Category: Our Videos

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

A while back we did a review of a tequila with an odd name and a cool bottle: Alien blanco. We can still remember enjoying its gentle fruity aromas. So, when we heard that the brand was producing a new extra añejo, we were anxious to get our hands on it. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long – they sent us a bottle before it was even released to the general public.

(You can buy it at Liquid Experience in San Francisco: (415) 255-6718, and they will ship it upon request.)

Again, we loved the presentation of its iridescent alien-head shaped bottle, but don’t worry, this tequila has substance in addition to style.

The extra añejo is a pleasant surprise because it retains a nice agave nose that mixes well with butterscotch and vanilla aromas. The smell of it alone invites you to dive in for a taste. The taste does not disappoint either – it hasn’t gone too far in the aging process like some extra añejos, and it has a very nice mouth feel and a gentle finish with hints of agave and anise.

We always get excited about small brands that are doing it right, and it certainly seems like Alien tequila owner George Harris has done a good job at turning his passion into a quality product. We got a chance to speak with George when he was in Mexico City recently, meeting with his bottle maker. He dropped by our bar with his business partner Irma Aguirre, and we shared a few drinks, and of course, plenty of tequila talk.

Alien is distributed in a handful of states including, Nevada, Ohio, and Michigan, and they are looking to “abduct” people in more states soon.

If you get a chance to get your hands on a bottle, try it and enjoy.

-Scarlet

P.S. In the video, we forgot the name of George and Irma’s restaurant in Las Vegas (sorry!). It’s called “Mundo” and it’s worth a visit.

Alien Tequila owners, George and Irma with Grover

Alien Tequila partners, George (left) and Irma with Grover (right)

Mexicans are serious about their celebrations, and they’ve wisely packed the calendar with days for parties. This week is the biggest party of the year, Mexican Independence Day. Flags will be waved, fireworks will be displayed, drinks are poured, and thousands of people gather in main squares across the country to celebrate “El Grito,” or the call to independence made by Miguel Hidalgo back in 1810.

Most people in the USA don’t realize it, but Mexican Independence Day is actually this week – officially on September 16th (but the big party happens throughout the night on the 15th). In honor of the festivities, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best tequila-based drinks with which to enjoy such an occasion.

To pull this off, we invited a few of our favorite Mexico City drinking-buddies to our house to taste test several popular drinks made with tequila.

Here’s our lineup: straight tequila (we used Siete Leguas blanco); a “bandera,” which is a shot of tequila, sangrita and lime juice, lined up like the colors of the Mexican flag; a margarita (we made a “Pure Magarita“); and a “batanga” (tequila, Coke and lime juice.)

Our friends John, a long-time Mexico City resident, and Laura, an “authentic” Mexican, helped us decide which drink was best for the occasion.

Which celebratory drink will reign supreme? The complete tasting can be seen on the video (above.)

(By the way, after the taping both John and Laura agreed that the margarita was pretty darn tasty. To make a batch for yourself, head on over to our “Pure Margraita” tequila drink recipe.)

With so many new tequila brands making their way to the market, experienced tequila drinkers often look for clues that indicate if a particular brand is worthy of a try. Clues can take the form of a particular process or distillery, as well as the people behind the brand. For us, it means a lot when a new brand has a well-seasoned and reputable master distiller who carefully crafts the flavor profile, and watches over the process.

Fortunately, Gran Dovejo has just such a master distiller in Leopoldo Solis Tinoco. Solis also had a hand in Don Pilar and Siembra Azul, among other well-known tequilas. Based on this alone, we were anxious to give this tequila a try – and recently, we did.

Gran Dovejo is made in the highlands of Jalisco using many of our favorite techniques: the use of very ripe single-estate agave, cooked in clay ovens, distilled in copper pots, and created in small batches. (In other words even more “clues.”)

Its blanco has a strong agave nose with aromas of citrus, olive, and pepper. In the mouth it has a nice oiliness with a gentle, minty finish. The reposado has aromas of butter and vanilla, with an added touch of cinnamon to its flavor profile. The reposado is aged for 6 to 9 months in American oak barrels.

