Have you all become 100% agave snobs? Will the likes of a mixto tequila never touch your lips again? Well get over it, there’s a new tequila in town and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind.
Paul Hayes, co-founder of El Sueño mixto tequila, is no stranger to 100% agave tequila. He already makes one. El Sueño came about when he was looking to create an affordable, great quality tequila that he could find in his local pub! Was he successful? Hell, yeah.
He’s on the show today to teach us what makes a good mixto and why it can even be better than some 100% agaves.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- What is mixto tequila
- What bircher muesli and tequila have in common
- Why to not always trust 100% Agave on the label
- How to make the El Sueño Tommy’s Margarita
Here is the recipe!
An El Sueño twist on the classic Tommy's Margarita cocktail recipe!
- 60ml of El Sueño Gold Tequila
- 30ml fresh lime juice
- 15ml Agave syrup
- Put all of the ingredients into a shaker
- Add ice
- Shake, shake, shake
- Pour into a tumbler loaded with ice
- Garnish with a slice of lime
Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Paul. Just remember that I own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of Lush Life podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as my right of publicity. So if you want to use any of this, please email me!
This transcript is sponsored by:
Susan: Okay. I am so excited to have you here because tequila, am I even allowed to say this, is my favorite spirit.
Paul: Yeah, you can definitely say that.
Susan: Well, I don’t want to alienate any of the other spirits, because I do love them all in a certain way, but definitely tequila was my first love and it probably was, and I’m going to pronounce this wrong, mixto tequila. Is that right?
Paul: That’s right. Yes, that’s correct.
Susan: I’m one of those who was sick from it a thousand times and still loves it.
Paul: Well, that’s very impressive, because that’s most people’s experience, right? When they first started tequila and it especially seems to be the way in the UK. That was definitely my experience as well, which is how I actually got into the whole thing in the first place.
Susan: So, let me tell you. I’m so excited because you’re the first person on my How to Drink series who’s talking about tequila. So before we go into El Sueño, tell me about you and how you got here with El Sueño.
Paul: Yeah, I’ll give you the back history if you like and how we came to be and why we’re here. We’re pretty new into the whole drinks, into the whole spirits industry. We have our El Sueño, which launched actually, it really just launched at the start of the whole pandemic. That makes so great timing. Right?
We’ve been very fortunate through the entire thing and we have grown substantially, but we have another tequila brand as well, which I need to mention because it’s part of the entire story. That launched in the middle of 2019. So still relatively new brand, but the whole story actually starts for quite a long time ago.
So take it back about 16, over 16 years now, in fact, I’ve been working with agave for that entire time, but it wasn’t originally from the alcohol side or from the liquid side. It was actually from the syrup. So, back then I founded a food company. I was one of the first guys to bring Bircher muesli to the UK, which now is obviously pretty big.
But back then was completely unheard of. No one knew what it was and I never intended it to be a business. It just took off, because I’m a big snowboarder and I go to the, well normally, I go to the Alps every year and I used to make Bircher muesli for me and all my friends because it’s full of energy. It’s really healthy and good for you.
So back then 16 years ago, the on-the-go food market wasn’t like it is now. So there weren’t many options, right? There was a sandwich or a croissant, that was pretty much it, and a coffee. I used to make little tubs of this stuff and take it into the office with me every morning, have it on the way or I’d have it when I got there. Before I knew it, I was making this stuff for about 400 people every single day in the office. Then I started supplying local coffee shops, and then we got my first big contracts and it grew from that. I sold that business about six years ago, I think now.
Through the whole process, this is how I got into agave. I really care about sustainability and locally sourcing produce as much as possible. Even back then, I did, even when I was making it for myself. I would use yogurt from my local area up in Cheshire to the point where I literally knew the cows’ names, where the milk came from, to make my yogurt type of thing, all the oats were local.
I used to use locally sourced fruit as much as possible, seasonal fruit, but the one thing I wouldn’t use was refined sugar. Now that’s really obvious, right? It should have been this evil thing as it is today, but back then it wasn’t. Fat was the evil thing. Everyone said, don’t put fat it, but put sugar in to add flavor.
I was the opposite because I’ve become a bit of a fitness freak anyway. I was, no, no, no, I don’t care so much about fat and it’s not saturated. I’m not using refined sugar. I just refused to do it, but there weren’t many alternatives and it got recommended to me, why don’t you try agave syrup?
