brands. The cage is just as it sounds—an enclosed area in their storage warehouse where out-of-date bottles, half-drunk bottles, trash and occasionally expensive (but unknown) finds are literally thrown.

Mark and David waded through the mess and got themselves more than a little dirty, but boy did it pay off. They came back with 12 bottles of rare tequilas—some known, some unknown, and others that are old, old favorites.

We sat down with them at the Quinta Don Jose Boutique Hotel in Tlaquepaque to hear about their adventure, enjoy some refreshments and talk about the art of the hunt.

Find out what they discovered, and how you can embark on your own treasure hunt here:

-Taste Tequila

As you can see from this picture, Grover took his work seriously, climbing up the side of a distillation tank to get just the right angle.

As you can see from this picture, Grover took his work seriously, climbing up the side of a distillation tank to get just the right angle.

El Gran Jubileo recently asked us to shoot some hi-def video for their new website. It was a great opportunity to be out in the agave fields and to get to know their distillery and the kind, thoughtful people who work there.

The distillery, called La Alborada, or “the dawn,” is a family business run by Ing. Juan Antonio Alvarez Rodriguez, who is not just a master distiller, but also a man fascinated with soil, agave plants, and the best way to grow and care for them. We learned an incredible amount from him, and hopefully you will too when you see the video.

Later that day, we rode out to the edge of their fields where the whole crew (us included) were instructed to climb into the back of a truck since it was the only vehicle that could manage the long, bumpy and somewhat treacherous road down to the heart of agave plantation. Four of us stood in the bed of the truck, gripping the rails, as it rambled up and down rocky hills in the Tequila valley. It was evening and a refreshing breeze had just started to form. The sun was slipping behind the Tequila volcano and we were rushing to get some last evening light.

Here you can see Grover as a little white speck out in the field.

Here you can see Grover as a little white speck out in the field.

It’s always rewarding to be so close to the source of our tequila passion, and around the people who carry on the tradition. If you ever come to Tequila you may want to consider visiting the fine folks at La Alborada, and of course El Gran Jubileo’s website will be a must-see.

Agave piñas that were harvested during our photo shoot, on the floor of the distillery, before they were baked in the oven.

Agave piñas that were harvested during our photo shoot, on the floor of the distillery, before they were baked in the oven.

(See our earlier review of the El Gran Jubileo tequilas.)

-Scarlet

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

The other day we had Clayton Szczech from Experience Tequila over for drinks on our patio. Clayton gives tours of the tequila region to foreigners and he’s packed with knowledge on the area. He also has a pretty good sense of humor and a realistic view of the country so we thought that he would be a great person to ask this question: What are the top 10 things that gringos should know before they come to Mexico?

After all, there are a lot of misconceptions about Mexico. Westerners tend to be overly concerned about things like drug violence (which rarely affects law abiding civilians) and not as mindful of the more realistic dangers, such as water and traffic.

Clayton’s top 10 list of things that people should know before they come to Mexico:

    10.) Don’t drink the water.

    9.) Mexico can be noisy. (You’ll see as our water heater kicks on in the middle of the video.)

    8.) Keep your hands clean. (This relates back to water and sickness.)

    7.) Tequila selection is often limited. (What!!? But true!)

    6.) Money: Mexico is short on change. (‘No hay cambio.”)

    5.) Haggling: Not everything is cheap in Mexico.

    4.) Drugs — Don’t do them. Seriously. (You don’t want to end up in a Mexican jail.)

    3.) Drug war violence If you’re not looking for trouble, it probably won’t find you.

    2.) The real killer in Mexico… traffic. (Look both ways before crossing the calle.)

    1.) Using Spanish (It’s great to use the Spanish you know but keep in mind that most people can understand at least a little English. Especially if you are saying something not-so-nice within earshot of the locals. Don’t be ‘the ugly American.’)

Of course, Clayton explains all of these things with much more panache than we have included here. So watch the video, and learn. Then come down and visit us!

-Scarlet & Grover

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