With love from Mexico

With love from Mexico

There is an agave spirits wave sweeping India, mimicking global trends. Top global Tequila and Mezcal brands, their makers and importers, as well as domestic agave spirits and speciality bars and restaurants are giving demanding and curious consumers an increasing variety to choose from.

It’s funny how fortunes can change for a spirit that has been largely unsung in India all these years, except perhaps as a party starter. Never-before-heard words like Blanco, Reposado and Anejo are bouncing off the lips of 20- and 30-something consumers as Tequila fever grips bars across the nation.

For a spirit that went under the misnomer of being “too strong”, and not great for the morning after, I’m now coming across consumers of both sexes liking it because it gives them a “clean high” and “it doesn’t bloat”!


Monika Alcobev has a range of agave spirits, including (L-R) Jose Cuervo Reserva de La Familia Extra Anejo, Creyente Joven Mezcal and Maestro Dobel Diamante.


Coincidentally, I’ve been in a slew of agave-spirit-centric bars over the last couple of months. They have been popping up all over India, from Mehico in Kolkata and Juju in Pune, to Mezcalita and La Loca Maria in Mumbai, and Bar Fly and Baja in Goa.

I use the word ‘agave’ as we are talking not just about Tequila, but also Mezcal, and most definitely about agave spirits that are made in India. By law the latter cannot be called Tequila but are contributing to a growing share of volumes for agave-based spirits in the country.

Agave spirits in India are still small in volumes: from all accounts now standing at around 1,00,000 cases, including domestic production and imports of Tequila and Mezcal. Compared to an overall Indian spirits’ market of 323 million cases and a premium spirits market of 28 million cases, it is punching far beyond its weight.


Anggel’s Share offers 11 different products in the agave category, including (L-R) Codigo Mezcal Artesenal, El Compadre Mezcal Blanco and Casa Armando’s Recuerdo Oaxaca. Partner Vaishali Shah (inset) says all 100% agave Tequilas are gluten-free.


Big boys

For a while now, brands of Tequila and Mezcal have primarily been under the domain of importers like Monika Alcobev and Anggels’ Share, both of whom have been smart at forecasting the agave spirits boom in India. They have invested assiduously in building their portfolios across the entire price range, from the entry-level to premium expressions of both Tequila and Mezcal.

Vaishali Shah, partner at Mumbai-based Anggel’s Share says, “When we began in 2021, Codigo 1530 was our only brand and it had three expressions. In 2024, we offer 11 different products in the agave category, including Tequila, Mezcals, and now Tequila Rose liqueur.”

Multi-national companies such as Diageo (Don Julio) and Bacardi (Patron), have been a little late to the party, but are fast catching up with big-ticket investments (events, advocacy and bar takeovers) behind their brands.

For a while as the US market went ballistic on the consumption of premium and super-premium Tequila, the rest of the world was affected by limited product allocation. The year 2023 saw an abrupt slowing of growth in the premium Tequila market in the US.

Brands, big and small, have now realised the importance of cultivating other markets too, and this definitely would also be an important reason for the big budget investments being made in India by the ‘big boys’.


Maya Pistola has seven distinct expressions (L) with a vivid spectrum of flavours and aging profiles. Its Founder, Rakshay Dhariwal (R) says some expressions are exported to the US, Singapore and Thailand.


Americana in India

The story of local agave spirits in India can be traced back to one brand from Goa-based Agave India: Desmondji. Made from Agave Americana growing in the wild in rural Andhra Pradesh, Desmondji is riding the boom in agave spirits across India.

Desmondji has three expressions in the market so far, with a fourth (limited edition) expression due in the coming financial year. Conrad Braganza from Desmondji says: “We are the only producers of agave spirits in Asia, and one of the two brands of agave spirits in India.”

Agave India produces its spirit in its micro-distillery in Chittoor to full capacity. With burgeoning demand for from other brands who buy agave spirit from him, Agave India is well on its way to doubling is production capacities.

Entrepreneurs are now acquiring agave spirit from the maker of Desmondji, and blending or ageing it, to come up with unique expressions that use similar terminology as Tequila brands: Anejo and Reposado. Maya Pistola Agavepura is the first such brand.

Rakshay Dhariwal, Founder of Maya Pistola says, “Brands like us are leveraging their local roots and unique flavour profiles to create a significant market space, catering to new-age consumers who seek authentic and locally sourced alternatives to imported spirits.”

Since its birth in 2021, Pistola has spread wings in Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, West Bengal, and Assam. Some expressions are exported to the US, Singapore and Thailand.


Mario Sequeira of the Goa-based Tonia Group (R), representing Villa Vercelli Tequila (L), expects super-premium Tequila sales to be shooting upward soon.


Other brands

We are also seeing entrepreneurs, both Mexican and Indian (coming soon!), launch Tequila brands, with a specific focus on emerging markets like India. Casa Cincodos, a company started by Mexican entrepreneur Marco Gloria, recently launched Tequila 52 (Cincodos translates to ‘52’ in Spanish), a Cristalino Tequila.

Mario Sequeira of the Goa-based Tonia Group, was an early bird, importing Tequila for the Goa market, to cater to its diverse consumer base: residents, expatriates and tourists.

A family concern established in 1971, the group initially made coconut and cashew feni, before setting up a liquor division with IMFL bottling plants. The Tonia Group also represents wine, beer and spirits companies from Portugal, Italy, France and Australia.