The añejo has intensified vanilla and oak flavors, as well as a lighter finish. It is aged up to 3 years, or whenever Solis says it’s ready. The entire line is balanced and pleasant, and it’s nice to see the continuation of aromas and flavors from blanco to añejo. There is a slight bit of astringency throughout the line, and it is most prominent in the añejo, but is not a deal killer.

One thing we like to do when tasting a tequila is to leave our tasting glasses out overnight so we can see how the aromas have changed or intensified after the alcohol has evaporated. During the tasting Grover said that he was picking up on a cherry aroma in the añejo, and the next day it was confirmed with a very strong cherry and cinnamon aromas in the near-empty glass.

If you are already a fan of Solis’ other products, we’re certain that Gran Dovejo will not disappoint you. If you’re not, we recommend that you give this one a try.

I was in New York City just in time for the crazy heat wave last week. I can’t think of a better way to spend a 100+ degree day than to hover over a smokey BBQ grill, tequila in-hand, surrounded by friends.

Luckily, I got my wish. My friend and co-worker Andrew Fingerman hosted a festive BBQ in his backyard, and busted out a recipe using Fortaleza reposado and jumbo tiger prawns from Vietnam.

Andrew is an expert grillmaster – he is my go-to guy for all grilling-related questions and strategies.

“The key, when you put the shrimp on the grill, is not to let it sit there for too long,” he said.

He only leaves it on the grill for 2-3 minutes for each side.

The result was a deliciously fresh and snappy shrimp with a hint of aged tequila flavor – mostly on the finish.

Highly recommended!

The recipe:

Tequila Glazed BBQ Shrimp

Tequila Glazed BBQ Shrimp, on the grill!

Tequila Glazed BBQ Shrimp

  1. Clean and devein shrimp (uncooked)
  2. Place 5 or 6 of the shrimp on each skewer (preferably metal)
  3. Pre-heat the grill
  4. Baste both sides with a light coating of olive oil
  5. Lightly salt and pepper the shrimp just before you put it on the grill
  6. Place the skewers on the grill, close the lid and cook for about 2 minutes
  7. Flip the shrimp over, and brush on the tequila (reposado) with a basting brush. Cook for 2 minutes with the grill open.
  8. Brush on another coat of tequila, and then immediately flip the shrimp over again.
  9. Brush another coat of tequila on the first side and immediately turn again.
  10. Squeeze lime on each side, and remove from the grill.
  11. Serve immediately!

Thanks, Andrew! (And thanks to Chris for the camera work!)

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

 

Sometimes the difference between just having a drink and really enjoying what you taste is the influence of a great bartender. A great bartender can help you discover new brands, learn a little history, and figure out your own tasting profile so you don’t end up ordering and paying for something you don’t like. After all, there’s nothing worse than ordering a $15 shot and not liking what you get!

And given the complexity of flavors in tequila and the sheer number of new brands on the market these days, educated tequila bartenders are essential. That’s why we appreciate knowledgeable and passionate tequila bartenders, the ones you’ll find at Tres in San Francisco, Cantina Mayahuel in San Diego, Agave in New York City, and Masa Azul in Chicago.

Although the best tequila bartenders study the spirit for years, and often make pilgrimages to Jalisco, Mexico, where tequila is made, we wanted to know what the most basic elements that every bartender should know about tequila.

To get to the bottom of this, we went to a passionate tequila bar expert, our energetic friend Mark Alberto Holt, creator of the SFT Tequila Bar in Sayulita, Mexico, and host of the “Tequila Traveler” video series. We asked him to give us a list of:

The 10 Things Every Bartender Should Know About Tequila


1.) What is tequila?

Sounds elementary, right? You might be surprised to know how many people confuse mezcal with tequila (“Where’s the worm?”), or ask questions like “Is this made in Mexico?” It’s important for every tequila bartender to have a succinct explanation of what makes tequila “tequila” and why it’s not just an agave spirit.

 

 

2.) Where is Tequila?

