Jose Cuervo and Patrón may be the most well-known tequilas filling shot glasses and flavoring margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, but a number of Arizona companies are trotting out premium tequilas that give those brands a run for their money.
While none of the tequilas is made in Arizona (true tequilas must come from Mexico and be made of 100 percent agave — rendering Jose Cuervo, a mix of agave and sugars, a “mixto” instead of a tequila), they are imported by local companies.
“Everything is made, bottled and cellared in Mexico, but they’re Arizonans that are bringing them in. A couple of the local owners do have more involvement, where the family actually owns the tequila farms down there and it’s a family operation on all sides,” says Jon Kampp, manager at BevMo in Tempe.
We polled Kampp and other purveyors of fine spirits to find out which Arizona-imported brands they prefer to bring home at the end of the day. Some of their picks — from un-aged silvers or “blancos,” to “reposados” (aged two months to one year) and “añejos” (aged one to three years) — follow.
Whichever you choose, says Kampp, the keys to moving up to a premium tequila are making sure the bottle reads “100 percent agave” and matching your tequila to your drinking objective. Use blancos and some lower-priced reposados for shots and cocktails; sip and savor pricier reposados and añejos like a fine whiskey or wine.
Debbie Medina and Jonathan Gach didn’t know much about the alcohol industry when they started their Queen Creek-based Jalisco International Imports. A real estate agent and accountant in their former lives, the couple now import award-winning blancos, reposados and añejos, after a reunion with Medina’s father in Mexico revealed that her family had been making tequila there for three generations. The family is still involved in Señor Rio’s operations.
John Ambrosino, spirits director for Total Wine and More in Tempe, likes their reposado best. Aged six months in French white oak barrels, “it has a real crisp and enjoyable taste,” he says, recommending it be sipped rather than mixed into drinks.
Cinco de Mayo will mark two years since Señor Rio, named after Medina’s dad, has been on the market.
Cost: $55-$90 per bottle
Where to buy: Albertson’s, BevMo, Fiesta Liquors (Mesa), Jerry’s Liquors (Tempe), Liquor Square (Chandler), Sun Devil Liquors, Sun Stop Liquors (Tempe), Tops Liquors, Total Wine & More
Recipe: To make an Inferno, combine 2 oz. Señor Rio tequila, 1/4 oz. lime juice and a few splashes Tabasco sauce. Garnish with 1 fresh habañero pepper and a lime wedge.
Information: (480) 993-6000 or senorrio.com
“Corrido is my favorite. I’m an extra añejo guy, and they have one that’s extraordinarily well priced. An extra añejo can typically cost you $170-$200 a bottle, and theirs retails around $80. It’s unbelievable because it’s very clean and very smooth,” says Kampp.
Imported by Scottsdale’s True Blue Imports, Corrido’s extra añejo is aged three years in Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey barrels, where it takes on a rich amber color and flavors of vanilla, lemongrass and oak.
Cost: $32-$75 per bottle
Where to buy: Sun Devil Liquors, Tops Liquors, Total Wine & More
Recipe: To make a Corrido Cristaliniha, muddle three lime wedges with 1/2 oz. agave nectar in a rocks glass. Fill the glass with ice and top with 1.5 oz. Corrido Blanco (Cristalino) tequila. Stir and serve.
Information: (646) 732-8915 or tequilacorrido.com
3 (“Tres”) Amigos offers blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas, plus a USDA-certified organic blanco. And, says Kampp, “the family is just awesome.”
The El Mirage-based Gonzalez clan not only imports their tequila; they own and oversee the Mexican agave farm and distillery where their tequilas are made, ensuring a family member is involved in every step of the process.
Kampp also likes their competitive pricing, which won’t break the bank.
Cost: $23.99-$34 per bottle
Where to buy: AJ’s Fine Foods, Bashas’, BevMo, Food City, Fry’s Food Stores, Sun Devil Liquors, Tops Liquors, Total Wine & More
Recipe: To make a 3 Amigos Organic Margarita, combine in a shaker full of ice the juice of 2 organic limes, 4 oz. water, 1/2 oz. organic agave nectar and 1.5 oz. 3 Amigos Blanco Tequila. Shake, pour into a glass and enjoy.
Information: (623) 536-3201 or 3amigostequila.com
Founded by three Arizona State grads (two of whom were born in Mexico), Cruz’s silver and reposado tequilas have each won honors at international spirits competitions. So has their eye-catching package design, which features blown-glass bottles and hand-polished aluminum caps and crosses, all made from 100-percent recycled materials.
“It’s a beautiful bottle, but the tequila is very popular because it’s smooth and just very good,” says Jess Richen of Tempe’s Total Wine & More.
Cost: $40 to $55 per bottle
Where to buy: Albertson’s, AJ’s Fine Foods, BevMo, Fox Tobacco & Liquor (Apache Junction), Gilbert Convenient Mart, Liquor Square (Chandler), Sun Devil Liquors, Tops Liquors, Total Wine & More, Walgreens
Recipe: To make a Cruz-cumber Margarita, muddle 2 oz. Cruz tequila, the juice of 1 lime, two cucumber wheels and 1 oz. agave nectar, then shake with ice. Strain into a glass over ice and add a splash of cold water.
Information: (602) 705-7473 or cruztequila.com
• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or email@example.com