I was, “Oh, cool. Yeah.” I had no idea what it was. We didn’t know it was agave that made tequila at the time, but me being me, I wanted to know everything about it. I was very quick to learn that I wasn’t going to get it in the UK and there weren’t many suppliers in bulk. So if I was going to do this properly, I was going to have to get to Mexico and work with the guys and bring it over. So that’s what I did.
It was through that whole process that I fell in love with tequila, because let’s face it, you can’t work with the distilleries and not drink your body weight in tequila every single time you go there, But I was in this really weird scenario as well at the start.
Like most people’s experience with tequila back in the day, mine wasn’t the best, but I took it to the next level. Because it turned out that the cheapest tequilas out there, that’s literally the one thing in the world that I’m allergic to. So I just avoided all tequila. I didn’t know what the difference between quality and cheap tequila was. So I just didn’t touch it because I didn’t want to risk it.
It was literally in Mexico at a distillery. It was breakfast. It was 8:00 AM I think or something like that. What I thought was a bottle of water on the table, because you would, right, it’s in the morning. It wasn’t. I’m just doing my whole spiel. It takes a second for your brain to realize what’s going on. So I down this thing and I was like, well, that’s not water. It turned out to be a tequila and it was 100% agave tequila, really nice.
Luckily I was fine. I didn’t die obviously, but I loved it as well. I was like, Oh, wow, what is this stuff? This isn’t tequila that I’m used to. So then that started my whole curiosity and I just fell in love with it. It’s literally been my drink ever since then. So that’s how I got into it in the first place.
Susan: I just have to say, I love a hotel or wherever you were staying that has tequila around for breakfast.
Paul: I went for a meeting early doors if I was there for the whole day. We have a bunch of people at the table. They’re just, “Oh Paul, could you just give like a little talk about you and the food you make?” Because over there. Right? They had no idea what Bircher Swiss style muesli was. So I started talking about it and just poured myself a glass. I could imagine that because everyone else was like, what’s this guy doing?
Susan: You must’ve been so scared.
Paul: It’s quite a quick reaction with me. So like my throat closes a bit, but my skin botches really fast, and it didn’t happen. The other amazing thing as well, which I noticed immediately, it was really easy to drink. It was really smooth. That whole fiery pepper thing wasn’t really there, but yeah, it was fine. That started the whole love affair really.
Susan: Did you think, wait a second. I want to drink that again, or I think I’m going to drink it again and again and again.
Paul: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. Yeah. So, the other thing that I get from tequila apart from the allergy thing is, the next morning, my throat, it stays swollen. So I really feel it, I feel like I’ve got an apple stuck in my throat. That’s the best way of describing it. So I did wait until the next day I was like, Oh, but am I going to have this thing?
I didn’t, it was fine. Then it started, the curiosity thing. Right. I was like, “Oh wow.” So then I learned everything I could about the traditional side of it, what good tequila was or bad tequila was. I was in Jalisco. Right. I just started going around these amazing tequila bars and just getting them to tell me all about it and educate myself, then I drank a lot of it. That became my drink.
Susan: But when you were starting with even thinking about using agave syrup, were you fearful that you might be allergic to that, not the tequila?
Paul: It never occurred to me really. I just didn’t think like that at all. No. Because one of the things that I had to go through back in the days I worked with the food standards agency, the FSA, over here you work closely around the allergens and everything that went into our product which is quite a big deal.
We had oats which had a site that processes nuts and things like that. So we actually created a separate site from all of that. We would involve all of that and we did a lot of testing and all of that. There’s no allergens, right. I was pretty confident that it was all fine and I ate it as well.
I love agave syrup. It’s fantastic and I did use agave syrup beforehand. It just never occurred to me to use it in the product. I never had a problem with it. I never thought about it, to be honest. I never thought agave was the problem though.
Just quickly, what my actual problem is that the allergy I have isn’t just tequila, right? It’s actually underage agave sugars. That’s what they think it is, because apparently the allergy is fairly common. So it’s tequilas that made from a process that uses agave before they reached full maturity, before the sugars are fully matured. So it’s this process of using what’s called a diffuser. Anything that is potentially processed through a diffuser is under-aged, that’s why I have to be careful of, which is one of the reasons that El Sueño came to be.