This relates to the “Was this made in Mexico?” question. Tequila has an important history in the town of Tequila, Mexico. Knowing where Tequila is located and how it fits into the history of tequila is important. Visiting Tequila is even more eye-opening!

 

 

3.) Tequila’s denomination of origin

Knowing which regions in Mexico can legally call their tequila “tequila” is also essential knowledge. Why? Because you want to let your customers know that if they buy something labeled tequila but it is made in Texas or China they do not have the guarantee that it is true tequila made under the guidelines stated by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT).

 

 

4.) Understanding tequila’s different flavor profiles

All tequilas do not taste the same. Many people say that they can tell the difference between tequila made in the different regions of Mexico, which is another location detail that relates to the flavor of tequilas. The Highlands of Jalisco have a distinct soil and agave growing landscape that generally produces sweeter agaves with less fiber and more floral and herbal aromas. The Tequila Valley (or lowlands) tends to produce less sweet agaves with more mineral characteristics. The Tequila Valley also has a water source favored by some distillers.

So, why is this important for a bartender to understand? Because, Mark says, if you notice a client tending toward highlands or lowlands tequilas you’ll be better at selecting other tequilas for them to try.

 

 

5.) Which tequila brands don’t share a distillery?

Some labels change, have checkered pasts, or take interesting turns, so it’s helpful to know the evolution of different labels. For instance, a customer could say that they tried a brand several years ago and really liked it, but if the bartender knows that that label has completely changed—gone to a different distillery or has a new master distiller—you can warn them to expect something different now.

Brands like Fortaleza and Siete Leguas own and operate their own distilleries, and don’t currently produce any other brands.

 

 

6.) The history of various tequila brands

Some tequila brands have very interesting stories behind them. One such example is the story of Patron and Siete Leguas. Few people realize that the original Patron was actually made by Siete Leguas. This is no longer the case, because Patron eventually built their own distillery. Patron established their reputation as a quality brand on the skill and experience of Siete Leguas, and today’s product tastes nothing like it once did.

 

 

7.) How to figure out a customer’s taste preferences

There are many different tequila profiles – different tastes for the differing preferences of the consumer. When a person is new to tequila, Mark likes to ask a series of questions that may provide the clues needed to solve the puzzle.

“What kind of foods do you like? Do you like spicy food? Do you like sweets? Do you like cake?”

Obviously, it’s important for the bartender to know what each tequila tastes like – and a good bartender should be able to describe the differences between the products on their shelf.

 

 

8.) How to prepare a customer’s palette

Having a good first experience with tequila requires a little preparation, especially if that person is new to tequila, or distilled spirits in general. The concept and process of “warming up your mouth” is something we’ve covered on the blog before, and Mark feels it’s important for each bartender to know and use.

By preparing a customer’s mouth before they begin to fully taste the tequila, the bartender is both educating the customer and improving their overall experience. Thus increasing the chance that they will turn into a repeat customer.

 

 

9.) Breathing techniques

This is especially important for people who are new to tequila. Since tequila has a lot of alcohol content in it, if the customer doesn’t breath properly as the drink it, they could end up gagging because of the alcohol.

Mark says he teaches people to breath properly, and says the proper way to breath is this: when the tequila is in the mouth, take a breath in through the nose, swallow and then exhale.

 

 

10.) Teaching a customer to slow down and sip

To many people, tequila is still that crazy stuff they would only drink at the end of a night of college partying. It tastes bad, requires salt and lime, and you’re supposed to get it over with as quickly as possible. A good bartender encourages a customer to slow down and taste the tequila in the way they would with a fine wine.

By striking up a dialog about the tequila, and making a point of finding the right tequila for them, you’re already setting the tone. By not serving the tequila in a shot glass, and not rushing them away from the bar, you should be able to get them to slow down and reintroduce them to tequila.

It’s also a good idea to explain that there are 2 types of tequila – 100% agave tequila, and “mixtos” – that contain other non-agave sugars. That unpleasant taste and nasty hangover they experienced in their college days was because they were probably drinking a cheap mixto.

Does tequila taste different after it has been in a flask? We were asked that question recently, and decided to find out.

