At Benefit v.15, Win Back Your Weekend with an art-all-weekend party that includes Young Professionals Night on Friday, February 6, the VIP Preview and Main Event on Saturday, February 7, and an art pickup party on Sunday, February 8. Soften your palette for the party in-triplicate with rum tastings by La Colombe, whiskey tastings by WhistlePig Rye, gin tastings by Rowhouse Spirits, and more.
We spoke with Miguel Huerta, of VIP Preview beverage sponsor Siembra Spirits Project, to learn more about the art of tequila, and how Benefit v.15 can act as your introduction to stocking your home bar like a connoisseur.
Can you give me a rundown of what the Siembra Spirits Project is?
My name is Miguel Huerta, and I do Sales and Marketing for Siembra Spirits, which is the new umbrella brand under which we’re releasing agave spirits. David Suro, the owner of this beautiful [Tequila’s Restaurant], and the owner of Siembra Azul Tequila, started with a blanco tequila in 2005. And so here we are ten years later, he has created another expression called Siembra Valles, which is tequila from the other region of Jalisco. He has been a big advocate for quality and transparency in the tequila industry, and really wants to celebrate the rich diversity within that. That first step is to show what a different region tastes like, and how the flavor profiles are different, the traditions are different, and the history is different. In March he’s going to be releasing Siembra Metl, and that is going to be a line of Mezcals and other agave distilled spirits from other regions of Mexico. Tequila is like champagne or scotch – it’s from a place – that’s called the denomination of origin – and so tequila is made in the state of Jalisco. The Siembra Spirits Project is about celebrating the traditions of Mexico and giving a true representation of what tequila and mezcal is. For years when David first came to the US in the 80s, tequila was known as a really cheap, disgusting spirit that you take shots out of in college and then never want to drink again. So he’s tried to overcome that and show that this deserves as much respect and attention as fine cognacs and wine, and it’s arguably more complex because the agave plant may take a decade to mature, whereas grapes you can grow every year.
I also heard that you were into supporting small farmers.
When David finds a producer, like for the Siembra Metl project, he’s trucking through the remote mountains of Mexico and finding these people that have been making this spirit for five generations on their land, and very small-time operations, and elevating and celebrating these people. And then also as far as supporting philanthropy-wise, he established the Siembra Azul Foundation, which has helped fund Puentes de Salud, which is a health clinic here in Philly for undocumented families. And they serve about 3,000 people a year with a free health clinic. And the Siembra Azul Foundation also started something called the Tequila Interchange Project, which is a consumer advocacy group for getting American bartenders that are overseeing millions of dollars of purchases, making sure that they know who has fair business practices, who’s taking care of their workers, who is using quality practices and supporting those. And the Tequila Interchange Project is working on a health project right now to tell the story of what it’s like to be a field worker and how the industry could maybe spend less money on the giant billboards and more money on the people that are working in their fields.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses, and even consumers, to get behind initiatives like this?
Yeah, absolutely, as globalization and industrialization has changed our relationship to the food and things that we drink and the way we buy things, I think it’s very important to return to – it’s happening very quickly in the food world, you want to know where your eggs are coming from – but we found people aren’t thinking about what they’re drinking. Which is really interesting. People are going to ask if their eggs are free-range at breakfast, but the night before when you were out drinking, you’re not thinking about where that comes from. So yeah I think it’s extremely important for businesses to know what things they’re selling, where they come from, that the people are taken care of. And especially if this tequila is a multi-billion dollar industry that is all coming from a very small region, and a very delicate region with rich culture and history. So that telescoping effect makes it even more intense for the people there.
Do you have any upcoming events or tastings in the area?
David and Oscar Serrano, the manager here at Tequila’s, they often give seminars and tastings. They do one monthly here at Tequila’s Restaurant, and then other events you can stay tuned. There’s siembraazul.com and siembravalles.com. And Siembra Spirits is on Facebook and on Twitter, so any events in the area will be publicized that way. But he loves talking to people about this stuff. I don’t mind it either.
Who wouldn’t mind talking to people about tequila? Now as far as the tasting at the Benefit goes, what can guests expect from that?
We hope that some of the quests will recognize Siembra Azul and have seen it around being that this is home turf for David. We do have a lot of presence in different tequila bars, Mexican restaurants, cocktail bars in Philly so we’re going to have Siembra Azul Blanco and Siembra Valles Blanco, so you’re going to be able to try two tequilas from two different regions made with the same in-depth commitment to transparency that David has. David is very involved with the process and which plants are being selected. It’ll be an opportunity to see what he brings as representative of each region. I’m going to make a cocktail called a Basil, which is basil, natural ginger ale, and one of the blanco tequilas. It’s a simple drink, I’m not a bartender, but I’ve done it before. And I look forward to talking to everyone more about the exciting project and the things to come in 2015.
Have you ever collected art yourself?
I’m a social worker and I do help organize events for an artist collective in Philly called Get Lucid, and we throw fundraising parties for different groups, so I curate art shows myself here and there. I’m excited to be involved with InLiquid and see what you guys do.
What are you looking forward to most about being at Benefit v.15?
Overall taking in the art and interacting with the patrons – I understand they’re some of the most committed art patrons in the city and if we can introduce them to the art of tequila, that’ll be a huge success for us.