Susan: All right. So you down some tequila and thought, “Oh my God, I love it so much. I’m going to create a brand.”
Paul: That’s it! Well, not quite, right. So it took a long time. That was 16 odd years ago, whenever it was. Then fast forward to about four years ago, actually, probably a bit longer now, four to five years ago. I sold the business and I started drinking tequila, but my business partner now, with the tequilas, Nav, one of the reasons we’re friends, we worked together, but also we had this mutual love for tequila.
We were literally sat in a bar and we’re talking about tequila. But they only had one of the brands behind the bar that I can’t drink because I’m allergic to it. So I was just like, “Oh, here we go again.” This tends to be the way in the UK. Yes, you can go to a good quality cocktail bar, you can get a good quality tequila bar and you’ll be able to get good quality tequila that I know I can drink.
However, that’s not where most people go, especially with me when I’m out in the countryside or whether it’s going to be local pubs and things like that. So it starts to beg the question,” ell, why is this always the case in the UK?”
Whereas you can go to the US and you get good quality tequila in the worst dive bar, right. They’re going to have good quality stuff there. We’re quite fortunate that we’re connected in the industry. So we just went out to the market and started speaking to people and say, “Look guys, why is that I can get great craft gins or whiskeys or rums over here, but not tequila?”
We kept hearing the same thing time and time again. It’s because as a category, tequila, it just doesn’t get the same support. It doesn’t have the education. So people, the consumer , just see it as that horrible shot they had as a student and that’s how it is. It’s either that or a margarita . That’s how people view it. So we were thinking if we created a tequila brand, a good quality one, and then we were based on the ground and we did that support work, the education work, would that work? Literally people bit our hands off, straight away, the bars and everyone were like, that’s exactly what the category needs. It needs our support.
We made the decision then. We were in a really fortunate place where we had a little bit of cash behind us. We can make this happen. The other major thing as well is, because of all the process we’d been through in importing agave and everything, we had a lot of the certifications, the CRT licensing, because tequila is really protected and it has very strong provenance, even more so than like champagne and things like that.
But we had a lot of that certification in place and we were in quite a unique position to make this a reality. So we went, yeah, let’s make this happen. That was it. We threw ourselves into it, but it wasn’t a quick process. It took about three years to actually develop a range.
The way it started was really interesting. We were going to go down the route of a premium, 100% agave, that’s where we’re going to go. That’s what we did. That’s what Vivir, our other brand, is and it’s fantastic. We were going through that process, probably a year into that process. We thought do you know what, this is great, but it’s not going to solve the problem of quality to keep affordable tequila in pubs and places like that around the UK. They’re not likely to stock a £30 to £50 bottle of tequila, it’s just not going to happen.
Although my local pub now do stock it, but anyway, that’s a different story. We thought we should develop some things that works really well in that affordable price bracket, but #1 it has to be really sustainable; it ticks my boxes. It has to be sustainable. Secondly, it has to be really good quality and doesn’t compromise on anything in terms of ingredients and the process.
I’m our own litmus test here. Right? If I can drink it, in my view at a time, it was going to be the first mixto that I wasn’t allergic to. We developed them over time, three years of development in total, and then we launched Vivir in the middle of 2019 and El Sueño just at the start of the whole pandemic Fortunately they’ve both grown substantially, even the off trade and El Sueño going into supermarkets and stuff like that. It’s done very, very well, but that’s how we got into it and that was our reasoning behind it all.
Susan: All right. Now we have to go back a little because, I really want to talk about mixto tequila? What exactly is mixto and why might it have made you sick and how sustainability comes into the picture here?
Paul: Sure. So there’s two, let’s say, crude categories of tequila, right? There’s 100% agave where the tequila itself is made only from the sugars from agave plant, the Weber Blue agave plant as well, specifically grown in Jalisco region. A mixto though is a tequila, has a CRT ruling, but it can be 51% agave, again Weber Blue Agave, and 49% alcohol derived from a sugar.
With that though comes quite a few things. Obviously the premium side is a 100%. Then the mixto has this name attached to it that it’s not good. It’s bad. No one should drink it, to be honest, most of the time, that’s correct. Right. Most mixto out there, I can’t physically drink and I just thought it was all wrong. What starts to become prevalent to me as I was getting more and more ingrained into the sector was this whole thing about the affordability side of it, because tequila is inherently really expensive to make.
