Imported by way of Playa Vista, the distinctive Mico Tequila has been decades in the making
By Andy Vasoyan
1.5 oz. Mico Tequila
.5 oz. Gran Classico
.25 oz. simple syrup
.5 oz. lemon juice
A spoon full of fig jam
Add ice and all ingredients into a shaker. Shake vigorously (10 to 15 seconds), and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with charred thyme sprig.
That cocktail is courtesy of Mico Tequila, a premium brand launched out of Playa Vista in 2018. President and co-founder Subir Singh has been a PV resident since 2009, but the story of how he got into the tequila business stretches back over decades and hundreds of miles.
The Singh family emigrated from Fiji in the early eighties, and Subir’s father, Ajendra “AJ” Singh, found himself living in Los Angeles with $1500 to his name. As Subir tells it, after working his way up as a CPA, AJ was approached by Martin Crowley, the co-founder of Patron Tequila, and was asked to help bring production of Patron’s tequila in-house. AJ moved to Guadalajara, became an executive in the growing Patron empire, and put it on the path to becoming the king of modern upscale tequilas. At the same time, the Singh family became close with the Nuñez family, who have been in the tequila business for more than 80 years.
AJ left Patron in 2008 and began working on his own tequila brand in 2009 with the help of Juan Nuñez. Over the next six years those efforts would turn into Mico Spirits, which was established in 2015. By that time, Subir had seen success as a sales representative in the liquor industry, working for Patron and Remy Cointreau, and he was also working with his dad’s company, though he wouldn’t quit his job and join Mico full-time until 2018.
“It was a shock to a lot of people, because I had a great gig,” Singh says. “There’s a lot of tequilas out there, so it’s not like this was a slam dunk!”
So what distinguishes Mico Tequila from the rest of the pack? Most importantly, it’s the tequila itself.
“[The Nuñez family] and AJ worked together to produce the formula, and they harvest the agave from local farmers they have relationships with,” Singh says, “but the third component is Karina. Karina Rojo is our master distiller, and she’s one of very few female master distillers in Jalisco. She and AJ are very close, and they work together to produce tequila that really reflects the highlands and is authentic.”
Although the tequila is authentic, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some experimentation in Mico’s take on the three tequila varieties: blanco (“white”), which is typically not aged, reposado (“restful”), aged at least 60 days, and añejo (“aged”), which has been aging for at least a year.
“When you get into our reposados and our añejos, typically when you age tequilas, you use American oak,” Singh says. “What we did was, we’re aging first in American oak, that’s whiskey casks and bourbon casks, and then as an experiment, we’re like, let’s finish these off in cabernet casks… I don’t know if there are any tequilas out there that are finished off in cabernet casks like we are.”
In the spirits business, however, an interesting idea can easily be overtaken by an interesting marketing campaign. Ryan Reynolds became a stakeholder in Aviation Gin in 2018 and helped sell the company for upwards of $600 million this year. George Clooney’s Casamigos brand sold for a cool billion two years ago.
“The celebrity thing is super cool,” Singh says, “but I don’t think it would be a great fit for us. People have stories and ours is just a natural story, and it’s something that’s real. But I think there are definitely consumers looking for brands… with real stories that resonate with them.”
Of course, some cool packaging couldn’t hurt. For those interested, Mico’s Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo tequilas come in suave inverted-teardrop bottles, with a well-dressed monkey man on the front (mico is Spanish for monkey). The back of the bottle even has some hometown love: Imported by way of Playa Vista, California.
This story originally appeared in The Argonaut’s sister publication, Playa Vista Direct. Visit micotequila.com to learn more.