Eleven20 Tequila Is All About Taste
By Space Coast Daily // November 30, 2022
There are more than 1,500 tequilas on the shelf this year — many backed by celebrities like George Clooney, Kendall Jenner, and The Rock — but one brand is betting on something else: taste.
According to Alec Tesa, founder of Eleven20, his new tequila literally speaks for itself.
“Those who haven’t touched tequila in 25 years from a bad college experience are now hooked on our product,” he says, “simply because of our taste profile.”
Eleven20 began pre-selling bottles of its premium Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo tequilas, as well as boxed sets on its website in early November of 2022, and just threw a “soft launch” party at BiCE in Palm Beach.
Its Reposado tequila ages for at least six months and the Anejo for no less than one year. The company also has a “Miami Vice”-themed party planned for this coming February, where 200 guests decked out in white suits and ties will mingle in Crockett and Tubbs’ old haunts.
It’s an auspicious beginning for an unlikely brand. Tesa himself was not a liquor drinker, only occasionally having a vodka tonic with his father, he says. Then, a friend suggested a sipping tequila, and both he and his wife found themselves hooked by its smoothness and complex notes.
“The first one I tried was actually not that good,” Tesa remembers, “but then I found out that there were literally thousands of tequilas out there, and there are even entire bars dedicated to tequila.”
Suddenly, he wanted to try them all and find the perfect tequila, mirroring Patron founder John Paul Dejoria’s similar search in the 1980s — except that Tesa never found “the perfect one.” So, he decided to create it himself.
“Our inspiration was to develop not only an outstanding profile, but to flip non-tequila drinkers into tequila lovers,” Tesa recalls. “We set out with that one goal in mind.”
Although premium tequilas are made from only one ingredient — the Blue Weber Agave, a variant of the lily flower — Tesa says that developing Eleven20’s complex taste profile was challenging: “It had to be perfect.”
Once the task was completed, an even more daunting one lay ahead: building a brand in an intensely competitive marketplace without a celebrity endorsement or multimillion dollar ad campaign.
But Tesa says that this phase has gone “exceptionally well” because of the taste and because both he and his wife, Ana, love their creation.
“Gaining a following is more about a lifestyle than just putting out another tequila bottle,” Tesa says. “We knew that tequila drinkers would love Eleven20, but we also know those who don’t drink tequila would flock to our brand if they tasted it.”
From the beginning, Tesa knew that he wanted Eleven20 to represent diversity while simultaneously highlighting its purity. Unlike some popular brands, Eleven20 is 100% agave and additive-free.
The result is a drink naturally rich in agavins, saponin compounds, and antioxidants. Tesa says this translates into a drink that is gluten- and carb-free and — believe it or not — one that can aid in weight loss, reduce inflammation, and improve immune function.
Eleven20 plans to add a mezcal to its product line in early 2023. Technically, tequila is a variation of mezcal, one in which the “pina” (the heart of the agave) is steamed rather than smoked, a practice developed to get around prohibitions and taxes imposed by the Spanish occupiers of Mexico in the 18th century. Tesa says that Eleven20’s mezcal offers the best of both worlds.
“We wanted to create a mezcal that was authentic to how it’s traditionally made, but without the artificial harsh smoke flavor,” he says. “We have had people who have never tasted tequila or mezcal ever in their lives, falling in love with our mezcal at our tastings. It’s so rewarding to see people fall in love with something they never even knew existed.”
As for the age-old question, to chill or not to chill, Tesa says that he began drinking tequila at room temperature in order to experience the true taste of the agave. “That’s just me,” he says, “but sipping is always the way to go.”
As for his famous competitors, Eleven20 plans to ignore them. “Just because a celebrity endorses it doesn’t mean it tastes good, so I think those brands will drop off in the near future,” Tesa says.
“As for all of the others, we feel that we are in a position to establish our brand as the go-to tequila on taste.”
Eleven20’s premium anejo, he notes, uses 9kg per liter of agave compared to the typical 4kg per liter. This produces a fuller body, though Tesa says it’s just as important to celebrate those who harvest the plants and distill them into something special.
“Eleven20 stands for inclusion,” he says. “Everyone is valued and invited to have the same epiphany that we did. But in the end, great tequila is all about taste.”