It takes us nine years to grow our agave. That’s where a lot of that costs sits and then the production afterwards. So it’s not a cheap product to make, but there’s still going to be this demand for the affordability side of things. There’s two ways of doing that. One is you make a really bad mixto, which is where a lot of people are doing or second.
Susan: Oh, so I’m interrupting you here only because when you say make a bad mixto again, to break it down a little bit, what are they mixing it with that makes it bad, but still drinkable? What are the things that they put in it to make it bad or make it mixto?
Paul: Yeah. So firstly, is their agave choice. It’s quite young agave they use, not the best quality, which has problems if it’s gone through a diffuser process, essentially, which means they can process it much younger. That’s the side of the things that I’m allergic to. The reality is a lot of sites and processes do use that. I’ve seen agave as young as two to three years have been used and it’s just really, really bad, the quality of agave.
It also has huge implications on the sustainability of the industry and all of the farmers and humidors and all the livelihoods that revolve around that. There’s that side of it. But then also the sugar side that they use. If they are using the full 49% that they’re allowed to, it’s where that’s coming from. Quite often they’re using a really low grade, cheap, granulated sugar or corn syrup or something like that, which is just terrible. It’s really, really poor quality.
So when you combine all this stuff together, suddenly you’ve just got this awful liquid. To be honest, in my eyes, it doesn’t even taste like tequila. I know it was what most people think tequila tastes like quite often, because that’s what they had the shots with, but it’s not what’s a tequila tastes like, it’s really not.
Susan: Now when you say a two-year-old agave or young agave – if it takes nine years to grow it, are they just like literally ripping it out of the ground and diffusing it or making something out of it.
Paul: So, agaves, especially in our region, we go to the Highland side of things, it’s estate owned by our distillery. It takes nine years to grow and for the sugars to fully mature. We monitor everything, we really look after our stuff and we manage the monitor, the Brix content, which is the sugar content that starts to grow within the agave.
We look for it around about 28, which is quite high. It’s only at that stage that we want to take it and then actually use it for a number of reasons. One, the quality side of things, it’s really, really important, but two, again, the sustainability side of things. Because it says only at this stage, that actually you can then. We keep about 10% of our agave to one side as well, we don’t actually farm it, because only at this stage, that those sugars are developed far enough that they can start to produce the flower that the agave will have.
An agave only flowers once, then it dies, and it’s only at that stage that you can cultivate the seeds for future generations, Agaves will replicate themselves. They will duplicate over their life period, but very slowly, whereas when you start cultivating the seed side of stuff, actually it’s much, more sustainable for the plants themselves, but also the surrounding ecology and environment.
It’s also only at this stage that a lot of the wildlife will come and feed off it. So the bats will come in and feed off the flowers. The insects, they’ll come in. That helps not just the agave, but also the surrounding land and crops and other wildlife, which is essential for the overall ecology of the situation.
So that’s why it’s really critical to make sure that your agave is fully mature. It’s not just the quality of your tequila. It’s actually, it’s much bigger picture than that. That’s what we really, really care about, and then also on that sugar side of things as well.
For example, we don’t use a cheap granulated sugar, we don’t use a corn syrup. We use a piloncillo, which is natural. It’s a locally grown, raw, natural sugar that’s grown around the region and almost actually, it’s amazing stuff, it’s great. I mean, it’s in a lot of cooking and things over there. It almost has that hint of agave to it.
So if you distill that by itself and drink it, you almost get that hint of it, but it’s much more sustainable. It’s better quality as well. It just delivers a better product; I knew that they the other major thing from our perspective with our El Sueño in particular is the blend that we have as well.
So we still have 70% agave in our mixto, 30% piloncillo, which makes a huge, huge difference. The overall quality of the actual product, as well as the raw ingredients that go into it. The way we got there…
Susan: You’re answering all my questions by the way. Every time I think of a question you’re like, I’m on top of it. I got it. Because I was going to say, did you know immediately, “okay. we’re going to do 70/30” or how long did it did that process of tasting take?
Paul: That wasn’t a quick process at all. It took quite a while. We knew we had to make it affordable. That was one of the key reasons behind it. But also we weren’t going to compromise on that quality and the sustainability side of stuff. So also I knew it wasn’t the cheapest tequila out there by any means, but it’s definitely not the most expensive either in the category we sit in. We say we sit in the premium end of that entry level side of things.
