As a sommelier, mixologist, and Co-Founder of Mijenta Tequila, Juan Coronado has been in the food and beverage industry for more than thirty years. Whether serving as the founder and Creative Director for Colada Shop or embarking on a brand new venture, any brand or business that Juan graces will thrive as a direct result of his experience, passion, and community-oriented mindset. So too, as a writer, Master Distiller, and passionate student of all things Tequila, Ana Maria Romero Mena brings her experience, expertise, and admiration for Tequila to the forefront of Mijenta’s aesthetic. As two incredible individuals in the rapidly growing industry, it is no wonder that the renowned Master Distiller Ana and Industry Vet Juan have joined forces to create Mijenta Tequila’s stylish and stunning look. With her impeccable designs, Ana has captured the essence of Mijenta Tequila which is as delicious as it is respectable, as smooth as it is captivating, as versatile as it is celebratory. At a glance, consumers will notice that Mijenta Tequila is a brand for the land, for the people, and for life.
Tell us your story and hospitality background. What’s your connection?
JC: I jumped into the hospitality and service industry about 30+ years ago. I have a background in Engineering and Art. I also have an interest in the hospitality industry which led to my curiosity in cocktails, spirits, wines, and distillates. I went to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and became a sommelier. I got interested in diving into wine. I used to be part owner of a champagne bottle bar called the Bubble Lounge in San Francisco and New York. Then, I ventured out and did a Mixology craft cocktail bar. Afterward, I started working with brands through consulting. The whole deal with Brand Ambassadors was not a position that existed. Due to my knowledge, I got into a position as a Brand Master with Bacardi years later. This was a great opportunity because I took part in the production and marketing. I used my voice to design certain rums and to market to different countries. I became the Global person and figure for Bacardi while also being a part-owner of Colada shops, Serenata, and Bresca. I had three businesses in Washington D.C. In the case of Serenata, it is free for all for Latin spirits and Latin-inspired combinations. We cover every distillate from Patagonia to Spain.
I did approach Ana Maria Romero. For us, it was instant Tequila love. I could tell that she was the right person to create this beautiful, delicate, aromatic, and traditional profile through the phone. That’s the way I like to describe it.
AM: I started studying wines 30 years ago. I studied at Davis University, not as an oenologist but as a sensory evaluation. It was my passion to know about wines, and as I made visits to different parts of the world, they asked me about Tequila. There is a specific case that happened to me when I was visiting the Martell wineries. Someone asked me, “Hey, aren’t you from Jalisco? Well, let’s talk about Tequila.” I didn’t know anything, just the basics. I knew that Tequila was a liquor that came from agave. I began to study Tequila. I visited all the distilleries, and I learned that Tequila is sophisticated and complex. It does not have a unique process. It has several ways of being made. Even if it is a single plant, it behaves differently depending on the region, the climate, and the processes. I started doing Tequila sensory evaluation seminars. A client in 2007 told me, “if you like Tequila so much, why don’t you do one?” And he invited me to work in his factory. That’s when I realized that this is what I liked. I liked to understand Tequila, what happens in each process, the grinding, and each phase of the process. That was how I discovered the olfactory imprint of Tequila. I have an aromatic circle of Tequila. That is how I started working with big brands until I got to know Juan Coronado, who wanted to develop a Culinary Tequila. I said yes, and today I am a Tequila designer.
What inspired you to create Mijenta?
JC:. Behind the inspiration of Mijenta Tequila is a strong feeling for the land, for what Arandas means. We wanted to create a Tequila that brings and exposes all the biodiversities, aromas, flavors, and colors of the land of Arandas. That unique red soil that governs the whole terrain is unique because of the nutrients and the iron content it possesses. We wanted to bring everything into the production and the design of Mijenta Tequila’s profile. With an eye on sustainability, an eye on the land, and an eye on the people, we can bring it all together and bring it to life. Our motto is por la tierra, por la gente, y por la vida.
AM: All Tequilas are made from the same plant. However, when a customer asks you for something specific, and you see through their eyes, being able to satisfy that dream is fascinating in the development of the product. If they tell you,“ I want a Tequila that is Mineral, that represents the earth, that speaks of tradition,” you have to know what points you are going to focus on for that product. We implement a much longer cooking time for the agave. We select agaves only from regions close to Arandas, an Alteña region because that is the area we want to know. We know that its reddish color is due to the high concentration of iron that is present. We also know that there are other components that we are learning about to create the Añejo, which has more time in the barrel than another Tequila. We are studying whether the Ph influences that or not. Another topic that we found exciting when designing Tequila was selecting the yeast. We discovered which yeast would highlight all the characteristics of the highlands region. We did a study and chose one. From there, we went on to fermentation. The long or short fermentation process gives us the aromatic characteristics, and finally, the distillation issue. We also decided that this Tequila was not filtered so as not to remove aromatic characteristics. When you take care of all the points of a process, you do not need any fixes. This consideration was part of the philosophy requested by Juan Coronado and Mr. Dolan. Our Reposado is to express everything that we achieve in the Blanco, with very used barrels and very new European and American barrels. We want the barrels to be a framework for our drinks. Let Tequila not become wood. We want to transport people to what Tequila is when they taste it, and we succeeded.
What are Mijenta Tequilas Values? How do these values intersect with your principles and standards for yourself as well as for the industry?
AM: The first thing is that it is a real, honest Tequila. It is a Tequila that expresses the naked soul of the agave. This Tequila brings us its letters of nobility through the attributes of the land. We investigate, see, and talk with the agaveros that have good agricultural practices. For us, it is very important that they take care of the soil and land. We firmly believe that without soil there is no agave. We want to take care of it and from my point of view as a Tequila teacher, people fall in love with Tequila.
JC: For us, it is very important to have safe practices when it comes to production. We consider the agricultural methods. We deal with the jimadores. We don’t own the land, but we care so much about the practices that happen on the land. We want to make sure that the voices in our work of the jimadores are understood. We want to make sure, during our process, that the hands of our team, the production team, and Ana Maria and I, the rest, are important. We want to get the final product into the right hands. We also want those with the right hands to come to understand when they taste our product, all the care that was taken during the process. Our motto is por la tierra, por la gente, y por la vida. For the land, for the people, and for life. We take these practices seriously because they involve all the pillars of Mijenta. If we do not have a good agave, we cannot create a great production. If we do not have good production, we cannot have a good product or good Tequila at the end of the day. The land is the most important thing. The hands of the people that work the land are the most important thing. Those are the true values of our brand. The care of the land, the care of the people, and how we celebrate life is our main difference.
What contributes to a successful business partnership?
JC: We believe in doing right. At Mijenta, we believe in doing right by doing well. We want to create a good flavor profile that respects traditions, Mother Nature, and the processes that we are establishing. We always say that we are not in a rush. The product will be ready when it is ready. We cannot force Mother Nature to give us what we want. It happens when it happens, and we take that presence from Mother Nature, and then we turn it into an art. That’s what we are trying to do. It takes time, so we are very patient. Ana Maria and I, when it comes to production, ride the wave with Mother Nature. We cannot isolate the process. We are getting used to spending time and using our senses. When all distilleries smell like Mijenta, we know that we did it. It takes time.
AM: It is very important to have common points of view about the product and the management of the image. Because in the end, each taster is a taster who will say yes or no to the product, which is a high commitment. We also consider the global vision to make a high-end product and take it to international markets. We selected very successful, capable people with a good track record to carry out this task. They are capable of not only developing a Tequila. They are also, with the correct marketing, capable of making and taking it to the people. We also believe a lot in the educational part of Tequila. We believe that the commitment to lead people to learn about our history, our land, and how to enjoy Tequila is very important. We want to have a community that buys our Tequila because it is valuable and conquers the senses. That is the educational part that we want to achieve.
What do the two of you bring to Mijenta separately? What do you bring to the brand collectively?
AM: I have contributed my experience and my knowledge of the industry. I have also contributed to doing different things, but at the same time in conjunction with Juan. Juan can understand the tastes of American palates and European and Asian ones because of his background as a world Mixologist. That vision has made this process and this product very enriching. We work together by adding ideas. We talk about creative processes, etc.
JC: In my case, since I have more than 30 years in the beverage industry, I have been able to tame the knowledge of understanding. I have been moving forward when it comes to forecasting. I bring in knowledge from the wine industry. I have made wine. I have made beers. I have consulted for big brands such as King Cognac. I have worked with Gins, Vodkas, Rums. I have experience in production and the knowledge that I have in consumers, the market, and the trends. Each market reacts differently. All of this has given me the ability to be the eyes and ears of our brand Mijenta.
What have you enjoyed the most from all the processes creating a Tequila?
JC: My favorite part of my journey through Mijenta is the interaction with consumers and bar professionals. I have been doing this for years. It makes me feel like I’m in my grandma’s house with my big family. I love sharing good energies and stories among ourselves. It’s key to foster what is the need, where the trends are going, and what are the challenges that we are facing. I love the communication part of it. Sharing is caring for me. At Mijenta, of course, we have a beautiful product that we would like to spread the gospel of Mijenta. We would like to spread the values of Mijenta all around. Of course, the history and traditions of Mexico are key. We are a brand new brand. This is going to be a long journey. I enjoy it. I am going to be able to go to market and impact others. I let them know the best part about creating a good brand versus us staying still and waiting to see what happens. I am a go-getter. I am always going to be out on guard when it comes to the teaching of the Tequila and the process that we meticulously create with Ana Maria. I am going to be the guardian of it forever- that is my favorite part of it.
AM: What I have enjoyed the most is the leadership. I love that people get motivated, do the work, train the staff, share their knowledge with others, in addition to designing Tequila, which is my passion.
What have been some challenges of being a New Tequila brand next to the others with many years of history?
AM: The challenge is to have your own personality and achieve your own style. This is a differentiating characteristic from powerful brands that may be our competition. That is different. That people can say, this is a Mijenta.
JC: I echo Ana Maria. The real challenge here is not us being a new brand. The real challenge is just us creating a unique profile. We can taste thousands of Tequila, but there is always room for improvement. We have improved and taken Tequila to a different platform because we are hogging the platform of tradition and authenticity. We are also in love with the Culinary experience. We wanted to have a GM that is so smooth and delicious that people can sip it. Or, they enjoy it with ice or in a cocktail. Being able to understand the meaning of that Aranda’s perfume, as Ana Maria said before, is key for us. If there is a challenge, it would be for the other brands looking at us.
Ana Maria, how do you differ from other Master distillers? What qualities should a successful MD possess?
AM: A deep knowledge about the processes is the differentiating aspect. Know each phase from the agricultural part to the creative part. One of the things that distinguish me is the creativity of not always falling into the same thing that everyone else does. I look for different things, different opportunities. I play with different variables that can occur in the process. This approach makes a difference in a successful MT, but also the part of forming a good team.
Ana Maria, you just recently won Best Maestra Tequilera 2020 by Tequila Aficionado Magazine. What was it like to receive such recognition? Who has helped you along the way?
AM: It was unexpected. When you love your work and are passionate about it, you don’t expect recognition because you were hired to do something excellent. However, I am very grateful to Tequila Aficionado magazine for giving me that recognition. I believe that it commits me more to doing better than not keeping what I have. Having this type of recognition is a commitment because you have to inspire others.
Ana Maria, what other achievements/ opportunities have you had or hope to have in the future?
AM: I write books. My first book won 3rd place in Le Gourmand Award which is a very powerful gastronomy contest in France. I took third place globally with this book on the theme of the pairing of Tequila. I aspire to continue educating people who want to believe in Tequila, to continue promoting the culture of Mexico and its values. I also want to inspire women who believe in their dreams. Talent does not have a gender. Talent is talent. I believe that when talent is real, it opens doors and tranverses borders.
Juan, how do you want to position Mijenta in the consumer’s mind?
JC: Mijenta will find its niche in Culinary applications and opportunities such as restaurants, tastings, degustations, etc. In the case of the Blanco, it is the best partner that a cocktail may have. The cocktail will taste like Arandas, and it will have the olfactory sense and taste profile of land that is so unique and pristine. For consumers, I always tell everybody to bring their favorite Tequila and taste it next to Mijenta, and you’ll decide what is good for you. We don’t want to sound cocky because we are humble people. We took all the Tequilas that we tasted in our careers into consideration.
Juan, What is your vision for Mijenta?
JC: We wanted to deliver something that has an opportunity on a table. Mijenta Tequila is best enjoyed with friends. If my Tequila can pass the test of culinary dishes and be fine with citrus dishes, cooked stews, salads, and desserts, we’re somewhere. Everywhere two or three people have a bite to eat, there is room for Mijenta. There is room to enhance their experience.
How may we follow your journey?