Barrio Café–A Tequila Oasis

[In an industry of cookie-cutter airport cantinas, it was refreshing to experience a little bit of the local flavor at Barrio Café during a recent layover at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport’s Terminal 4.]

*Yawn!*

Frequent flyers are a highly sought after target market.  Just ask any company that pays top dollar to advertise in in-flight magazines.  They’ll admit that a temporarily sequestered audience with nowhere to go (but up?) is a gold mine.

But, with security protocols being what they are now, bored and isolated travelers awaiting the next leg of their trip desperately seek to pass the time at engaging airport bars/restaurants with strong food and drink selections, and even stronger wifi.

[Tweet “#BarrioCafe is Phoenix’s original comida chingona with a tequila menu to match! @chefSILVANA.”]

What struck me most about Barrio Café, however, was that it was a tequila oasis in a sea of food court cuisine.  Coupled with an informed and educated staff, and my ears perked up.

The Original Comida Chingona of Phoenix

 

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Tequila Aficionado Takes to The Open Road

On The Road Again

Lisa drives the RV.

Lisa drives the RV.

Unlike some tequilas, most of my moves have never been smooth–or without incident.

For the better part of 18 years, I lived in New Mexico.  After a year long stay in my home state of California, I moved my personal residence and headquarters to San Antonio, TX to helm the newly revamped Tequila Aficionado Media almost two years ago.  In all that time, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars in storage fees.

 

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

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Sauza–Expect Fake, er, Fresh

Originally Published May 20, 2009 by M.A. “Mike” Morales on Cocktailmatch

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Sauza–Expect Fake, er, Fresh

Sauza, tequila, mixtoSo I’m leafing through my June 2008 issue of New Mexico Beverage Analyst (based in Denver!), and I see this ad campaign for Sauza’s revamped mixto:

“Step into the refreshing and appetizing world of Sauza Gold and Blanco–a world where the Blue Agave is adored and nurtured. We gently extract the flavorful juices from the agave, and then double distill them for that smooth flavor and ultimate fresh experience you expect from Sauza Gold and Blanco. Whether it’s shots or cocktails, Sauza has your customers covered. Step into the unexpected, step into the world of Sauza Gold and Blanco, where you can always Expect Fresh.

Made with gently extracted Blue Agave for Freshness.”

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Dos Lunas Grand Reserve

Originally Published January 9, 2009 by M.A. “Mike” Morales on CocktailMatch

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Dos Lunas Grand Reserve

dos lunas grand reserveThe Aztecs were the first to cultivate maguey (agave) plants for their sweet nectar. Left to ferment naturally, it became the foamy and viscous drink called pulque.

The Spanish Conquistadors first distilled pulque into mescal wine—tequila’s ancestor–in the 16th Century. Five centuries later, neither culture ever imagined that tequila would look like this.

El Paso’s Dos Lunas brand has raised the bar in the fast growing luxury spirits market with the ultimate rendition of artisan tequila, Grand Reserve ($2500).

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How to Drink Tequila Like a Millionaire

Originally Published Jan 22, 2010 by M.A. “Mike” Morales on CocktailMatch

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How to Drink Tequila Like a Millionaire
In Today’s Economy…

Have you found yourself cutting back on extras? Dining out less and entertaining more at home? Have you eliminated frills and gotten back to basics? Many people have. Let’s face it…

2009 was a tough year, and 2010 could prove to be a steep, uphill climb.

In a September 23, 2009 entry in Wine & Spirits Daily, Nielsen, the marketing and media information company, reported that 55% of consumers were eating dinner at home more often. A total of 38% of consumers were going to a bar or nightclub less frequently.

Wine & Spirits Daily also reported in September that Zagat Survey, a hotel/restaurant guide publisher, discovered that people in Los Angeles were dining out less, with 19% of those surveyed cutting back on alcoholic drinks with their meals to save money.

In the liquor business, this situation is known as “soft on-premise” sales. A Nielsen representative concluded that “consumers are desperately seeking value, resulting in the re-prioritization of discretionary versus necessity” and a switch “from frills and luxuries to basics and value.”

In fact, global Swiss bank UBS says Generation Y consumers now believe that it’s “’not cool’ for them to spend money on expensive vodkas and other brands anymore….” Many are sticking to “tried and true” brands to get them through this economic downturn.