So we worked really hard on creating a flavor, a taste profile that we really liked and was made from our own ethos in terms of the sustainability and the quality. We then also then have to think about the pricing and that’s when that mix came into being, we thought, “okay, well, where can we go?”
To be honest, we wanted to put more and more into it. But at the same time, we wanted to make sure that we still hitting that price point. The reason that was so important to us, it wasn’t just because we wanted to create a cheap tequila so we could take that market. That wasn’t the point because one of the other big problems in the industry is the cheaper 100% agave brands are hiding behind their badge. They operate and produce in very questionable means.
This is where the diffuser comes into it. So we made a bold statement and said, look, we have to get on this mixto route. I think it’s one of the only really sustainable ways of creating a good volume tequila that’s high quality and that’s affordable. If we don’t and people keep hiding behind the 100% agave badge, that’s what they keep preaching to people. You have to do this. It’s the only way to do it. Well, what they actually end up doing is they go, well, we’ve got to cut a cost somewhere.
The way to do that as is farm really young agave and produce it in much higher bulk. So they created these things called diffusers which is what allows you to process your agave from as young as two years. They don’t even cook it. We cook ours in clay ovens still, whereas they don’t. It’s like a chemical process to extract the sugar, so they can cook it a lot younger. They can actually extract way more sugar from agave as well than traditional methods will allow. All that means is they just keep on reducing their cost whilst hiding behind the 100% agave badge and destroying the industry.
So we had to say, look, we know we’re going to get bashed a little bit when we say we are bringing out a quality mixto, because of that mixto badge, but I really believe in what we’re doing. I really trust in that. We’ve got to put our money where our mouth is really and stick with it and go out there and do this.
We’ve been really fortunate that actually the tide’s turning a little bit on that as well. We’ve been surprised how easy it is to have conversations with people that are really reputable in the industry. Bars are fantastic around tequila – going, “No, you guys are doing this right. This is exactly what needs to happen.”
Susan: Did you know immediately what you wanted to mixto it with? How did you know where to start on that side? Was it from your history working with agave syrup?
Paul: Literally exactly that. I had built up a fair bit of knowledge and I don’t claim to know everything because I don’t, and I’m learning every single day. I try and speak to as many people as I can in the industry and experts on the ground over there. But we took the advice that there was available to us.
Literally, at the time was probably about 11 or 12 years of my experience in the sector, we made the decision quite early doors that we were going to use piloncillo because it’s a great quality sugar. It’s local. It carries the flavors that we wanted it to carry as well. It’s much more sustainable. It means we can grow, from an environmental point of view, in a sustainable way, but also we can help give back to the local industry. We’re keeping the money there. For example, we’re not going somewhere that’s just processing mass corn syrup or mass sugar from another country or importing and exporting. We’re not doing any of that. We’re keeping it in the local region. There was quite a number of factors in that, but the decision was quite an easy one for us.
Susan: Was it always going to be a silver tequila at first? Because you have two – you have a gold and a silver.
Paul: That’s it. Yeah. So everything stems from the silver tequila, the silver is like your raw tequila. It’s the same as Vivir, it’s called Blanco and is your blueprint, right? You have to get that right before you can do anything else. So that’s what all of our emphasis went into. Then our gold tequila is just a silver tequila, but it’s rested for up to a month, in our own bourbon casks.
That’s what brings it a slight color and a slightly sweeter, more complex, note to it, but it’s not rested for very long. That was the point, we didn’t want to, we probably will go down the route of creating a Reposado, but to call that Reposado, it has to have been rested for at least two months, but we don’t rest it for that long for it for two reasons.
Again, it was not the way we wanted to go. We wanted to keep that almost core raw tequila-ness to it, and secondly, was the customs, right? The second we start to get to that stage of things; the pricing does actually increase quite substantially and then it starts going against what we’re trying to do here for the whole sector.
Susan: Now back to the Blanco, how long did it take you till you got that? 70, 30. Perfect. And you were like, yes, this is it. This is what I want to drink.
Paul: It was generally about a year.
Susan: Oh boy. That long?
Paul: Yeah. It’s not quick. It was about the same for Vivir as it was for El Sueño and we literally went through probably about a hundred different iterations of the actual product before we got there, I’m simplifying the process a little bit as well.
