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Ultra-premium tequila is winning over wealthy Americans

December 7, 2016
Produced at this vast hacienda in the highlands of Jalisco, Tequila Patrón is the ultra-premium market leader.

Produced at this hacienda in the Jalisco highlands, Tequila Patrón is the ultra-premium market leader.

Long belittled as a cheap party drink to be downed with lime and salt, tequila has fought hard to rebuild its image in recent years. At its best, it’s now recognized as a refined spirit comparable to Cognac or single-malt Scotch. High-end, limited-edition bottles sell for well over $1,000 and it has even become a trendy venture for celebrities, with the likes of George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, and P Diddy all launching their own luxury brands.

The top end of the market is where the strongest growth and biggest profits are found today. While total tequila sales increased by 106 percent across the US from 2002 to 2015, ultra-premium sales grew by a staggering 652 percent in that period, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. But with every new brand that enters this crowded market the harder it becomes to distinguish between tequilas of genuine quality and not-so-cheap imitations.

A jimador demonstrates how to cut the leaves from the agave piña at Tequila Patrón.

A jimador demonstrates how to cut the leaves from the agave piña at Tequila Patrón.

With competition intensifying, leading brands are turning to increasingly lavish, experimental creations and even high-tech collaborations in a bid to stand out.

Casa Noble, an ultra-premium brand founded in 1997 by José “Pepe” Hermosillo, just launched a limited-edition extra añejo dubbed Alta Belleza (“highest beauty”), which retails at $1,200 per bottle. Triple distilled, aged for five years in French white oak and finished off with six months in To Kalon cabernet sauvignon barrels, it is limited to just 563 bottles. A single serving at one of the few bars that stocks it will set you back up to $300.

Casa Noble is produced at La Cofradía distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco.

Casa Noble is produced at La Cofradía distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco.

“We wanted to create something special, something with character and punch,” Hermosillo tells me at the 27-acre La Cofradía estate where Casa Noble is produced in the town of Tequila. Mango seeds crunch underfoot as we walk past rows of blue agave, cacti, mango, and lime trees to the barrel room, where the inimitable guitar licks of Carlos Santana—Hermosillo’s friend and business partner, who was born here in Jalisco state—drift over the sound-system…

Click here to read this article in full at Munchies. 

The insider’s guide to visiting Guadalajara

November 21, 2016
Guadalajara is home to several spectacular cathedrals and basilicas.

Guadalajara is home to several spectacular cathedrals and churches, like the Basilica de Zapopan.

When I first came to Guadalajara in 2009, I could hardly have found myself in a more contrasting environment from the small southeast England town where I grew up. The nation’s second biggest metropolis and the home of tequila, mariachi music and charrería (Mexican rodeo), Guadalajara is the most traditional of Mexican cities.

The bright colors, rich culture and daily chaos gripped me from the outset and I ended up relocating there permanently in 2011. Having now spent over five years covering Guadalajara for local and international media outlets (Vice, The Guardian, etc.), I could no longer live without the warmth of its people, the year-round sunshine and the amazing local cuisine.

Here’s nine things you must do when you visit the city:

Las Nueve Esquinas is one of the best places in Guadalajara to eat birria.

Las Nueve Esquinas is one of the best places in Guadalajara to eat birria.

Explore the historic city center: Downtown Guadalajara has it all. Gaze in awe at the fiery murals in the Cabañas Cultural Institute; shop for souvenirs in the labyrinth-like San Juan de Dios market; eat birria, a delicious local goat stew, while being serenaded by mariachis in the Plaza de Las Nueve Esquinas; then sip a tequila at La Fuente, one of the city’s oldest cantinas.

Check out Mexico’s hipster scene: Avenida Chapultepec and the surrounding streets comprise Guadalajara’s hipster district. Lined with trendy bars, cafes, restaurants, taco stands, craft markets and open-air spaces for concerts and dance-offs, it is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. The hippest joint to end the night is Pare de Sufrir, a much loved mezcal bar where eclectic DJs and live bands have crowds dancing until the early hours.

Decorated with thousands of bones, Hueso is one of Guadalajara's top restaurants.

Decorated with thousands of bones, Hueso is one of Guadalajara’s top restaurants.

Eat in a restaurant made of bones: Guadalajara is home to many excellent but affordable restaurants but few offer as unique an experience as Hueso. With a pure white interior, an open kitchen and an ever-changing menu of gourmet dishes, Hueso feels tasteful, not macabre, despite the 10,000 bones that line its walls…

Click here to read this article in full at Inside Hook.

‘An upper-class picnic’: the Mexican elite’s curious love affair with NFL

November 17, 2016
Mexico is set to host three regular-season games over the next three years.

Mexico is set to host three regular-season NFL games over the next three years.

There will be few working-class fans inside Mexico City’s monstrous Estadio Azteca when the Oakland Raiders face the Houston Texans on Monday night. Mexicans on a minimum-wage salary would have to work for over nine days to afford the cheapest tickets, while the most expensively priced seats equate to 98 days of labour.

Renovated to meet the NFL’s needs, Mexico’s most famous stadium has had its capacity permanently reduced from 104,000 to 87,000 to make way for more lucrative VIP suites, new locker rooms and a larger press box. Tickets sold out minutes after going on sale, illustrating the level of excitement the NFL inspires in Mexico – but also the purchasing power of those drawn to the sport.

While soccer remains Mexico’s most popular sport and the game of working people, American football has made serious inroads in recent years, particularly among the urban-dwelling upper and middle classes. It has strong college roots in Mexico and this, plus the cost of attending games, has given it an air of exclusivity that appeals to those who aspire to a first-world gringo lifestyle. While many Mexican soccer fans make do with buying counterfeit jerseys from street markets and watching games in local bars or cantinas, American football is geared towards those who buy merchandise in Walmart and watch games in American restaurant chains like Chili’s, the NFL’s official partner in Mexico.