After doing some online research, we learned that there was no clear obvious answer – other than “it depends on the flask.” If the flask is cheap, and made of inferior metals, there’s a chance that it could affect the taste of the tequila inside it.

Right after we moved to Mexico City, we bought a cool-looking flask we found in a store near our apartment. Having never owned a flask before, I guess we just thought all were created equal, and didn’t worry about the details.

We reasoned that since tequila is stored at a distillery, often for long periods of time, in large stainless steel containers – that there shouldn’t be any effect on the taste as long as the flask is made from the same quality metal.

To get ready for our experiment, we loaded up the flask with a tequila that we know and love – one we are very familiar with – Fortaleza blanco. We let it sit in the flask for over a month.

As you can see by watching the video, the results were mixed. Scarlet and I weren’t able to detect any difference in aroma between tequila straight from the bottle and the same tequila from the flask.

When we tasted it, Scarlet didn’t notice much of a difference – but I felt there was some change to the finish. It became a little rougher late in the finish – something that’s not normally present in the super-smooth Fortaleza blanco.

I can only assume that our flask isn’t constructed with the best of metals. But even so, storing tequila in it for a fun night out will probably not show any difference in taste – even after a month in the flask, the change was barely detectable. (Especially by Scarlet, and everyone knows she has the tasting skills in the family.)

I just won’t be using it for long-term storage, that’s for sure.

– Grover

Because we’re living in Mexico City during a huge mezcal revival, we’ve tried very hard to like this traditional Mexican spirit. Not only are there three mezcalerias within a stone’s throw of our house, but there’s also something very interesting going on culturally with mezcal. Simply put – it is everywhere, while tequila is not.

Unfortunately, our trail of tears with mezcal (and mezcal lovers’ anger and disbelief) has been amply recorded on the site. What can we say? It’s just too smoky for us.

I was talking about this conundrum with my friend John Hecht, a veteran Mexico City reporter and mezcal lover himself who has watched the spirit gain steam in the city over the last five years.

“Maybe you should try a mezcal that’s just not that smoky,” he said. And then he said he might have the perfect one.

So, Grover and I went over to John’s house the other night to sample this special not-so-smoky mezcal. John got it from a well-known producer in Oaxaca.

The bottle had no label or name on it, because apparently you can go to most small mezcal producers in Oaxaca with an empty bottle and ask them to fill it with their special juice. Ahh, Mexico!

The mezcal in question was un-aged of a type called “tobaciche”, which means it is made from wild agaves. Some think that wild agaves produce a stronger agave flavor compared to cultured agaves.

(Still, we were concerned that even this highly recommended mezcal might be too smoky for us, so we brought a flask filled with Fortaleza blanco in case we found ourselves in a drinking emergency.)

John poured us each a shot (you can see the first taste, and my honest reaction on the video, above) and I had to admit that the smell was not as smoky as usual. Underneath I could detect some minerals and faint mint.

On the first sip I discovered it had a nice mouth feel with a tingly finish of mint.

Grover, who was busy behind the camera during the initial tasting, tried the mezcal when we finished filming. His opinion was similar to mine in that it was better than any other mezcal we’ve tried thus far, and did have something more to offer than just a high octane proof point and smoke. There were some agave flavors still detectable in this one.

“Tequila is like a nice clear and pleasant conversation where you can hear every word being said by the other person,” Grover said. “On the other hand, mezcal is like a trying to have a conversation in a loud and crowded party where there is a ton of activity going on, and it’s hard to hear any single voice.”

“Some say that mezcal is ‘more complex’, but I find it to be more confusing,” he said.

Would we rather sip on a nice tequila? The truthful answer is yes, but while out with friends drinking mezcal at least we found something we could appreciate, and that’s progress.

(And for the record: We’ve tried dozens of different mezcals since we’ve been living in Mexico. We’ve sought out the opinions of mezcal experts and have tasted what many mezcal fans considered “the best,” and in the end, we prefer tequila. It’s a personal choice, so mezcal lovers, don’t be offended. We just don’t like the smoke, and that’s why we don’t drink smoky whiskey either. Our experiment with mezcal has now reached its end, and (hopefully) you won’t see any more stories about mezcal on this blog. Viva tequila!)