I don’t claim to be a distiller at all, because I know we’ve got a great master distiller that we work really closely with, but I’m one of those guys, not a control freak, but I like to be involved as much as possible. I’m an engineer, right. That’s what I am. So I like to understand things and really get behind things.
One of the great things about distilling is this process is pretty simple, but actually there’s all these little touch points, these different variables that you can tweak and change. That’s what we did. We kept tweaking and changing things, like the temperature we distill at, the process we go through, the size of the containers, the yeast, even though the yeast we have is our own proprietary yeast that we ended up bringing in, all of these little things that end up making a different product and we kept trialing and error. We got the final product, with the mixto even slightly more complex as well, because we did have that mix then.
Susan: When you got to your hundredth, did you know it right away? Did you think, oh yeah, this is it. Or did your master distiller say, I think we’ve got it.
Paul: Yeah. Like, it’d be nice to have a story, It wasn’t quite like we knew. We knew we were close. We really liked the flavor profile, it almost got to the point where it’s like an artist with the paintings, when is that final brush stroke? I think we got to that process a little bit and we were just tweaking this and changing that for the sake of it. It was good probably 30 iterations ago. We’re just thinking should we keep doing this or did we just make a decision and let’s make this happen?
Susan: Now tell me about its name, why did you call it what you did?
Paul: El Sueño. Yeah, it’s interesting one. I do all of our branding and everything and create our overall brand names and design the bottles and all of that type of stuff. I’d already created for Vivir, the brand and the bottle. I had that vision of it literally on day one, about three years before we even came to market.
But with El Sueño, we didn’t do any of that. We had nothing. We created the liquid and the liquid was literally in clear bottles and that’s what it was. We didn’t think about the brand. Because at the time we didn’t think about bringing it to market straight away and it wasn’t until Vivir is doing so well as an upscale premium tequila in places that historically had never sold premium tequila.
So pubs and places like that, they just came to us and said, guys, you’re smashing it. You’re finally showing people how to drink this stuff properly. People are loving it in tequila and tonics, tequila and ginger ale, really simple serves. The next question was can you support the entry level, like the house pour and do the education there as well, because if you do that, then it’s a natural organic flow through. We thought, Oh yeah, actually we created something like this might be of interest to you.
We brought lots of tequila over in clear bottles and just gave it out and did loads of blind taste testing. People thought this stuff is amazing, this is awesome. When can we buy it? We said, ah, we don’t even have a brand for this. I very quickly went back and went, right. I’m going to make something here.
It’s a separate brand from Vivir. I want it to flow. I want there to be some connection and Vivir means to live. We felt that we were living the dream and that’s what we kept on saying. I thought, we should just call it the dream, El Sueño. Call it El Sueño. That makes sense. Right. So then it’s like that nice little tie in – to live the dream – over the two brands and that’s where the title came from, and then the brand flowed in from there.
To just keep it quite contemporary, but we’re still doffing our cap to the traditional Mexican side. Even though the name and the script is meant to be a bit like Mexican street art and also with the skeleton on the back. The brand organically came around the name once we had it. But yeah, that’s, that’s how we got there.
Susan: Now, when you were making this, were you thinking about specific cocktails you wanted made from it?
Paul: Yeah, definitely. Definitely because I’ve been drinking tequila for a long time and I’ve got my way of drinking it, and that’s what we always pushed. From the education point of view, if I had to drink good quality tequila and in the best way, and not just doing shots. If you want to do shots, do them! That’s absolutely fine. Right. But do shots with good stuff is what we always say!
When we started working with places, there’s all the traditional side. Obviously you have your traditional Margarita and your twists on that, or your Paloma or Diablo or whatever they may be. They’re great and El Sueño works really, really well in all of those. We wanted to show it in more simple serves as well, because that’s the other side. It was for the European market. It was for the UK. We do drink things differently over here, as they’re doing in the States where tequila is huge. Things like gin and tonic are massive over here and Rum and Ginger Ale. Tequila just lends itself so well to those types of long, simple serves as well. So that was one of our biggest wins.
Really early doors we actually went to gin and tonic events. One of the things we did with the spirit there, we said, “Guys, you’re going to drink some tequila.” They’re like, “Oh yeah, tequila party, let’s do shots.” “None of that. You’re not doing any shots you’re going to have Tequila and Tonic.” The thing is people instead of saying that they didn’t that. They were like, “Oh yeah, I like tonic. Because I drink gin and tonic. So it’s not too far away from what I’m used to, I’ll give it a go.”
