So Bad It’s Good
A new sunrise for tequila
Posted on March 14, 2018
Oceanside is making waves for much more than surfing these days, most notably as a culinary destination. Not only a hub for new hotspots, it’s also a place epicures, including master tequila distiller Felipe Soto Mares, call home.
“Tequila has always been a part of my heritage,” says the Oceanside resident, who is a maestro catador (master of tequila making), and founder and head distiller of The Bad Stuff Tequila. “It started with my grandfather, who bootlegged a tequila style here in California during Prohibition in order to keep food on the table for the family. He eventually taught his son, my uncle, who eventually taught me.”
Soto Mares was born in Fresno 67 years ago to parents who followed the grape harvest; his mother went into labor while working in the vines. Eventually, the family moved to North County, where Soto Mares graduated from San Marcos High School. “This has been my home — a local boy and now a master distiller and adventurer,” he says with a laugh.
Starting in the 1990s, with the family’s tequila-making secrets from their hacienda in Atequiza, Jalisco, Mexico in hand, Soto Mares worked on perfecting the fiery spirit. After he was invited to study at Guadalajara-based Academia Mexicano de Catadores de Tequila, Soto Mares became an official catador in 2005, and is now considered a master.
“It was never my intent to bring a tequila to market. It is something that evolved as I became more proficient and began to receive consulting contracts from various companies to create tequila,” Soto Mares explains. An acquaintance he met at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club several years back joked that tequila was “the bad stuff,” and a brand was born. Today, Soto Mares actually distills the liquor in Arandas, in the Jalisco highlands.
Soto Mares refers to The Bad Stuff, a three-year-old Extra Añejo tequila with crème brûlée notes, as a “field to glass” product. “It’s our way of saying that our agave is estate-grown and that the crafting of our tequila never leaves the hands-on process from our distillery. It is shipped directly from the distillery to our warehouse, then to market,” he details.
“This is a small batch boutique tequila,” he adds. “We grow our own agave and our water is from on-site artesian wells where we go as deep as 250 meters to pull the water up. We do not use municipal water. It is steeped with tradition and a passion to produce quality, not quantity.”
The Bad Stuff Tequila can be found at Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido, Old Town Liquor in Old Town, and in restaurants including Masters Kitchen & Cocktail, Mission Avenue Bar & Grill, and Jalisco Cantina in Oceanside.
Soto Mares has advice for those trying The Bad Stuff for the first time. “It is to be appreciated — sipped, not shot. Enjoy the complexity of the agave, the vegetal, spice, and earth tones. Salud!” thebadstufftequila.com Jackie Bryant