10 May Crafthouse Cocktails: Tequila Straight From The Source–Tequila!
When Crafthouse Cocktails co-founders Charles Joly and Matt Lindner started casting about for a tequila to use in our intricately-researched the Paloma, it needed to be a spirit that exuded the essential qualities of authentic Mexican tequila.
This meant working with a distillery in Tequila, of course. And all paths led to the Orendain Lopez brothers, owners and operators of Autentica Tequileria and Tierras Tequila.
Our Paloma will be prepared with their blanco tequila, it’s flavor notes perfect for cocktail mixes. It is very pure, every bit authentic, and doesn’t come with the more robust flavors inherent in reposado and anejo tequilas, which would add woody, vanilla and caramel flavors to the cocktail.
We spoke with one of the brothers, Alfonso Orendain, and theirs is a tradition-rich story that’s intertwined around the agave plant like a sturdy vine.
The Agave: A Way Of Life
Each of the brothers works and is knowledgeable in all aspects of the business, but fill specific roles, as well. The youngest brother, Daniel, is in charge of the distillery, and you’ll find him there overseeing details most days. Alfonso and his older brother, Javier, also visit the distillery regularly, but also spend time in the administrative offices in Guadalajara. Working together, it comes natural to them.
“Our family has been in the business for many generations, our dad and uncles–my older brother, myself and my younger brothers have been surrounded by the tequila industry our entire lives,” says Alfonso. “We are all very passionate about this industry and, in 2003, we decided to do our own thing. We started our own distillery in the town of Tequila, the place where the most authentic tequila can be produced.
“We only use product from the Tequila Valley and the taste characteristics this area creates in the Tequila is very authentic. That’s why we call it Autentica Tequileria,” he continues, noting that their other brand, Tierras, is an organic-certified, kosher tequila. He calls it a “tribute to the earth of the Tequila Valley,” and we can’t say it much better than that.
“These days, with globalization, there are companies that care about quantity, not quality. We are about quality and take great care in every part of the process, which is a traditional one,” says Alfonso. “The process is authentic. There are some distilleries that produce huge volumes of tequila that’s lacking in the very authentic taste of tequila. The flavor is very neutral. With our style of production, the tequila is very rich in agave notes and you can taste and smell them when you try our tequila.
“Dad always taught us to preserve the authenticity of tequila’s history and culture, which is very linked with Mexico and Jalisco. Everything that surrounds tequila is very Mexican. My Dad loves his country and still works with us every day and he loves the town,” says Alfonso, going on to recount some of the brothers’ childhood experiences in the town of Tequila.
“My dad’s work was in Tequila and we used to go live there three months of the year instead of in Guadalajara. I remember dad taking us to the fields and teaching us about the cultivation of the agave. He owned and was in charge of the plantations and the distillery–the entire production process,” continues Alfonso. “He would tell us about the fields, the plants–it was very fun. Even though he was working, it was a vacation, playing and learning. We’d visit the distillery when I was young and I’d hope one day soon I could try it, because I couldn’t, of course.
“Also, the town of Tequila used to be a very small town and you could go all around walking and having fun with the people. Everyone would know you and watch out for you.”
From The Past & Into The Future
Both the tequila industry and market have been going through many changes over the past decade. These days, people are looking for more high-quality tequila they can savor instead of downing shots. It’s been like that for years in Mexico, says Alfonso. “People are willing to pay for authenticity and they know more about tequila than they did before. They are looking for characteristics that before they didn’t know existed and that’s why we’re very focused on high-quality tequila, because we know that’s the future of the market.
“Just like with whiskey, vodka, or cognac, people are spending more money on high-quality tequila, learning about the agave, the production process–all the things that make influence the final characteristics of the tequila,” says Alfonso. “We are very proud to work with Charles [Joly] and Crafthouse Cocktails. He has much knowledge of the traditions and customs of tequila–he’s very well educated.”
On a recent trip to Chicago, Alfonso was able to stop in at The Aviary and see Joly at work in his native element, as the head bartender at what is perhaps the foremost cocktail lounge in the country, if not the world. “He’s amazing, he’s a genius. He gave us amazing cocktails that you cannot try anywhere else,” says Alfonso.
Sounds a lot like how we think of tequila and, more specifically, the agave plant in Jalisco, especially in and around the town of Tequila. You just can’t find it anywhere else and it must be treated with respect. That’s just one more reason we’re proud to work with the Orendain Lopez brothers, using their tequila in our Paloma.