They tried it and instantly, nearly 100% of the time, people are like, “Wow, why don’t we drink this like this? Why has no one told us to do this?” It was an instant win for us. Then we took that to the on-trade. That became quite a big win quite early doors there as well for us, in the short period of bars being open when we launched with El Sueño.
We did some tie-ins with some great mixer companies as well, and just did simple serves on menus, but then we also don’t presume to know everything about a bar’s customer base. For example, we’ll listen to those guys and we’ll work really closely with them. That’s one of the great things that we’ve learned, is we feel quite privileged and honored to own tequila brands. There’s not many people on the ground in the UK that can say that.
Actually when we go into bars, the bartenders and the managers are quite excited to meet us, because they don’t get to meet founders of an actual tequila brand quite often over here. So then we get to know them personally and then were “Let’s make some drinks together.” Then we’ll just like craft things and come up with really cool ideas and takes on Margaritas or spins on classics.
So classics that use other spirits like the Old Fashioneds or Espresso Martinis are amazing. Just replace the vodka with tequila. It’s awesome. Tequila just brings more substance to it, so that was a big win for us as well. But yeah, we love working with the guys in the bars and seeing what they create with it.
Susan: Oh my God. Yeah. I’ve never even thought of doing an Espresso Martini with tequila, because I love a margarita so much. It really is my favorite, one of my favorite, favorite, favorite cocktails. I will definitely have to try that. Now for the home bartenders, what do you think is the first thing they should do with it?
Paul: I honestly think, do a simple serve. It’s the best way to enjoy it, because the great thing about it as well, like I love cocktails. I make cocktails all day long and all weekend, but quite often, you’re adding quite a lot of different things to it, four or five or six different ingredients.
Most people can’t then identify the individual ingredients when they’re drinking it right there. :Oh, that’s definitely got a rum in it. It has definitely got an aged tequila or something.” So I say, when you’re first going to enjoy it, enjoy it in a way your used to like with a tonic or if ginger ale is your thing.
Keep it simple because you get to experience the taste of the tequila in that, as well. Again, something that you’re familiar with, something that when you drink it, you go, “Oh yeah, I know it’s in tonic, but, oh yeah. Wow. Okay. There’s that thing in the background. That’s what’s tequila is. I get it. I totally get it.”
Then that’s what, from my perspective, definitely excites people in those early days and then gets them really curious to try different stuff. Then the world’s your oyster, I’d go nuts, do whatever you want. Go crazy with your cocktails. I’d start with a margarita probably.
Susan: Now when you say the simple serve with tonic or ginger ale, should they garnish it with anything special?
Paul: Yeah. There’s a few ways you can do this, so if I’m just making a standard one, right, I’ll just get a wedge of lime and I’ll squeeze. I’ll put it in because lime and tequila are a match made in heaven, as far as I’m concerned, but other things as well. It’s a really versatile spirit and you can be quite open to different opportunities in that.
So grapefruit, for example, pink grapefruit goes amazingly well. So just get some big slice of that, squeeze a little bit and put that in it straight away. It tastes fantastic, and even, you can go a little bit off-piste sometimes as well, like a sprig of rosemary and things like that in a similar vein that you would do with a gin and tonic, that slightly more savory side.
Because that’s something else that tequila does bring to the table. You can make savory drinks with it, so actually it carries a sweetness to it because the agave sugars, that’s what it’s made from, but it actually has that peppery side to it as well. So it does work in the savory arena. We’ll have a Bloody Maria, right, instead of Bloody Mary. Again, replace the vodka with tequila. It’s amazing, it just transforms the entire drink.
Susan: Oh, my God, my tequila bottle, it’s going to be gone in about two seconds. Now, how about, and I know we never think about drinking tequila or tequila cocktails in the winter, have you thought about those hot toddy type of hot drinks or wintry drinks and change them to have to tequila in them?
Paul: Yeah. 100%. A hot toddy for starters, anyway, just works really well. Again, just put tequila in there. I definitely choose the gold El Sueño there. It’s slightly more complex going into it, but you’ll probably like this one, but one of my favorites that I make quite often is a warm spiced, Apple Margarita. It’s amazing. It’s so easy to make as well. It’s so easy to make.