- Scarlet

We get a lot of tequila questions sent to us via our website –anything from “What tequila is a must-try?” to “Where is a good place to get married in tequila country?”

Up until now, we’ve just been hitting reply, but then we thought, why not answer them publicly so everyone can get the answers! So, we’re happy to introduce a new segment called “Viewer Mail” where we answer readers’ questions on video. If we don’t have the answers, we’ll dig into our network of tequila experts to find the answers for you.

Our first question is about something many tequila lovers want to know: “How can I safely store my tequila treasure bottles?”

To find the answer, we asked our friend and tequila expert David Yan, marketing director of Casa Noble tequila in Mexico.

Do you have a tequila question you’d like to be answered on air? Send your questions using the form on the Contact Us page on our website and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of it!

-Taste Tequila

All around Mexico City, tucked among the usual tequila fare, we’ve seen a new contender – Alacrán tequila. The brand is based here, which explains its ubiquity, but it has been making its way far and wide, and we were curious to find out what was in its mysterious matte black bottle.

The brand only offers a blanco, so we picked up a bottle and eagerly opened its screw top. It has a mild alcohol aroma when you first pour it, but it opens up nicely over time. That’s when you start to smell its faint coconut, raw agave and butter aromas.

In the glass, its legs are thin and that plays out as a somewhat watery mouth feel. There isn’t a lot of oils in this tequila presumably because of the fast cooking process the makers chose by using a column still (also called a continuous still). Slow cooking retains more oils from the agave, and the oils carry aromas and flavors.

But the proof is in the mouth, and once we tried it we had a draw: I didn’t like it and Grover thought it was “okay.”

Alacrán, which means “scorpion” in Spanish, is made at the Tierra de Agaves distillery in Tequila, Jalisco, where they also make Luna Azul and La Certeza. They promote the brand as an “authentic” tequila for independent people.

Whether it is considered authentic or not, my real problem with the scorpion was its sting. It left me with a strange bitterness at the top of my palette/back of my throat that lingers unpleasantly. As it turns out, the sting was the one element that Grover didn’t mind, especially compared to the typical tequila found here in Mexico City. Go figure.

So, what you think?

-Scarlet

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

About a month ago, liquor stores in Guadalajara started prominently displaying a new innovation in tequila presentations – tequila in a can! Actually, a half can, like the new mini Cokes. Of course, we’ve already seen mixed drinks such as palomas in a (full-sized) can, but we’ve never seen straight 100% agave tequila artfully siphoned into an aluminum receptacle with a pop top for our drinking enjoyment. But this is just what the brand La Gavilana did, offering up its canned reposado for about $5 bucks. Needless to say, we had to give it a try.

I’ll be honest – I had my hesitations. Tinny tequila did not sound appetizing. However, the company’s website assured me that a can was the perfect presentation for this tequila because it was easy to chill, easy to transport and recyclable. It also said that this repo is aged 6 to 8 months in American Oak, and is not only double distilled, but filtered!

Despite these assurances, I felt that my evaluation would be tainted by the can factor so I asked my brother Matt Pruitt, who is a member of the punk rock band The Have Nots, to help me assess it. Perhaps it wouldn’t meet my standards, but what about the standards of a touring, hard drinking, hard partying punk who can’t afford to spend $60 (or $30) on a nice bottle of tequila. At 5 shots for $5, maybe it would suffice.

You can see us tasting it for the first time (and our honest reactions) in this video:

We popped the top and I pour the fizzy beverage into my brandy sifter. The color, of a light golden beer, or “piss” as Matt said, was not exactly pleasing. Also, it was very cloudy due to the fizz.

It had a raw agave, mineral nose. The taste was astringent, alcohol, and not much else since we served it ice cold, as recommended on the side of the can.

The verdict: a definite thumbs down from me, a “well, maybe, if I was really desperate,” from Matt, who will drink just about anything.

