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07.2009

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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Article By: Liza Weisstuch

If any spirit category deserves a party to celebrate how well it’s done over the past year it’s tequila. And if anybody can host that party it’s Tania Oseguera, brand ambassador for Cazadores and Corzo, Bacardi USA’s tequilas. Oseguera was recently in Boston to lead diners through a tasting paired with a four-course dinner at Boston’s Casa Romero. I first visited with her last April at the same restaurant, when the Guadalajara native made the trip north to visit and have a discussion with a roundtable of retailers and a few industry players. Speaking with Oseguera this spring on Casa Romero’s patio just before guests arrived, it became clear not only how much the tequila market has grown, but also why.

Oseguera, who supposes that she spends more time in flight than a flight attendant, spends nearly every week visiting accounts, running trainings for distributors and bar and restaurant staffs, and interacting with consumers across the country. Her presentations often involve tasting the tequilas, explaining distillation and how that of Cazadores and Corzo differ, so as to offer the Bacardi portfolio both a tequila that’s full bodied and intense (Cazadores) and one that is subtle and lies somewhere around the floral and honey end of the aroma spectrum (Corzo). She tailors the amount of technical detail she incorporates to suit the knowledge-base of the audience. Consumers at a pairing dinner, for instance, would likely be confounded if she lapsed into a monologue about the extra length of time that’s required for Corzo and Cazadores to ferment or the special strain of yeast that triggers the atypical additional step of malolactic fermentation, which ultimately reduces the final product’s acidity and boosts the silky mouthfeel.

Having served as ambassador for two years, all that travel affords her a sweeping and comprehensive perspective of the American tequila market. “People are really interested in the tequila category. They want to know all about it. They’re curious because they see so many bottles and they want to know what makes each one different – even in places you wouldn’t expect – like Boston. I came last year and I returned a year and a few months later and saw the advances. People are more and more aware of tequila. I go to places like Buffalo, Syracuse, and New Hampshire,” she said. “There’s more tequila culture in those places than I expected!”

One of the distinct shifts that Oseguera has seen – and played a role in – over the past year is an increased focus on the Corzo line. She explained that when it was first released in 2OO4, Corzo was presented as “super-premium”, which implied its price point, but the emphasis shifted to the notion of “luxury” which telegraphs a more lifestyle-oriented message, and it puts the focus on quality. “Corzo is more of a luxury,” Oseguera explained. “People are paying more and more attention to Corzo because of the Patron phenomenon.”

Oseguera has also witnessed a spike in interest in mixed drinks with tequila that go far beyond the margarita. “People are really open to tequila cocktails, especially with Corzo. And there’s a tendency for people to be open to natural ingredients,” she said. Accordingly, the “modern margarita” she demonstrates for bartenders around the country has been a success. She muddles lemons, limes and oranges and doesn’t add any juice. The citrusy mixture is sweetened with Corzo’s own brand of agave nectar, which is slated for release here soon (no date is set yet) and a premium triple sec. She also mentioned that Manny Hinojosa, a San Francisco-based brand ambassador and master mixologist for Tequila Cazadores, developed an infusion concept using Corzo. “We take thin slices of watermelon and cucumber and put it in the bottle of the Corzo Silver and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. It’s gorgeous with the red and green and there are just all these flavors. You can just enjoy it on its own in a martini glass.”

Corzo has found a niche for itself with pairing dinners, a niche that expresses the brand’s versatility, not only in cocktails, but across cultures. “The flavor of Cazadores goes really well with a fine Mexican dinner. With Corzo, blanco goes well with seafood – especially sushi. Reposado is easy to pair with beef. Because of its subtle flavors, you can pair it with all types of cuisine.”

Cazadores, Oseguera said, has long had a firm hold on the Hispanic market. It is, after all, the best selling super-premium tequila in the world. “We almost don’t need try to sell it. It has Mexican heritage that you can see on the bottle. The next stage is to open it up more to a broader market. Sometimes on the east coast you can say ‘Cazadores’ and people might not know what you’re talking about.” A major initiative that Bacardi has invested in is securing a sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest mixed martial arts organization. It has a wide fan base, in terms of both age and ethnicity, and the pay-per-view broadcasts of its events can reach up to 4O million viewers. “It’s great to see Cazadores at those events. There are all kinds of people in the audience, people from everywhere – America, Asia, Latin American countries,” she said. “Those fighters are stars to so many.” Because of that partnership, Oseguera found herself at her first UFC showdown in Las Vegas in May, where she presented fighter Forrest Griffin with the Cazadores’s Authentic Spirit Award. “It represents the values of the brand – social responsibility, good sportsmanship, giving to charity,” she said, noting that he works with the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness of and funds for the needs of injured servicemen and women. After presenting him with a plaque, Oseguera and Griffin had a face off of their own: a margarita-making contest. Oseguera was called away, since guests were arriving. Inside at the bar, she scanned the menu and nodded with approval. “Not a lot, just a little bit,” she said, instructing the bartender how to sprinkle just the right amount of cinnamon in a snifter of anejo. It’s the way she takes it and she figured that would be the way she would showcase it to that night’s guests when they were offered a pour with dessert. Plus the cinnamon would be an intuitive match with the oven-roasted apples, peach and apricot medley that the chef was preparing.

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