Casa Dragones is changing the perception of tequila one $250,000 dinner at atime
It’s expensive and refined and nothing at all like spring break, which is why Neiman Marcus just put it in the Christmas Book as one of the luxury retailer’s fantasy gifts.
If you have $250,000 lying around — or can convince nine friends to pitch in $25,000 each — you can have a private dinner for 10 prepared by some pretty good chefs: Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse and Richard Rosendale.
But the twist here is the drink paired with the meal — tequila.
With the help of Oprah, Martha Stewart and Neiman Marcus, CEO Bertha Gonzalez has created a tequila that has helped change the way people see the spirit.
Casa Dragones tequila, to be more precise. Co-founder and CEO Bertha Gonzalez is at the forefront of legitimizing the Mexican liquor.
With the help of cultural heavyweights like Oprah (it’s her favorite tequila), Martha Stewart (she visited the distillery in San Miguel de Allende) and Neiman Marcus (seriously, $250,000), Gonzalez has created a tequila that, in its three years, has helped change the way people see — and drink— the spirit.
For the Neiman Marcus fantasy gift, Gonzalez will lead a tasting of Casa Dragones before the meal, and her tequila will be paired with dishes served during dinner.
But the tequila pairing is nothing new, really. Chefs across the country, like Eric Ripert at New York’s Le Bernardin, have taken to pairing Dragones with meals. Locally, chefs Tiffany Derry and Abraham Salum have paired the tequila with surf and turf sushi roll and tuna tartare tostadas, respectively.
“We’re very proud of the reaction of the marketplace,” Gonzalez says. “It’s a combination of surprise, but we’re also very hard workers.”
It’s worth noting that Casa Dragones is not cheap. It runs about the same as a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year or Glenlivet 25, and the hand-engraved bottles come in boxes that include a booklet that explains the history of the tequila.
Naturally there’s a preferred drinking glass and style in consumption — which is to say, sip this tequila.
Casa Dragones makes Patrón look like something that Tri Delts would shoot in Panama City Beach before a mechanical bull ride.
But this isn’t a situation of all sizzle and no steak. In 2010, Gonzalez was labeled the “First Lady of Tequila” by LA Times Magazine and was the first female Maestra Tequilera by the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila. It’s somewhere along the lines of a Master Sommelier or Scotch Malt Master. It’s not something given out willy-nilly.
“[Those titles] mean that I have the opportunity and responsibility to be part of the people that are taking this industry into the future,” she says. “We believe tequila and Mexico have all the credentials to be a country and an industry that can compete in the high-end market.”
For Gonzalez, she saw an opportunity for a tequila that didn’t need limes and salt or margarita mix to be worthwhile.
“I think today the consumer wants to drink less and wants to drink better,” she says. “The consumer has more information about what they are buying than ever before.”
This is, simply, a beautiful alcohol. There’s a platinum color when light plays on the glass, and the taste is strong and smooth, with bits of vanilla, pear and lime that stay with you awhile after you sip it.
It has the flavor sophistication of a good single-malt, the classiness of a vintage wine and the adventure that tequila always brings. It makes Patrón look like something that Tri Delts would shoot in Panama City Beach before a mechanical bull ride.
But what about Oprah and Martha? Does high-end tequila have a place in the soccer-mom world?
“We don’t really try and market to men or women,” Gonzalez says. “We’re marketing the lifestyle — and whoever is attracted to it.”
Gonzalez also teaches a tequila course at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. It covers everything from the history of tequila to the production process to how to market it to the consumer. She has hopes that the class will eventually lead to a master’s program in all things tequila.
“It’s about getting the younger generations into the tequila industry in a more formal manner,” she says. “And also making sure that the people currently in the industry have a place where they can go to understand all the different areas that they are not involved in.”