With more than 100 tequila varieties on his shelves at SoKno Taco in Knoxville, Tenn., general manager Ryan Steffe has heard all the excuses people give for abstaining from Mexico’s national drink.
“(Tequila has) been around forever, but people do have misconceptions,” he says.
But how do we put our patrons at ease enough to let go of their preconceived notions and give tequila another try? Steffe offers five excellent tips that just might turn your naysayers into big fans of this festive spirit.
1. Create inventive cocktails
The last thing you want to offer guests who shudder at the word “tequila” is a taste straight from the bottle. Tequila cocktails that incorporate other flavors give a subtle, palatable introduction.
“Our cocktails are the biggest gateway to get people to really understand tequila,” says Steffe. Of SoKno Taco’s nearly 30 tequila cocktails, some of the bigger sellers are tequila riffs on well-known drinks. Think Mayan Mule or The Bushwacker, a “Wendy’s Frosty with tequila,” he says.
2. Embrace the spectrum
Whether you carry five or 50, offer a wide range in order to appeal to all tastes. If all you stock is a silver, you’re going to miss the opportunity to show your favorite bourbon-sipping regular that the oaky smoothness of añejo is right up her alley. Offer a taste of coffee tequila the next time someone asks for an after-dinner drink recommendation. Surprise your guests by showing them a variety they didn’t know existed.
3. Invest in your staff
Your employees are the ones your guests are putting their trust in. Nobody wants a lecture, but your staff should absolutely be an expert on their favorite tequilas and a few of their favorite cocktails.
“Our staff is allowed to sample everything,” Steffe reveals. “If they know what a (tequila-based) cocktail or tequila tastes like, they know how to describe it better to the customer.”
4. Be smart with pricing
Be mindful of your clientele, and order products that allow you to keep prices reasonable. It’s a lot less risky for guests to spend $8 on something new as opposed to $12.
“We make our living (at this establishment), but we pass the savings onto the customer,” Steffe explains. If they’re really wavering, treat them to your favorite. The cost of a drink is worth providing an experience that will make them loyal for life.
5. Be inventive
Offer a reposado flight one month, then a specialty tequila cocktail party the next. Host a tasting that pairs your favorites with tiny bites. Steffe throws the “SoKno Social” every month, a charity event that introduces the public to the new menu. Find fun ways to discover what makes each individual’s taste buds tickle, and you’ll have guests finally excited about tequila and coming back for more.