Consequently, in 2009 there was a huge push by spirits companies for the “off-premise” sales, which is selling the merits of their products through retail stores to consumers who consistently entertain at home.

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The Exploitation–and the Evolution–Of the Tequila Girl

Originally Published July 17, 2009 at Cocktailmatch.com

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By M.A. “Mike” Morales

The Exploitation

Recently, I was invited to a tequila tasting at a local restaurant and bar in the Albuquerque area called The Range Cafe. I know the importer of this brand and I am very fond of it, so naturally, I wanted to lend my support. When I arrived that evening with my business partner and our wives, I was horrified! I’ll tell you why momentarily, but first, let me make one thing perfectly clear:

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The Montelobos Mezcal Project

[After The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media caught up with Dr. Iván Saldaña, producer of the upstart mezcal, Montelobos, a partnership project with the makers of Milagro [link] tequila. 

A featured speaker during the conference, here’s our in-depth discussion held at the bar of the lavish Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

La Anatomia del Mezcal

Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)

Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)

In Dr. Iván Saldaña’s nifty little primer, The Anatomy Of Mezcal–which, by the way, belongs in every serious agave students’ reference library–he goes to great lengths to demystify maguey (agave) and mezcal in a concise and easy-to-understand fashion.

As an introduction into the fundamentals of mezcal, the book covers it all, from what it is to how it’s processed.  Saldaña also defines the differences of artisanal mezcals distilled in palenques and haciendas from those using industrial methods. The latter is a situation currently being hotly contested inside the Mezcal Industry as it tries to cope with its alarming expansion without repeating the mistakes made by the Tequila Industry while still in its infancy.

 

A Double PhD.

Montelobos_ABVFrom his research, Saldaña asserts that the maguey plant efficiently evolves when affected by environmental stress.  It is precisely the plant’s adaptability to extreme conditions that makes it not only a versatile prime material for tequila and mezcal production, but also gives it its unique flavors and aromas that set it apart from other spirits.

The same could be said about Iván’s versatility as a passionate scientist, researcher, environmentalist and mezcal developer who prefers to be challenged to come up with unique solutions.

Here, Dr. Saldaña elaborates on his academic background leading to his PhD.

In this segment, Iván recounts how his wine and spirits experience working for global distiller, Pernod Ricard, led to a craving to create something more intrinsically fulfilling.

My Way

Montelobos_derecho

Taking a lesson from Frank Sinatra, Iván explains what it was like to compose a mezcal like Montelobos without following any commercial guidelines.

Montelobos Explained

Iván has been quoted as insisting that “Mezcal is too often dominated by either an excessive smokiness or inopportune proportions.”  In his quest for the perfectly balanced mezcal, he concentrated on bringing forth Montelobos’ sweeter notes, along with citrus and smoke using cultivated espadin.

006The successful result garnered Montelobos a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013.

Not wanting to create a single faceted mezcal, or replicating an old family recipe, Dr. Saldaña further breaks down Montelobos’ complexities.

[Tweet “Montelobos Mezcal: double gold winner at 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition”]

The Value of Innovation

Dr. Saldaña produced his mezcal under the guidance of fifth generation Maestro Mezcalero, Don Abel López Mateos, but still believed in exploration and experimentation when designing its unique flavor profile.  Coupled with innovation, Iván contends that Montelobos is not about science, but about passion.

[Tweet “Montelobos’ unique flavor profile may puzzle some.”]

43.2 ABV

Montelobos_label

 

Iván explains how he arrived at the perfect 43.2% (86.4 proof) alcohol by volume to achieve the flavors and aromas unique to Montelobos.

 

 

Sustainability

Agave_MontelobosNot only vigilant on creating Montelobos his way, Dr. Saldaña was also concerned about its environmental footprint on Oaxaca where it is distilled.

Montelobos uses only organic, commercially grown espadin, certified so by certifying agency, Certimex.  Iván also makes sure that the wood used in roasting the espadin comes from a sustainable source.

The Universe Within the Universe

Dr. Iván Saldaña’s expedition into the anatomy of mezcal is by no means over.

He confessed to having an urge to distill other variations of Montelobos that would emphasize additional flavors and aromas often hidden in traditional mezcal flavor profiles.

For the time being, he prefers to continue to examine and discover the world within the world of mezcal.

[Tweet “Discover the world within the world of @Montelobos Mezcal”]