Patrón wants Australians to know that tequila is 'not just a shot to get p...ed on'

Patrón mixologist, Gee David. Photo: Sarah Kimmorley.

I’m not a tequila drinker. Nor are any of my friends.

In fact, I know very few people that actually enjoy the Mexican agave spirit.

This is the exact mentality that Patrón Tequila is up against as it ramps up its marketing efforts in Australia.

Business Insider recently sat down with Lee Applbaum, the ‎chief marketing officer at Patrón International, to discuss some of the challenges the brand faces Down Under, including shutting down the common misconceptions about the drink.

“There are a lot of myths around tequila,” Applbaum says. “We were joking before about everyone having a university story, a bad tequila story, and that’s not how it should be.”

For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, it originates from Mexico and is handcrafted from 100% Weber Blue Agave. It sits in the ultra-premium market, retailing for $80-$550 a bottle.

Applbaum explained Patrón’s strategy will be focused on educating the Australian consumer about the experience of drinking quality tequila.

“We have no problem giving away tequila, but it’s about finding meaningful ways to educate trade, consumers, press partners about the back story of tequila and about the difference between authentic, hand-crafted tequila and the mass tequila,” he says.

“The difference here is in the US there is an appreciation for the versatility of tequila. That it’s not just a shot that you get p…ed on, it’s not just a Margarita.”

A Patrón Manhattan, traditionally a bourbon-based cocktail. Photo: Sarah Kimmorley.

To do this Patrón plans to capitalise on the Australia’s burgeoning cocktail culture, starting with the bar tenders which it describes as the “foot soldiers to tell the stories”.

“Like I was at a great bar last night (in Sydney) and I asked for an Mojito cocktail, and I was like but can you put tequila in it instead?” Applbaum explains.

“They just looked at me like ‘What in the hell are you talking about?’

“You might have a bar tender that makes 100-200 brilliant cocktails but if they’re not experienced with tequila [it won’t work].”

Consumers love to be the first in the know, he said, so what better way to get the conversation going than in a bar between bar tenders and consumers?

To open up that dialogue, bar tenders need to be able to craft and recommend bespoke cocktails using tequila, said Applbaum.

One of the ways Patrón is doing this is with virtual reality. The company recently partnered with Oculus to develop a VR tour of the hacienda where Patrón’s tequila is made.

“As a sales tool it’s terrific for our people around the world because it’s very portable so they can take it into a liquor store, they can take it into a restaurant and use it to showcase, and help tell the story in a unique way,” said Greg Cohen, the vice president of corporate communications for Patrón.

“This is just a piece of the story telling we’re looking to do,” continued Applbaum.

Currently, Australia is Patrón’s largest international market, outside of the US and Canada.

In the year 2014 to 2015, the company’s local YOY growth was 21%.

“And we’ve only begun to tap the surface,” says Cohen.

As it continues the growth, Applbaum is conscious of maintaining the brand’s authenticity as an artisan product.

“While the Patrón brand has a lot of status globally, and a lot of swagger to the brand, it’s really important to us that consumers also understand the authenticity [of the brand]. There’s a hand-crafted story behind it,” Applbaum said.

“Australians are an intensely curious consumer. I think you put a lot of value on authenticity, much more so than a lot of other countries.

“So the fact that this [Patrón] is very hand-crafted, very natural, I think resonates very well with Australian’s appreciation for food and where it comes from.”

Patron Silver, a perfect substitute for vodka. Photo: Sarah Kimmorley.

Here are the three biggest misconceptions about tequila, according to Patrón.

It’s only consumed as a shot with lime and salt

Forget the “lick, sip, suck” action, according to Applbaum, this is not the way to enjoy quality tequila.

“The reason you need lime and salt generally is to mask the horrible flavour of very bad tequila,” he says.

He suggests instead trying Patron Patrón Tequila on the rocks.

“A little bit of lime can brighten it up in this case.”

There aren’t worms at the bottom of real tequila bottles.

“People need to let that go,” he says. “100% agave does not have a worm in it. It does not.”

In fact, the worm belongs only in a related product called Mescal, used to give flavor to the drink.

Margaritas aren’t the only cocktail you can make with tequila

“While it’s a beautiful way to consume it, it’s not the only way,” Applbaum says.

“There are many ways to reinterrupt it. Have you substituted it for rum in a mojito? Have you substituted for vodka in a Bloody Mary? Have you had it on the rocks? Something you would think would be reserved for scotch or cognac?”

And this true. While chatting with Applbaum and Cohen I sampled a tequila Manhattan — typically a bourbon-based cocktail.

Now, from someone who before this wouldn’t touch tequila, if they had offered me a second, I would have taken it!

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