Susan: You know, as I’ve just took the sip of the margarita, even though it’s full of lime, it does have that green apple finish that I’m tasting. Definitely.
Paul: You do, 100% you do, with El Sueño in particular our silver, on blind taste tests that we’ve done it with professionals, one of the notes they always pick out is green apples and fresh grass. That’s what they always say. So that’s where this idea came from. We get a cloudy, apple juice, locally made. Because I live in Somerset. It’s like cider country. There’s orchards everywhere, amazing apple juice. So we bought some of that. Get some cinnamon, a cinnamon stick, a little bit of lime, still put a little tweak of lime in.
If you want to, you can put agave syrup in there. I don’t tend to, but then mix it up with that and heat your apple juice beforehand, and that’s it. It’s so easy to pour into a glass. If you want to be really cheeky with it, instead of salting the rim, make your mix. So get a little bit of brown sugar, a little bit of cinnamon, and a little bit salt and wipe around the top and dip it in that. It’s amazing. Drink it through that. It’s awesome.
Susan: Oh my God. That sounds so incredible. Speaking of salt, you brought it up and I interviewed, Pritesh Mody of World of Zing, and he is a huge margarita fan, but we both hate salt on a glass. We never have it. That’s why he added Nori into his own margarita mix. But do you have any suggestions to have something other than salt on the rim?
Paul: Yeah, it depends on what drink you’re having. Right. So you can be really adventurous for this. I think it’s about putting on there what you actually enjoy. So I do like a bit of salt. I wouldn’t put it on a Tommy’s because it only just has a bit more sweetness to it. Right.
My classic margaritas that I make, I don’t put a agave syrup in them, so a little tiny bit of salt on there, but I only ever do half the glass as well, half the rim. So the whole glass isn’t coated in case I don’t want it. But if you want to be adventurous with it, you can try different things.
So if you’re doing a Blood Orange Margarita, for example and also a Mulled Margarita as well, which has some tropical fruits in it and it had pineapple in there as well. It might’ve have had a little bit of salt, I can’t remember now, but It was a cinnamon that we put around the top. But again, only half of it because cinnamon can be quite full on as well. Blood orange and cinnamon are a really nice combo. It just works really, really well, but you can be adventurous with it, whatever you like, even a little bit parsley on there. Why not?
Susan: So you’re going to the beach and you’re taking your bottle with you, what would be your favorite simple beach cocktail to make?
Paul: Oh, I go with the Paloma all day. I made mine with tonic though, as well. So mine is a 50ml serve of El Sueño silver tequila. So El Sueño silver, a tiny amount of agave syrup probably about 10ml of that. Then I tend to put a little bit of lime in as well, about 10ml or 15ml lime, and then half fresh grapefruit juice and half tonic water, straight Indian tonic water, not soda. Soda works well, but Indian Tonic brings something more to it. I love the Tequila and Tonic like T&T’s anyway, but that honestly is the most refreshing drink, as far as I’m concerned. It’s just, it’s BBQ season all over that for me.
Susan: Oh, I think I’ve now picked your brain for every single cocktail that you can ever make with tequila. So, I’m going to leave you with the last question that I always ask. If you could be anywhere drinking anything right now, where would that be?
Paul: I know exactly where I’d be. It’s a bit cheesy, but there’s this bar in Vegas.
Susan: Oh, my God. That was so surprising. That was not what I was thinking. But go ahead.
Paul: It wouldn’t normally be my answer either, but I was meant to be getting married in 2020. Like a lot of people, it got canceled, then it was meant to be the beginning of this year and it got canceled again. I was meant to go with my friends to Vegas for a party. There’s one bar called Vista Bar there, and the guys in there know so much about agave.
I love going in and having a conversation. I can chat to them for hours and they make this one margarita. It’s a blend, that’s half tequila and half mezcal they put in it. It’s just fantastic. It’s amazing. I was talking about it to all of my friends, at the end of the 2019. It’s then 2020 and it’s going to be amazing. We can’t wait to try it and then, no, it didn’t happen. So literally we’ve been talking about it for a year and a half and we just keep on waiting. So whenever people ask me that question straight away, all I can think of is that Margarita in Bar Vista in Caesar’s Palace.
Susan: Well, I can’t wait for you to get there already. Good luck getting married. It was so great to talk about everything. Thanks for so much for being on the show.
Paul: No worries. Thanks.
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