Something called National Tequila Day happened this past weekend, and one PR hack or another asked us to write about it promoting some brand or other. No go. However, it does give me an opportunity to bash the Lola Gaspar of the tequila world: Patrón, elixir for fools, favored by those who still think tacos come best in a combo plate. Patrón is an affront to everything good and wonderful about the drink, at least to us Mexis. Let me count the ways:
1. The taste: Don't buy the company's hype about ultra-premium this or double-distilled that: the flavor of Patrón, from its "silver" to its "Gran" is consistently that of mineral water spiked with a drop of agave nectar. I've tried enjoying it various times and can say with authority it bests only Sauza and Jose Cuervo on the tequila goodness scale--and the latter two are legalized rotgut.
2. Patrón is just another example of wily gabachos making fortunes off of Mexican culture: You have to admire the business acumen of Patrón founder John Paul DeJoria (also a co-founder of Paul Mitchell The School). He built a cult around a brand of a product that has existed in American restaurants for over a century, and something Mexicans have drank since Mexico's foundation, and made it seem new to gabacho consumers. Why couldn't a Mexican do this? Why did it take gabachos to make tequila hip? DeJoria now joins Glen Bell, James Pace, the founders of Chipotle, and William Gebhardt as Americans who made millions selling their countrymen safe imitations of the real pinche Mexican deal. Mexicans, as usual, slept under a cactus on this business opportunity.
3. Patrón spawned a wave of imitators that complicated a classification system that worked just fine before: Before Patrón began its ultra-premium lies, tequila fell under three classes--blanco, reposado, and añejo, referring to how aged each category was. It was another category, oro, that inspired too many bad tequila memories for coeds during the 1970s and 1980s.
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Then came Patrón, boasting their bottling process created an "ultra-premium" blend. Um, that was reposado, nectar of the gods. But because American companies, by default, are more trustworthy in the eyes of gabacho consumers than Mexican companies who have been at it for centuries, rivals who should know better began unveiling new lines, leading the Mexican government to create an extra añejo category in 2006. By the way, the difference between extra añejo and añejo is negligible.
4. Patrón is proof that Americans will never truly trust Mexicans on matters of taste on Mexican food: Somewhat related to #2, and definitely related to the luxe-lonchera craze of today. Simply put: American consumers didn't embrace tequila until other gabachos said it was okay to drink, just like jokes about Montezuma's Revenge reigned about Mexican food until Taco Bell spread across the land and Diana Kennedy began selling her cookbooks This trend really started with Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo brand, but Patrón's aura of "coolness" sparked the latest tequila fad. This point, however, is more an indictment of the American mind than against Patrón. Which leads us to...
One reason why Patrón is okay: DeJoria, by all accounts, is a mensch. "Success unshared is total failure," he told Forbes, and the man does give to charity while keeps his politics to a nil. At least DeJoria hasn't turned into another fast-food conservative blowhard ala Karcher, Kroc, and too many others...yet.