Ask any good mixologist and they’ll tell you — the key to a good cocktail is good ingredients. We wanted to tell you more about what goes into our drinks and the people who make them, so welcome to Behind the Bar.
This time we’re talking to El Rayo: discussing their love for Tequila and Mexican culture, life in the drinks industry, and of course, cocktails…
Hi guys! Firstly, what led you to create your own tequila brand?
Hola! Previously we drank Tequila like everyone else did - lime, salt, shots, sticky nightclub floors - that sort of thing. We first got introduced to quality tequila from a bottle brought back from Mexico by my brother and from that first sip a spark was lit.
However, we didn’t feel that there was a brand we could truly engage with. You had two ends of the spectrum; the cheap end that relied on getting as drunk as possible as quickly as possible, then the more premium end was aloof and exclusive and about sipping tequila in armchairs and you weren't really sure if you were allowed to do it etc. We wanted to create something that was going to invite people into the category, to be the tequila to get you drinking tequila.
That’s where Tequila & Tonic comes in. It’s been a huge focal point for the brand and a great way to get new consumers to engage with tequila in an interesting but familiar way. Slowly but surely we’re getting people’s heads round the idea that tequila can be your first drink of the night not your last!
For those who haven’t tried it, what makes El Rayo so special?
The delicious natural flavour of the agave plant. This plant grows for 8 years in the nutrient rich soil of Jalisco before it’s harvested. Instead of adding flavour/botanicals at the end of the production process (eg Gin) all the vibrant fresh flavours in El Rayo come from one single plant - they say in Mexico that tequila is flavoured by Mother Nature and we kind of agree!
How did you first get into the drinks industry and how have you found it?
As you read above, it kind of happened by accident! Neither of us came from a drinks or hospitality background. In many ways I think that’s helped us create something that’s fresh and genuinely unique compared to the rest of the category.
Drinks is a pretty amazing industry to work in, as two outsiders we have been blown away by the generosity and support we have received from so many people on our journey to getting where we are today. It’s so refreshing to work in a friendly industry.
You clearly have a love for all things Mexico – especially the art and design culture — how has this inspired your brand and product?
It runs through everything we do! El Rayo was designed to challenge traditional perceptions on tequila. Gone are the days of lime, salt and lazy stereotypes of sombreros - this identity does nothing to reflect the incredible vibrancy and depth of Mexico. The idea of the brand is to reinvent how you think about tequila by opening up the idea of a more modern, tasteful Mexican culture. A twist on a classic product, to attract a new generation of drinkers.
We worked with an artist based in Guadalajara (the capital of Jalisco where tequila comes from) called Mario Ballesteros and his team at Troro Pinto because it was important for us to have a Mexican hand on the identity of the brand. Also, we run limited edition artist collaborations each year - we even made a bespoke mural in our home from home Guadalajara!
What does a day in the life of two Tequila company founders look like?
Varied! If I’m going to the office (and bringing my dog with me) I’ll kick things off with a nice long walk - about an hour to clear the head or listen to a podcast to get me ready for the day.
We’ve just got back from a big trip to Mexico so this week has been a lot of catching up on emails and with the team, at the moment we’re signing off plans for next year which is exciting!
We’re big fans of the T&T (tequila and tonic) that you guys have been pioneering, but are there any cocktails you love to make using El Rayo?
Other than my own take on the delicious Edmunds Kumquat Margarita… I’m a big fan of the Paloma for another long, light and refreshing tequila cocktail - it’s a winner.
I also quite like twisting classic cocktails - now winter’s coming I’d highly recommend tequila negroni (just swap out the gin for yours truly)!
What’s keeping you busy at the moment? Are there any new products we can look forward to?
As I mentioned lots of exciting planning for next year!
We’ve just launched our first range of Merch which has gone down very well so I’d expect plenty more from where that came from.
Further down the line, I wouldn’t be surprised if our T&T managed to find it’s way into a can…
Adios for now!