Wednesday, July 24th was National Tequila Day. To celebrate the holiday in style, my guest and I attended an intimate, sit down media dinner at the Celeste Cocktail Lounge (111 West Hubbard Street) in Chicago’s trendy River North neighborhood. The dinner was in honor of National Tequila Day, as well celebrating the Tres Agaves tequila brand’s successful year of growth and expansion.
The dinner, along with customized Tres Agaves pairings, was also to celebrate the appointment of a new fifth-generation Master Distiller, Iliana Partida, who is the very first female to lead the Tres Agaves brand tequila production, the brand’s shift to producing 100% organic tequila, and the launch of the first Tres Agaves propriety distillery in the Tequila Valley in Mexico.
Along with Iliana (who flew all the way in from Mexico), we were all joined by Tres Agaves CEO and president, Barry Augus, who is located in San Francisco. It was a huge honor to meet them both, and to discuss the Tres Agaves brand and the tequila industry. After the dinner, the party continued on the gorgeous Celeste Rooftop.
Even before sitting down for the dinner, taking in the beautiful Celeste Cocktail Lounge was an eye opener. The room was filled with colorful vibrant flowers, lit candles, tequila bottles, and local art. The dining table was the stunning center piece, decorated with even more breathtaking colorful, floral arrangements.
As we sat down at the table, Iliana and Barry introduced themselves, and gave a brief introduction to the Tres Agaves brand and the history of the company itself. I had heard of the brand before, but had never sampled the tequila or knew much about its fascinating origins. I was curious to learn more:
What are the origins of Tres Agaves? How did you get the business started and how did you come up with the name?
I started my career in public accounting, and one of my rock n’ roll clients started Cabo Wabo Tequila. Ultimately, he was recruited to be President of the company, and I have been in love with the Tequila business since then. In the early 2000’s, I was one of the founders of Tres Agaves Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Lounge in San Francisco. We became the number one Tequila bar in the United States. Our margarita recipe was such a vast improvement over what was on the market that it inspired us to not only make our own Tequila but also a line of healthier, organic mixer products.
The origin of the name is a funny story. During a festive distillery visit in Tequila, our rumored-to-be-tipsy co-founder spied a burro pulling a cart with three agave plants on it. He turned to his friend and said: “Hey look, Tres Agaves!”. His friend and he looked at each other, and both agreed that would be a good name for a Tequila brand.
What are you most proud of for Tres Agaves as a tequila company and its expansion?
As a company, I am proud of how Tres Agaves honors the tradition and legacy of the Tequila community, in no small part by making a truly high-quality product. Part of honoring that tradition is transitioning to organic, so we leave the soil in the Tequila Valley in as good a state as we found it. We also focus on a single terroir – the Tequila Valley – which allows us to produce a distinct expression and flavor profile. Finally, Tequila has a rich, cultural history that I am proud to bring to the United States (through our product and our marketing), so consumers can appreciate the heritage and care that is in every drop.
What do you believe helps Tres Agaves stand out among other tequila businesses?
First, we have incredible relationships with so many local families in the Tequila Valley, and this gives us a connection and commitment to the local community that is very important to us. For example, we have a wonderful relationship with our single source agave supplier and this gives us access to really great quality organic Blue Weber agaves which of course- is key to producing great Tequila!
Another reason we feel that Tres Agaves really stands out to our consumers, is the exceptional line of organic mixers, which are derived from the original Tres Agaves restaurant recipe. Not only are they organic, but because we only use agave nectar as the sweetener, they are low calorie and gluten free. Even more importantly, because they are light and fresh tasting, they allow the flavors of the authentic tequila to shine through.
The Organic Tres Agaves Blanco I sampled at the dinner and tasting was marvelous! When will all expressions be introduced and available on Chicago liquor shelves?
The Organic Reposado will start appearing on shelves in September (and be fully available in October), and you’ll see the Anejo in the spring of 2020.
