According to Lee Applbaum, Patrón’s global marketing officer, there is nothing quite like tequila in the spirits world.
“Tequila is very different, and I’m not knocking other spirits but gin is made all around the world, whisky is made all around the world, rum and vodka the same,” he says. “But tequila is such an unusual spirit because it only comes from one very specific country, but also specific states from within that country.”
And for Patron, educating the on-premise about the unique nature of tequila is a focus of the brand in the Australian market.
“We are absolutely focusing on educating the trade – bartenders, bartenders, bartenders,” says Applbaum. “When the men and women who are making the cocktails understand it, from a learning standpoint that’s great. And sometimes not just our brand, just getting them to understand the category, understand tequila.”
He believes that outside of brand-centric education, it is very important for bartenders to have a solid understanding of tequila and to build it into their personal cocktail repertoire.
“Then they can embrace it and then can confidently have some go-to drinks, some sweets, some spicy, some classics,” Applebaum says. “They can develop that repertoire and the confidence to look at a consumer across the bar and say ‘try this’.”
He also point out that having an understanding of the “aged stuff” is vital and that upping knowledge in the trade across those aspects of tequila is a focus for his team.
For Patron, the Australian market still holds a lot of potential for growth in the tequila sector and Applbaum believes that the market is still in its infancy.
“Australia is critically important to us and we’re seeing good early growth in the brand. It’s around 20 per cent year-on-year growth, but honestly that should be more than 100 per cent growth,” he says. “It’s hip and it’s cool and bartenders know how to make killer cocktails with it, then it just catches on like wildfire and you begin to get that multiple growth.”
However, Applbaum is blunt about how the brand is going to reach the kind of growth that he expects.
“We’re not going to force it onto to shelves, we’re not going to pay people to say they love it, we’re going to let it happen the right way and that is educating consumers and educating the trade,” he says.
BEYOND THE SHOT
Addressing the age old problem of consumers coming off a bad tequila experience in their youth, Applbaum says that expanding the market begins with re-educating bartenders around the potential that tequila has in cocktails.
“I’m sure we have a lot of bartenders who have never tasted an Old Fashioned that’s been made with tequila,” says Applbaum. “So step one is bartenders and I think generally that is easier because once they have embraced that, then they can have unbelievable power and authority. They can say to the consumer ‘mate, try this. Trust me’. And very really will the consumer respond to that by saying ‘no thanks’. So there is a win in it for the bartender, because they immediately become very progressive and very smart as they are going out on a limb and they are surprising and delighting the consumer.”
With the US generally considered to be the jumping off point for trends, Applbaum suggests that the education around tequila in that market is finally getting a foothold. And one of the easiest ways to do so is to simply switch a traditional spirit for tequila and surprise the customer.
“Someone will ask for a gin and tonic and I say,’ have you tried a Patrón and tonic in lieu of that?’ And they’ll say no. But it’s fantastic, it surprises and delights and shows that tequila is an incredibly versatile spirit,” he says. “It’s incredibly versatile particularly for a spirit that actually has character and has a very specific flavour profile.”
The trick he believes, is to ease drinkers into it, as with anything, but starting light with a mixed drink and then move upward into the realms of more complex flavoured straight spirits.
“I’m not going to suggest to someone trying it for the first time that they should have it neat or on the rocks because it could be a bit too much for them, but for a Scotch drinker it is different,” he says. “But if someone is more a fan of fruiter cocktails, well we can easily go that way with tequila and ease them into it as their palate evolves.”