Barrel-Aged Tequila at The Rio

We all know that Tequila is the Spirit of the Rio, but did you know that your favorite Tex-Mex spot also ages its own tequila?  We sat down with Paul Sisson, the Bar Manager at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in Fort Collins, to ask him all about the barrel-aged Tequila at Rio and beyond.


Q:  You obviously need a barrel to barrel-age tequila.  Can you tell us more about the physical barrel that you use for aging?

A:  We use a 5-liter oak barrel.  Most tequilas are aged in oak because it gives the best flavors from the oils and tannins in Oak – it’s also the type of barrel that’s used for aging whiskey and scotch.  Many barrels are charred on the inside to create a charcoal layer inside that forms a sort of filter. The barrels we use are from our partners at Jose Cuervo, so they have never been used before.


Q: How long are does the Rio age tequila in the barrels?

A: We age for a minimum of 4 weeks and up to 6 weeks per 5 liters.


Q: What type of tequila is best used in a barrel?

A:  There isn’t really “a best tequila” to use, per se, but Rio is using Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado Tequila, which has already been aged for 6months already – so we are aging an already-aged tequila.


Q: OK, if you are aging an already-aged tequila, what does the extra aging do to the reposado?

A: By aging this tequila longer, it makes the flavor more complex and darkens the color because we are letting the wood do the work of adding more flavor. We are also experimenting with the temperature right now to see if that gives any sort of effect on the taste.  For instance, some barrels are being aged in a cold basement and some are aged at room temperature. We are already seeing some slight variations, but overall, we are blending the tequila together regardless.


Q: So this tequila is being used in the Barrel-aged Big Tex Margarita. Can you give us a comparison of the barrel-aged version versus the unaged Big Tex Margarita?

A: The flavor is going to be more complex in the barrel-aged version – a little smoother and easy drinking.  


Q: How do you recommend folks enjoy Rio’s barrel-aged tequila?

A: Some people order and drink our barrel-aged tequila neat, from a tequila flute, but I think it’s best mixed in a margarita – can be a nice substitution in any of our specialty margs.


Q: How did you come to love tequila?

A: visit Mexico and Cuervo estate watching the production of tequila. Got to blend my own tequila and fell in love with the region and culture.  And – I like the way it tastes.


Q: What’s your fave tequila?

A: My favorite tequila is Maestro Dobel Diamonte because it has the best flavor and it’s a bit of a trendsetter as far as the type of tequila it is because it’s one of the first clear aged tequila.  That means it’s a mix of reposado, anejo and extra anejo. Remember how we said aging darkens the color? This particular tequila uses charcoal to filter out the color so you still get that delicious aged flavor and smell, but without the aged look.


Paul, a self-proclaimed tequila aficionado, has worked at Rio since 2015.  As a manager, Paul had the opportunity to travel to Mexico with Jose Cuervo as part of Rio’s annual Mexico Trip (MargMob winners also get to go!).  While on that trip, Paul learned the process for making tequila – from planting agave, harvesting, distilling to aging. As the Bar Manager, Paul has been aging tequila for the Rio in Fort Collins for the past few months and also ages some of his own variations at home.

Share the news: