Casamigos Tequila has a fascinating grassroots origin story that resulted in one of the most popular and profitable spirits in the world. Is this drink all it’s cracked up to be, though?
History of Tequila and What Makes it Good?
Tequila’s origins are rooted in rich Mexican and Aztec history. The way tequila is made today isn’t as far off from how it was originally created.
A Shot of History
The Aztecs produced a fermented drink from the local agave plants called pulque—they even had two gods associated with the cherished beverage. It’s possible that they had distilled alcohol as well, but nothing has been confirmed.
It wasn’t quite tequila yet, but the Spaniards would eventually help with that. They brought barrels of whiskey and brandy with them in the early 1500s. After running out of those rations of spirits, they had to make their own.
The locals had the agave, and the Spaniards had the distillery techniques. One thing led to another, and tequila was born. Obviously, the technology and methods have evolved quite a bit, but you’d be surprised at how little the core principles of distillation have changed.
Modern Vitamin T: How Tequila Is Made
Mexico has exclusive rights to the actual name “tequila,” so it can only be made in Mexico (and a certain region, at that). As far as the agave plant goes, it takes about seven years for it to reach maturity. It’s still harvested by hand today with specialized shovels.
The large, green leaves are chopped away with the shovels that are used to dig up the plant to expose nothing but the core. Before the core is transported to the distillery for processing, a small sample is tested for starch content.
The core is chopped up into more manageable pieces and thrown into a giant oven that steam-bakes for many hours. This process varies slightly depending on the brand of tequila. After baking is done, the starch will have been turned into sugar.
The core pieces are now all brown and tender and are ready for shredding. After the shredding, which is usually done by a machine, the pieces are thrown into a pit with a huge wheel, usually made of stone. The wheel constantly rolls around the pit and crushes the shredded core.
The agave nectar is squeezed out by the wheel, and this process also takes hours. The juicy mass is put into giant wooden barrels. Yeast is added for fermentation: this is how sugar is turned into alcohol.
After days of fermentation, the mash is put into copper stills, where the alcohol is boiled off. The vapor is condensed into a concentrated liquid. After repeating the distillation cycle again, the final product is made: tequila.
This process is a little different for every distillery and brand produced for different flavors and alcohol content. Usually, tequila is around 40% alcohol, and this is achieved by diluting it with water.
The only thing left to do is bottling and distribution. There are hundreds of tequila brands that are shipped worldwide, but all of the legitimate brands come from Mexico. It’s like sparkling wine: it can only be called Champagne if it comes from France.
Stumbling Into a Business
Celebrities often set the stage for new styles and products. We’ve all seen celebrity-endorsed products and services, but they’re definitely not all successful. George Clooney seems to have made it, though. The world-renowned actor also has a passion for spirits and business.
Clooney is an interesting guy, to say the least. He’s an Oscar-winning actor and now director. His first big acting break was on the show ER as a doctor, and he went on to star in more than four dozen movies. No wonder he’s considered a major heartthrob.
The examples below are some of his most popular films:
- Oceans 11
- The Perfect Storm
- Burn After Reading
In addition to his acting accolades, he is a prominent philanthropist and has supported 37 foundations and charities. George Clooney’s wife, Amal Clooney, is an accomplished human rights attorney with clients abroad.
You may remember his name making headlines during the Kony 2012 child soldier crisis. Clooney was a backer of a private satellite company called the Satellite Sentinel Project. The company’s mission was to document war crimes and human rights violations.
So, is the story of Casamigos Tequila as simple as “George Clooney started a tequila company?” Not really. Clooney became close friends with Rande Gerber, an entertainment businessman, years ago when they met in a New York bar and shared some tequila together.
They and their other friends went on golf trips around the country, and that’s how they met the third member of their trio. One day, George and Randy played on one of Michael Meldman’s courses, and a new friendship was cemented. George, Rande, and Mike became good friends. Mike went on to develop a residential neighborhood in Mexico.
George and Rande bought houses in the development right next to each other. They threw parties, had dinners, and bonded over trying new tequilas. That property they bought homes on was called Casamigos.
The group couldn’t find any tequila that suited them just right, So George came up with the idea to make their own tequila. Their vision was pure and simple: make the best tequila in the world.
The properties they were after were:
- Flavor so good that you could drink it on the rocks or straight up.
- No burning sensation when going down.
- They also wanted it to be “hangover proof.”
They never meant for their tequila to be distributed or have any kind of branding. They just wanted a custom brew all to themselves—money really wasn’t the goal. George just wanted to drink top-quality tequila.
Apparently, George and Rande met with many distillers and tasted around 700 different samples until they got the perfect recipe. George shared bottles with family and friends, and it was the only tequila he would drink.
After a couple of years of ordering thousands of bottles, the distillery told George that they would have to get a license to produce more. The three friends agreed to start a brand and met with a distributor in the States.
They called their creation Casamigos Tequila after their homes in Mexico. With Clooney’s name associated with the company, the brand quickly took off.
Is Casamigos Any Good?
Not long after Casamigos was released in 2014, it began receiving many spirits awards, including The Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition and the San Francisco Spirits Competition. By 2017, the biggest spirits company in the world, Diageo, recognized the brand’s exponential success and bought the company for $1 billion.
Today, Clooney is still involved in the company and even taste tests batches. The price of the bottles has increased significantly and is known as a top-shelf spirit. Not exactly the kind of stuff you’d use in a margarita but if you’re well off enough, go for it. Casamigos currently has four tequilas available with distinctive flavor profiles.
The Blanco is definitely the slow-sipper of the four. It has a nicely aged vanilla flavor, and you can definitely sense the agave. There is a noticeable hint of citrus for a bit of unexpected kick.
If you’re having guests over that you want to treat right to a calm and slow experience, Blanco is the bottle you’ll want to reserve for them. If they’re up for a cocktail, the Casamigos website has some enticing suggestions.
The Prickly Pear margarita accentuates the citrus notes with the added lemon juice and pear puree. It’s also a wild and fun pink color that’s a great option for a poolside gettogether.
The Respado bottle is a nice balance between sweetness and spice. This will likely be the most popular option at a party or night out. It exemplifies what good tequila should be: fun but inoffensive.
You’ll notice a sweet, caramel aroma along with an oaky and slightly fruity flavor profile. Casamigos has a pretty tasty-looking cocktail recipe called the Spicy Pineapple Cilantro Margarita.
The combination of fresh lime and pineapple juice is a refreshing and vibrant way to experience the Reposado breed. It’s sweet but still complex in a good way.
Know anyone with a sweet tooth? The Anejo is the one for them. This tequila has a rich caramel and vanilla flavor with a little bit of spice. If you’re diving into this option, Casamigos recommends an adventurous cocktail called the Pineapple Smoke.
This cocktail includes another Casamigos tequila: Mezcal. It’s a pineapple-cinnamon blend of fun, and it’s got just the right amount of spice to balance the taste out.
This tequila is clear in color but very different in flavor compared to the Blanco. It has a much more herbal flair profile with hints of a smoky aroma. There is definitely still some fruitiness in it, though. If you pay very close attention, you’ll detect a pinch of black pepper.
Casamigos recommends a simpler margarita recipe that allows the Mezcal tequila to be front and center. It’s called the Smoky Casa Margarita, and it’s silky smooth.
Have a Nightcap
Casamigos has a fascinating story behind the brand and product. George Clooney was not just a strategic celebrity endorsement; he played a key role in the creation of the company.
Casamigos Tequila is the culmination of passion and authenticity. There is a reason it’s priced so high. It’s smooth, flavorful, and largely delivers on the original goals. This tequila is a great way to celebrate an occasion with friends, impress guests, or enjoy by the fire with some fun reading.
The best part? Not only is Casamigos a solid tequila, but it’s also a lesson on how to create a good customer experience. They provide just a few products, but each of them is of the highest quality. There’s a lesson there, if you look hard enough.
Just Don’t Call It Tequila … | Los Angeles Times
George Clooney: Charity Work & Causes | Look to the Stars