Tres Agaves CEO Barry Augus Talks Tequila, Tennis, and Tacos
With 706 percent growth since 2002, the expansion of the high-end tequila market in the U.S. in recent years is pretty mind-blowing. One of the acclaimed tequila brands out there is Tres Agaves, produced by a fifth-generation tequila-making family in Mexico’s Valley of Tequila. Beyond its tequila, Tres Agaves produces mixers that are USDA-certified organic and sweetened exclusively by agave.
In honor of National Tequila Day, on July 24, I spoke to Tres Agaves’ president and CEO, Barry Augus.
The Daily Meal: Is there a typical day for you as the CEO of Tres Agaves?
Barry Augus: (laughs) That is a fun question with an easy answer: absolutely not! We are a small company, so each of us wears many hats — and usually many different hats in a single day. We are constantly learning how to scale our business to meet demand, and there is always something to learn about tequila and mixer production. Some days I am a taste-tester, some days I am working on our bottle designs, some days I am negotiating deals. It is all very exciting!
Did you ever work as a bartender?
I never worked behind the bar per se. However, Tres Agaves actually started as a tequila bar and restaurant in San Francisco in 2005, and we became a renowned and high-volume tequila mecca. Being part of the restaurant, I developed an incredible sense of respect for our bartenders who took such pride in their work and in perfecting their craft. Perhaps most impressive, we wouldn’t allow the use of an automatic lime squeezer, so their hands were basically soaking in fresh lime juice all day!
What makes Tres Agaves different from other brands of tequila?
Our tequila is produced by a fifth-generation tequila-making family in Tequila Valley. We use only estate-grown agaves, which is rare. Tequila — like many products — is a matter of personal taste, and there are many fine types of tequila in the world. We are incredibly proud to be considered among them. As with wine, there is a real sense of terroir with tequila, and while Tres Agaves hails from the Tequila Valley, many fine tequilas come from Los Altos, or the highlands region.
When it comes to our mixer line, our innovation sets us apart. To my knowledge, we still make the only USDA-certified organic, exclusively agave-sweetened mixer products. In fact, while we don’t have to, we use only blue Weber agave in our mixers because we think it is the best quality and tasting sweetener. Our incredibly fresh tasting and delicious lime margarita mix has only 68 calories per serving, eschewing heavy sugars or flavors that would overwhelm the flavors of the underlying tequila rather than to allow them to shine through.
Do you remember the first time you ever had tequila?
Yes, it was a long time ago! Interestingly enough, I remember it not being the most exciting experience, but that was before 100 percent agave tequila was readily available in the U.S., so we were drinking an impure “mixto” tequila — something entirely different than what we are drinking in 2017.
Are there any dishes in particular that you feel go best with Tres Agaves Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo?
These are my personal preferences, and of course others will have their own tastes, but overall: The Blanco expression is very versatile. I particularly enjoy Blanco with seafood and tomato-based flavors. Smokier foods pair well with the Reposado expression, like barbecue or carnitas. In fact, this variety is the No. 1-selling expression of tequila in Mexico. I tend to reserve my Añejo for sipping with a nice steak or as a dessert accompaniment, as it goes great with chocolate, orange, and cinnamon flavors.
Do you have any favorite spots for tequila in New York?
I grew up in Manhattan and love coming back to see how the city’s tequila culture has grown so much over the last few years. As an artisanal producer, the competition is pretty high in New York, but we have a few very special and loyal customers, which have become my favorite tequila spots.
What's coming up for your brand? Any special events? Anything related to National Tequila Day?
We have so much going on right now. Our land is located in the Valley of Tequila, the birthplace of tequila and a place of great beauty. We are so passionate about telling the story and educating enthusiasts on tequila, that we’re actually running a sweepstakes program. A couple can enter for a chance to win a trip to the actual place where it all started; they’ll visit our distillery, taste the incredible cuisine, and explore the culture. We’re accepting entries through summer and fall of this year, and anyone over 21 can apply online.
The culture of Jalisco is so vibrant and multi-faceted; Jaliscans invented tequila and mariachi — what more do you need to inspire you to come visit? The Mexican government has put tremendous energy and resources into making the Valley of Tequila a destination like Napa Valley. We are happy to be a part of promoting tourism to the region.
When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
I am obsessed with tennis; in fact, I like to say my life is all about “tennis, tequila, and tacos.” To be honest, it’s a phrase coined by the great tennis coach Brad Gilbert when describing me. He’s a fellow Nor Cal tequila-lover, whom I was lucky enough to hit with once.