So, punks, there you have it. If you ever find yourself touring Mexico and need a cheap, easy, tinny tequila option, La Gavilana may be for you. Or not.

-Scarlet

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

The other day we visited David Yan, Marketing Director for Casa Noble tequila in Mexico, at his house in Guadalajara. Part of David’s job is to bring guests to the Casa Noble distillery, conduct tastings and delve into the fine points of how to really taste and enjoy tequila. When it comes to tequila tastings, David really knows his stuff.

During our visit, David showed us how to warm up our mouths for tastings. Yes! You need to warm up so don’t sprain anything. Okay, it’s actually to activate your taste sensors. (See the video on how to warm up your mouth.)

Once we were done with the warm up, he tapped into his collection of treasure bottles and let us sample a 11-12 year old Casa Noble Crystal, second release. This is Casa Noble blanco from another era entirely, and given how much I enjoy their current blanco I couldn’t wait to try it.

The beautiful, iridescent bottle of Crystal did not disappoint. Upon smell, it had fresh agave, herbal and citrus aromas and not a lot of alcohol. Once we dove in, the taste was a bit sweeter than I expected, but balanced and completely pleasant, with a slight tingle at the back.

During our tasting, David pointed out what to look for as you smell the aromas of a tequila, and where you can find certain aromas in the glass. For example, when you smell with your nose at the bottom of the glass, you usually find agave and alcohol aromas. In the middle of the glass is where you’ll get more herbals and citrus. At the top of the glass you’ll be able to detect secondary aromas produced during the distillation process, such as florals and chemicals.

Of course, you don’t need a treasure bottle to start practicing your tasting skills, so grab a bottle of tequila, warm up your mouth and conduct a formal at-home tequila tasting. You might discover something entirely new!

-Scarlet

Even if you are a regular tequila drinker, the first sip can sometimes be a shock to your mouth. It might bite and tingle a bit, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to detect the subtle flavors. It might take several sips before you start to really taste the tequila.

This is because you haven’t warmed up your mouth. That’s right — to do a proper tasting of tequilas you need to first activate your taste buds, palate and other taste sensors to get them accustomed to the unique flavors and sensations that tequila brings.

Sound crazy? I might have thought so a while back, but since I started working on being a better taster I’ve discovered that exercises like warming up your mouth really do matter. Fortunately, our friend David Yan, Marketing Director for Casa Noble Tequila in Mexico, knows how to conduct a tequila tasting the right way, and took me step-by-step through the process of warming up my mouth.

If you are doing this at home, grab some tequila and pour a small shot, preferably of a blanco, because you want to familiarize your mouth with the flavor of agave as much as possible so you can better detect it during your tastings. (By the way, this is a great way to utilize the dredges of an almost empty bottle because you don’t need a full shot – just enough for a 4-5 very small sips.) Now you’re ready for the warm up!

5 Steps For Warming Up Your Mouth:

1) Close your mouth, lift your glass and let some tequila coat your lips. This will activate your lips and help connect your mouth with your brain. You should feel a slight tingling.

2) Take a little sip of tequila and run your tongue over your top and bottle gums to stimulate them and clean your mouth.

3) Take another little sip and let the tequila just sit on your tongue, for 5-6 seconds. Then tilt your head back and let it roll down your throat without swallowing. Feel your throat come alive.

4) Next, take a little sip and let the tequila sit under your tongue for a few seconds, activating your sublingual region. Open your mouth a bit and inhale air directly onto that puddle of tequila under your tongue (this is the trickiest part!). You should taste a cloud of flavor beneath and on the sides of your tongue.

5) Finally, take a sip and rub the tequila gently against your upper palate and swallow.

Congratulations! Your mouth is now completely coated with the sweet elixir of tequila and you are warmed up and ready to taste!

Of course, being a tequila hardcore, David also brought out some great tasting tools during our visit. He had cooked agave (the most delicious thing in the world, in my opinion) and agave syrup from the Casa Noble ovens to really fire up our taste buds with that true agave flavor. He also had a great palate neutralizer to eat between tequila tastings—mild Wisconsin cheddar cheese cubes paired with high-quality quince paste, which you can usually find in upscale specialty food stores in the U.S. (Other traditional palate cleansers like lime, salt and crackers tend to hang around in your mouth, affecting the flavors of your next drink.)

