MIAMI BEACH, Florida – The “first lady of tequila” is doing more than just holding her own in a male-dominated industry.
Noting that there aren’t many women in the spirits industry in general, Bertha González Nieves told Fox News Latino, “I think tequila in particular, it has a very masculine image. I think it’s also women being a little bit daunted by the idea of participating in such a male-driven industry.”
But she decided to not let that hold her back when it came to her passion.
The CEO of Casa Dragones (House of Dragons) tequila, González became the first female "Tequila Master" as certified by the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila – "the Mexican Academy of Tequila Tasters" – a distinction usually held only by men who have risen to the top of the industry.
Before co-founding Casa Dragones in 2008, González spent a decade as a top executive for José Cuervo. In 2013, Forbes magazine listed her as one of the 50 most powerful women in Mexico.
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“We have over 250 years in the tequila industry, so we are really part of the Mexican culture,” she said. “We are part of the social fabric of how we interact with each other.”
González remembers having her first sip of tequila with her grandmother when she was young. “It’s part of our culture. It’s a family drink. It’s a rite of passage in Mexico,” she said.
The family would go to her grandmother’s house every Sunday, and the tradition was to have a tequila before lunch.
Casa Dragones is a young tequila producer that creates unique styles of tequila through some of the most sustainable processes. The goal, González said, was to be constantly evolving in a category that's deeply rooted in the past.
“We had a vision of being a part of the tequila producers that are going to be pushing the conversation into the future ... while still respecting tradition.”
Casa Dragones labels
Tequila Casa Dragones Joven is a small-batch, limited production sipping tequila with notes of vanilla and spiced undertones balanced by hints of pear. Each bottle is handcrafted from lead-free crystal and engraved, signed and numbered by hand.
It is recommended to be served in a Riedel Ouverture glass, the ones used at professional tequila tastings.
It can be purchase online, while distribution in U.S. outlets is limited to select retailers and restaurants in a few states. The price is $275 a bottle.
Tequila Casa Dragones Blanco is a small-batch silver tequila for making cocktails. A fresh, herbaceous flavor “exposes the purity of our agave,” as González puts it.
González recommends serving it with a 2-inch ice cube and a squeeze of grapefruit peel. The price is $75 a bottle.
What to look for in a tequila
González says, "Evaluate the clarity, body, color, taste and finish."
Tips for women wanting to get into the spirits industry:
Fall in love with a category, like tequila or single malt, González says, “and let that passion define your point of view.”
And don’t worry about being a woman in the industry. “Being a woman is just a characteristic of who you are," she advises, "but it should not define how you participate in the industry.”
Be curious and humble, González suggests. “You’ll never know enough.”