Mario now represents Villa Vercelli Tequila from the Jalisco region of Mexico. He expects super-premium Tequila sales to be “shooting upward soon”.


Promoter of Goa’s agave-focused Bar Fly (L), Tarun Sibal (R) says that for premium agave spirits he has a younger audience, than for other spirits at the same price point.


Volume play

The domestic market size is estimated at anywhere between 50,000 and 1 lakh cases, with the upper end of the spectrum also taking into account local production, and the lower end primarily including imports.

Kunal Patel, Co-founder of Monika Alcobev, estimates a current size by value of about US$40 million, with an extremely healthy CAGR of 20% over the next 3 years, making it “a flourishing yet niche segment in the country’s dynamic spirits industry”.

Vaishali Shah, corroborates the expected growth rates, and adds: “I wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeds that!”. The trend, she observes, is well towards super-premium “sipping” Tequilas. As of now, Mezcal does not account for more than 6,000 cases, she adds.

Adtnu Tiwari, Marketing Manager at Bacardi, says he has seen triple-digit growth for Patron in India, albeit with a small base. But Jason Holway, Senior Market Analyst for IWSR says, “Volumes of Tequila will likely remain small in the context of the Indian market for a few years.”


Agave India’s Desmondji (L) is the pioneer of local agave spirits production in India. Desmondji’s Conrad Braganza (R) says the company will release a fourth limited edition expression in the coming financial year.


Sip, not slam

Jay Khan, the Founder of Coa, an agave-focused bar in Hong Kong, told me agave spirits are the only drink that do not need to express their flavour through ageing in wood. We are now getting the same consumer in India, who is keen on a sipping or tasting experience rather than a shooting one.

Baja is an agave- and rum-focused mix-up between a beach club and a bar, on Benaulim Beach in balmy South Goa. Founder Gaurav Bhardwaj has observed two micro-trends amongst the 40+ crowd: one cohort orders premium Tequila and sips it with ice; the other orders premium Tequila with soda.

Adtnu (of Patron) says the consumer for premium Tequila can be classified as someone who values high-quality spirits, appreciates the craftsmanship involved in its production, and seeks authenticity in his/her choices.

Tarun Sibal, Promoter of Goa’s agave-focused Bar Fly, corroborates the evolution of the consumer. For premium agave spirits he has a younger audience, than for other spirits at the same price point. “It is common to find young consumers at the bar ask for, say, a Mezcal Negroni,” he adds.

Many avatars

Tequila is also a spirit open to interpretation from a mixology perspective. Gaurav says bartenders are responding to consumer curiosity by creating cocktails that showcase the spirit’s versatility and complexity.

He cites a couple of Baja’s cocktails: the Feni Margarita, which combines feni and Tequila, and the Mango Espuma, where the drink is made with Tequila and in-house mango shrubs, with a soda foam made with gin, bitters and lemonade!

Kolkata’s newly-opened, Mehico Cantina and Bar also features cocktails with ingredients like chamoy, tamarind, Morita chili, cherimoya, prickly pear, pequin chilli and corn – “all relatable flavours but in different avatars,” notes its Founder, Saket Agarwal.

He even ventures to say that his new venture is riding on the popularity of Tequila and Mezcal, more than that of Mexican cuisine!

And while the Paloma and the Picante continue to be hits at Bar Fly, Belle is the take on the Spicy Picante with roasted bell pepper and Tajin spice. Mumbai’s Slink and Bardot has an Agave Old Fashioned, while Koko in the same city, has an Oaxaca Sour, which swaps the Bourbon for Mezcal.

The Tequila shot is also being reinvented, and Vaishali at Anggel’s Share, recommends a chilled shot of Codigo Blanco with a slice of Malba orange, sprinkled with cinnamon powder. “Feel the explosion of flavours in your mouth after that shot!” she assures us.


Cocktails at Baja (L) use feni, mango paste, gin soda foam, bitters and lemonade to make unique cocktails with Tequila. Its Founder, Gaurav Bhardwaj (R), says consumer curiosity is pushing his bartenders to showcase the spirit’s versatility and complexity.


Perfect storm

As consumer behaviour in India evolves, the size and growth prospects for agave spirits are not the only attractions for brands and brand owners. It is also the need to be a part of the conversation amongst well-heeled consumers and India’s bar fraternity.

The absence of an agave spirit in a company’s brand line-up is a telling one. We are sure that companies hitherto not in the market – such as Pernod Ricard, which has Tequila brands like Olmeca and Altos and Mezcal brands like Del Maguey – will want to race into the market soon.

Finally, let’s not forget the star lure of Tequila and Mezcal, with celebrities from George Clooney (Casamigos) and The Rock (Teremana), just to name a couple, upping the awareness and attraction to the category.

Jason from IWSR adds: “India is one of the markets in which domestic players have identified an opportunity to tap into the growing interest in agave spirits.”

A ‘Perfect Storm’ is the term given to a climatic disturbance with a particularly high intensity that comes about through a rare combination of circumstances. Coincidentally, the 2000 movie with the same name starred actor George Clooney, who 13 years later started Casamigos, a brand that has done much to fuel Tequila fever.

From whatever we’ve described throughout this article, the same set of ingredients seems to be coming together in India to help propel the future of agave spirits, onward and upwards.


Casa Cincodos, a company started by Mexican entrepreneur Marco Gloria (L), recently launched ‘52’, a Cristalino Tequila in India. Adtnu Tiwari, Marketing Manager at Bacardi (R), says he has seen triple-digit growth for Patron in India.