12th Annual Expo Tequila in Tijuana: 5 Survival Tips For We Sons of Mayahuel

The 12th Annual Expo Tequila Tijuana kicked off last night on Avenida Revolucion and runs through Sunday, October 14th, right smack in the middle of the Baja Culinary Fest and Tijuana Innovadora tourist fair. If you're planning on being in town for the Culinary Fest, the Expo Tequila is more than worth your hard earned pesos to include in the weekend's festivities. The cost for unlimited tastings from 50 distilleries showcasing around 300 brands is $80.00 MXP–at the current exchange rate that's $6.16 USD! This might be the greatest drinking event ever conceived in terms of value, not to mention that all brands can be purchased here for a premium.

There will be live music, ballet folklorico, food stands, and the Miss Expo Tequila Tijuana 2012 beauty pageant to entertain all the borrachos in attendance. I've been a regular attendee at one of Mexico's largest tequila expos since 2007, and I've seen it grow in size while simultaneously dipping in quality. When US tourists stopped coming–beginning with the 2009 Expo–the event began to cater more to Tijuanenses. That meant more cheap tequila and entertainment; It became less of a destination for tequila aficionados, but more of a Tijuana block party. But for that price, I couldn't just stay away from this shot fest, and I've gathered a few tips for making the most out this event. Here are five tips from a Expo Tequila Tijuana veteran to tilt the caballito in your favor.


1. Have a Visit With Old Friends
You've paid $6.16, there's no need to budget; have a sip of some familiar, established tequilas like Arette, Chamucos, Don Anastacio, Tapatio, El Tesoro, and Don Fulano. These will get you through the bad tequilas and even if you know these tequilas it's always good to revisit–you never know if they might have gone through some production changes that change the flavor, or quality. The recipe alterations in brands like Don Julio and Herradura as they've been taken over by large corporations have been lamented by many a tequilero. 

2. The More Curves on the Edecan, the More Curves in Production

In the US we have the booth girl, but in Mexico it's the edecan. “Edecan” is the Spanish translation of the French term, aide-de-camp, which is an assistant to a high-ranking person in a military campaign. It truly is an all-out brand war in Mexico, and beautiful girls are employed to promote everything from cement manufacturers, to cell phone companies, to beverage brands.

There is an inverse correlation between the quality of the tequila to the hotness of the edecan, and the number of edecanes. It's a classic tale of beauty (edecan), and the beast (poorly made, mass-produced tequila). If there are two or more really attractive edecanes dressed too sexy for a tasting event, then you probably should pass on this unknown bottle of horse piss. One gorgeous edecan? Perhaps a small sip just to know the house–I find just as much value knowing the crap as well as the as liquid silver and gold. If the girl is cute, but just wearing jeans and a regular shirt you're safe in trying this tequila–she might be a family member helping out, she's not a full-blown edecan. Is this science? Well, maybe not, but this has been my experience at most liquor events on both sides of the border. 

3. In Viejos We Trust

On the contrary, a booth with no edecanes and an gloomy, old man silently pouring his tequila with no pitch whatsoever will be a taste to remember. He's too proud of his spirit to smile; too incensed by the commercial spectacle surrounding him at the Expo to yield even one comment. That was the case in 2008 when I came across tequila Volcan de Mi Tierra.

Volcan de Mi Tierra is one of the finest tequilas in Mexico, and it's under $23 USD for the añejo. I've never experienced a tequila more herbaceous and complex; even a novice can get multiple flavors from its exquisite tequila blanco. After the Expo in 2008 I hit up my favorite tequila shop on Revolucion–Leyva's Liqours–and asked if he could get some. It was only available in Jalisco at the time, so he waited until Expo Tequila 2009 and bought several cases, stashing them in the liquor store–in short time, I purchased the entire haul. 


4. Pimp my Tequila
Let's face it–celebrity owned and endorsed brands suck. By now, what's left of Lupillo Rivera's Don Cardona tequila's first production is being given out at concerts for free, and the rest of his awful swill is being forced upon family members and his underpaid musicians. Don't even bother with any of these ventures.

5. The Other Agaves
If your not impressed by the tequila selections and my battle-scarred tips still haven't led you to what you're looking for, try  the other agave-based spirits at the the Expo: sotol (Chihuahua), agave azul (Sinaloa), mezcal, bacanora (Sonora), and whatever else shows up. A couple years back I took a chance on an unknown bacanora from Sonora made from the traditional Sonoran agave of the same name, and found something special. I ended up taking this home with me and still enjoy its smoky, mineral flavors. This is a unique opportunity to get to know spirits like bacanora and agave azul that aren't available in the US, and brands of sotol not found north of the border.
For those that need no such prompts, you're gonna do well here–drink, drink, drink, drink! The 12th Annual Expo Tequila Tijuana is the best way to pass the time between all the culinary events going on this weekend, and a true celebration of Mexico's top spirit: tequila. 
The Expo Tequila Tijuana 2012 continues today through Sunday from 1pm-11pm, an Avenida Revolucion between 7th and 8th street in the central tourist zone, admission is $80.00 MXP per person. www.expo-tequila.com
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