I know cooked agave and true agave syrup is a luxury, unless you are in the tequila region of Mexico, but even if you have normal U.S. agave nectar you might be able to get a little closer to that agave taste.

Give the warm up and palate neutralizers a try during your next tasting and let us know what you think. I have a feeling you might be pleasantly surprised.

Also see Hardcore Tequila Tasting, Part 2: The Casa Noble Treasure Bottle

-Scarlet

Tequileño Gran Reserva - our personal favorite - is a reposado aged 11 1/2 months - that's 2 weeks shy of becoming an añejo, and is one of the reasons that it's a super smooth reposado.

Tequila lovers in the U.S. should think about clearing some space on their bars this month because El Tequileño is bringing their excellent — and affordable — 100% agave line to the United States.

The brand has been a staple in the Mexican market for over 50 years, but they just recently created a line aimed for export: Platino blanco, Gran Reserva reposado and Especial 50 Aniversario añejo.

El Tequileño Platino is a well-rounded sipper with herbal and floral notes and a medium mouth-coating body sure to please many blanco lovers. (In fact, it was unanimously admired in a blind tasting in my recent tequila tasting course.)

The Gran Reserva reposado (my personal favorite) is a force to be reckoned with. Aged 11 and a half months, it is nearly an añejo and carries all the rich caramel and vanilla flavors you’d expect from a well aged tequila while still retaining the agave. Both the Platino and the Gran Reserva are viscous and linger pleasantly in the mouth. And, at $25 for the blanco and $30 for the repo, you can’t beat the price.

It’s been a while since I’ve tried the Especial 50 Aniversario, but I remember it as a smoothed out version of the Gran Reserva with a deep barrel color. It’s also a pleaser and went rather quickly at several tequila events we held. It’s priced at $40 a bottle.

We always have the Platino and Gran Reserva stocked on our bar in Mexico because they are great everyday tequilas that you don’t have to save for special occasions.

El Tequileño is also an interesting brand in that they put a lot of environmentally friendly efforts into the making of their tequila. The manufacturing process creates a large amount of waste water and they’ve come up with a way to deal with it. By taking the dry agave fibers from the process, they pump all of their wastewater into the fibers, and treat the mixture as compost. As the sun evaporates the water, the rest of the material stays with the fibers and creates excellent fertilizer. They then use those nutrient-rich pellets in their agave fields – and no production waste water is ever released into the agave landscape.

Grover recently visited their distillery, camera in-hand, and gives the lowdown on their process in our video review, filmed at the Qunita Don Jose Boutique Hotel in Tlaquepaque, Mexico:

So, if you’re looking for a tasty and affordable everyday tequila, give Tequileño a try and let us know what you think. Here’s a list of the states where the line while be available: CA, TX, NV, CO, TN, IL, GA, NC, SC, FL, MD, ID, IA, MI, WI, AL, MO, PA, and HI.

-Scarlet

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

The other day our good friend Mark Alberto Holt, creator of the SFT Tequila Bar in Sayulita, Mexico, stopped by with a very special gift. He had managed to obtain a rare and much-coveted bottle of El Tesoro de Don Felipe 70th Anniversario extra añejo. This baby is aged 7 years in American white oak bourbon barrels and only 2007 cases were made. The Camarena family released it in 2007 to celebrate 70 years of tequila making.

After hearing Mark talk about the special properties of this tequila—including the fact that it contains juice from especially sweet agave that survived a freeze—we just had to try it.

This tequila has a pleasant nose of sweet agave, vanilla and cherry with a distinct note of molasses. Once it hits the mouth it is soft and smooth with hints of cherry, and honey. The agave “bite” at the back is extremely subtle, making this a great choice for drinkers who prefer rich, subtle flavors over more traditional tequila qualities.

In short, this is a must have extra añejo, if you can find it. Thanks, Mark!

-Scarlet