5) Congratulations on becoming the first female to lead the Tres Agaves brand’s tequila production! How has your experience been so far? What has been easy? A challenge?
Thank you! The experience has been amazing. Being at a new distillery and having the opportunity to build a “dream team” is fantastic, – and of course, is also a challenge. My philosophy, however, is that nothing great comes easily! I am always looking to challenge myself and improve on what I do. But the good part is that I love what I do, and nothing will stop me from making the best Tequila I can.
How did you become inspired and interested in entering the tequila business?
It all has to do with my family. I am a 4th generation Tequilera, and the honor in continuing the tradition of making Tequila was taught to me when I was a little girl. But my passion was truly ignited when I saw how important the Tequila industry was for local development in my hometown of Amatitán and the greater Tequila Valley. I am so proud that the product we make is becoming more recognized all over the world.
What are some special features and highlights of the launch of the first Tres Agaves proprietary distillery in the Tequila Valley in Mexico?
Location is key. The distillery holds a special place in my heart because it is built on land my family owned! It keeps the native land and beauty of the Tequila Valley at its core, with specific attention paid to preserving the surrounding area which is something that is really important to me. Not only that, but it is built in Amatitán, the birthplace of Tequila (and me). The area produces the highest quality agave in the world due to its mineral-rich volcanic soil and great weather. I wouldn’t choose agaves from any other place in the world.
In addition, we have built a distillery that both honors tradition and allows us to produce award winning Tequila at an affordable price. For instance, we have a Tahona wheel and a shredder; a horno oven and an autoclave. Having both traditional and modern production methods allows us to get the best of both worlds!
How was the decision to grow and expand Tres Agaves tequila throughout Chicago decided upon?
Chicago is a bustling vibrant city full of great restaurants (especially Mexican ones!), bars and things to do. Naturally, we decided to bring Tres Agaves to these wonderful establishments, as well as to the local Chicago consumers who enjoy our Tequila.
What are some highlights of being able to offer 100% organic tequila to your customers?
The decision to shift to 100% organic production reflects the Tres Agaves commitment to produce the most authentic taste of the Tequila Valley. We have always produced and bottled our Tequila free of pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals that may alter the true authentic agave flavors that we love so much, and it’s great to now be officially certified organic. To me, it’s the way ANY product should be produced: naturally.
The delicious three course sit down meal came with Tres Agaves tequila cocktail pairings, which went wonderfully with each culinary dish. The first cocktail was a Spicy Fresca Spritz with Tres Agaves Organic Blanco Tequila, Aperol, habanero, lime and cucumber. The habanero gave the cocktail a fantastic heat to the overall drink, while the lime and cucumber added a contrasting lightness to it. Other cocktails on the list included Tres Agaves Paloma (Tres Agaves Organic Blanco Tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime), Summer Tequila Sour, Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila, Ancho Reyes Verde, lemon, pineapple, sugar, egg white and Peychauds), and Tequila Mint Anejo Tequila (Fresno Pepper and mint, agave, guava, lime, grapefruit bitters and Tajin).
The appetizer was a southwest salad with mixed greens, black beans, corn, queso fresco, fried tortilla strips and a delicious chili lime dressing. Entrees were choices of surf and turf (skirt steak with mango habanero and herb salad, shrimp with beet salsa and roasted fingerling potatoes, and a vegetarian dish of bowtie pasta with a lemon olive oil vinaigrette, red bell peppers, and broccoli. A glorious desert consisted of empanada, nieve (sorbet) and fresh berries.
The Celeste lounge and upstairs rooftop itself are absolutely gorgeous. The venue is enclosed without a skyline view, but the festive botanical interiors make up for it with vines, tropical ferns, hanging lights, and various plants. It was the perfect spot to host the amazing Tres Agaves dinner party and evening.
Photos: Jennifer Lunz
For more information on the Tres Agaves brand, visit their website.