The Mexican market’s potential has not gone unnoticed by the NFL, and Monday’s game – the first regular-season fixture held here in 11 years – is one of three tentatively planned over the next three seasons…

Click here to read this feature in full at The Guardian

End your suffering at Guadalajara’s hippest mezcal bar

November 4, 2016
Pare de Sufrir is one of Guadalajara's most popular bars.

Pare de Sufrir is one of Guadalajara’s most popular bars.

Hidden away on a quiet side street in central Guadalajara, Pare de Sufrir is a small bar with an unremarkable facade that gives no indication of its status as a haven for mezcal lovers.

Inside, though, the walls are lined with striking murals of a majestic agave plant and a hippie-style bus. Mustachioed DJs spin eclectic mixes of funk, mambo, cumbia, boogaloo, and dancehall in between live sets by rockabilly outfits and experimental sound art bands. And at the center of it all, beneath a chaotic wooden sculpture strung together with nails and fairy lights, stands a bar stocked with probably the greatest mezcal collection in western Mexico.

Named after a slogan from a Brazil-based Christian denomination, the bar’s full title “Pare de Sufrir. Tome Mezcal” is a nod to the agave-based spirit’s famed curative powers. It means “Stop Suffering. Drink Mezcal.”

Pedro Jiménez keeps his bar stocked with about 70 different mezcals at any given time.

Pedro Jiménez keeps his bar stocked with about 70 different mezcals at any given time.

While this smoky spirit’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, it took a degree of audacity for owner Pedro Jiménez to open a mezcal bar in Guadalajara, the heart of Mexico’s tequila-producing region, back in 2009. Yet Jiménez, a bearded 41-year-old filmmaker who grew up in Mexico City, tells me his primary motivation was simply to get hold of quality mezcals for himself and his friends in a city where the drink was hard to come by…

Click here to read this story in full at Munchies

Mezcal’s meteoric rise continues, but not all industry insiders are ready to toast

October 31, 2016
Julian Saenger: ‘Every batch of mezcal should taste different, even if it’s made by the same brand.’

Julian Saenger: ‘Every batch of mezcal should taste different, even if it’s made by the same brand.’

Mezcal, tequila’s stronger and smokier relative, has become a staple spirit in trendy bars across Mexico and the United States in recent years, and the agave-based drink has inevitably attracted the interest of global alcohol giants. In the process local growers are worried a unique spirit is under threat.

Traditionally produced in small batches by farmers who use artisanal methods, including earth-covered oven pits and horse-driven mills, mezcal has struck a chord with the growing sector of consumers passionate about slow food, farmers’ markets and craft drinks.

Yet small distillers and industry insiders warn that mezcal’s sudden popularity is fueling mass production that threatens to damage its reputation. Worse still the humble rural communities that produce the drink are left to deal with the resultant ecological damage while the newcomers leave with a greater share of the profits…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian. 

Vigilantes chop off the hands of six alleged criminals in western Mexico

October 18, 2016

Six of the seven victims were still alive when the police found them.

Six alleged criminals were found alive with their hands chopped off after an apparent vigilante attack in the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city, on Monday afternoon.

Authorities in the western state of Jalisco confirmed that five men men in their 30’s and a 44-year-old woman were being treated for amputations in local hospitals after they were discovered at about 6pm in Guadalajara’s Tlaquepaque district. The woman’s partner, a 39-year-old male, was found dead at the scene.

Graphic images circulating on social media showed several bloodied men with their hands hacked off at the wrists. Some had the words “I’m a rat” tattooed on their foreheads. Their severed hands were dumped in two plastic bags that lay beside them.

A handwritten banner left at the crime scene accused the victims of disrespecting women and children, breaking into people’s homes and stealing vehicles, jewelry and cell phones, among other alleged crimes. It was signed by the “Elite anti-rat group”. Thieves and petty criminals are commonly known as rats in Mexico.

A Guadalajara police officer, who asked that his name be withheld because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case, confirmed the authenticity of the images…

Click here to read this article in full at Fox News Latino. 

Mexican brands mock Trump: ‘There’s a common sense he’s our enemy’

October 18, 2016
Mexico's Ilegal Mezcal put up posters emblazoned with the slogan: ‘Donald eres un pendejo’ (Donald you’re an asshole).

Mexico’s Ilegal Mezcal put up posters emblazoned with the slogan: ‘Donald eres un pendejo’ (Donald you’re an asshole).

When a group of young Mexicans began selling “I support Donald” T-shirts to people on the streets of Los Angeles last month they drew reactions of anger and disbelief from many passersby.

The joke was on the buyers. As temperatures rose a clown nose appeared on the Republican presidential candidate and the wording on the shirts changed, crossing out “I support” and leaving “El Que Lo Lea,” which translates to “whoever reads this” but is a nod for any Mexican Spanish speaker to the popular phrase: “Whoever reads this is an asshole.”

The prank was part of a viral marketing campaign by the Mexican craft brewery Cucapá, with the sales destined to fund free beer giveaways and a big party in Mexico City.

Cucapá’s stunt was the latest in a series of advertising campaigns by Mexican businesses that have mocked and criticised the Republican candidate for his racist rhetoric.

Mario García, the Cucapá founder, said the company came up with the idea after Trump’s surprise visit to Mexico in August. Upon returning to the US, Trump triumphantly proclaimed: “Mexico will pay for the wall, 100%. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay.”

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian.