Celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a holiday to commemorate Mexican culture and heritage, is synonymous with the term, Tequila time! And if you’re looking to spend the day toasting with some of Mexico’s finest, the choices are endless, especially with an ever-increasing array of new brands on offer from your favorite celebrity, some of whom include Michael Jordan, Carlos Santana, Kendall Jenner, Rita Ora, and Nick Jonas.
The gold standard, Casamigos, was founded by George Clooney and friend entrepreneur Rande Gerber and launched in 2013. In fact, their friendship began over tequila shots when Clooney would frequent Gerber’s bar, Morgans, in New York City. Thirty years later, they took their hobby to the next level and underwent an exhaustive search and reconnaissance trips to Mexico to create a brand of tequila they could imbibe all day without the consequence of a hangover. They succeeded. A night on Casamigos, does not require aspirin and a greasy breakfast the following morning.
Clooney talked about Casamigos in 2017 during a press conference for Suburbicon in New York City. “We got lucky. We started a tequila company because Rande and I wanted tequila for our houses in Mexico. It strangely took off. We were in the right place at the right time in a lot of ways. It’s a really good product and I drink it all the time, unfortunately, but it worked out really well for us.” Indeed. Four months later, they sold the company for 1 billion dollars to Diageo (a British multinational alcohol company) placing Clooney as the highest-paid actor in 2018, according to Forbes magazine. Although they no longer run the business, they still have active roles with the brand.
Another high-quality brand comes from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who launched Teremana Tequila with his ex-wife and business partner, Dany Garcia. Made in the Jalisco Highlands, in a small town near the famous town of Tequila, Termana means spirit of the earth and is 100% agave that comes in Blanco and reposado.
During an HFPA interview in Cabo San Lucas, in 2019, while promoting Jumanji: The Next Level, Johnson said, “I’ve been working on a tequila brand for the past couple of years.
Creating the tequila brand here [in Mexico] with the country and the people who were creating it allowed me to dive deeper into the culture and appreciate it more. I love Mexico,” he says. Joking at the occupational prerequisite of tequila tasting, he said, “That’s one of the best parts, you have to find the right one and I’ve been doing that for the past 18 months. It’s been a great experience.”
Termana launched in March 2020, just in time for the COVID shutdown when many people took up a new ‘hobby’ conducting their own tequila tastings at home and began purchasing the brand. He reportedly sold 300k cases in his first year. In case that figure means nothing to you, a point of reference – Clooney’s Casamigos sold 170k cases per year.
Dos Hombres Mezcal, the brand that seldom was, has the most interesting origin story. Founded by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, aka Jesse Pinkman and Walter White, respectively, they imbibed 100 different mezcals in Oaxaca but couldn’t find ‘the one.’ Disheartened by their findings and the idea that their collaboration may never be realized, they decided to head back to the US. Upon getting ready to leave, a child approached them and insisted they follow him to an unknown spot. They agreed and soon after found themselves wading through a river, waist-deep, guided by a man with a machete (the visuals apropos of a Breaking Bad episode). On arrival to the town of San Luis Del Rio (population 526), they glimpsed two donkeys pulling large stone wheels to crush the smoked agave. Aaron Paul told Matadornetwork.com, “It was one of those Aha moments. We tested it, we looked at each other, didn’t say anything, tasted it again, and we were like, ‘Holy shit! I think we found it!”
The actors launched the brand in 2019 in collaboration with third-generation mezcalero, Gregoria Velasco Luis, from the small village in Oaxaca they stumbled upon.
Some mezcal enthusiasts regard it as tequila’s better-looking cousin. Both are made from the agave plant though Tequila is made by steaming the agave inside industrial ovens and distilled in copper pots while Mezcal is created inside earthen pits with lava rocks and distilled in clay pots. Cranston summed it up during an HFPA interview via zoom in 2020, “I tell people this: tequila is a mezcal but a mezcal is not a tequila.”
While the numbers are still out on Dos Hombres, Paul said, “In the second year on the market we became the number one selling mezcal in BevMo, but honestly, we want to be the number one mescal in the world. That’s our goal.”