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Is Your Tequila Full of Shit?


An estimated 70 percent of all tequila contains undisclosed additives, like vanilla extract and aspartame. One couple is on a mission to change that.

Scarlet and Grover Sanschagrin have built a veritable temple to tequila at Casa Lotecito in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, the headquarters for Taste Tequila and Tequila Matchmaker. Near the entrance, a small lab and micro-distillery (where the couple make small batches of experimental tequila) give mad scientist vibes. Upstairs, a well-stocked bar promises tastes of many delicious agave spirits—some rare, others house made.

At the dining room table, a few fluted glasses and a tray of small dropper bottles are set out in advance of our arrival—each brown vial hand-labeled with the liquid contents inside: caramel coloring, vanilla extract, glycerin, tutti-frutti, aspartame, almond, chocolate, stevia, green apple.

“It’s legal and considered very normal to use additives in the tequila world, and through our research we estimate that at least 70 percent of all tequilas sold contain additives like these,” Scarlet says. “And that is conservatively low, because there are a lot of companies that don’t release that information.”

To show visitors in real time how additives influence the personality of a tequila, the Sanschagrins acquired an eclectic collection of additives from Guadalajara-based companies that also sell to big tequila brands. “We’re going to use them to recreate a few popular celebrity tequilas,” Scarlet says with an amused grin. She adds two modest pours of blanco tequila into the glasses. One will serve as the constant, Grover explains. To the other, we will add incremental drops of additives (the variables) to see how the aromas and flavors change.

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