Puebla in a Bottle: How Ancho Reyes Ignited American Mixology

Apr. 18, 2018

Top tending flavors of 2018 - Poblano Chili



Very few innovations have ignited a following as quickly as Ancho Reyes. 

Released in 2014 into select U.S. markets, the ancho chile liqueur quickly earned cult status in New York, Chicago, Miami and Denver where bartenders were adding the sweet and spicy spirit into everything from Palomas to Paper Airplanes. It didn’t take long for sales across the U.S. to take off. 

In 2017, Ancho Reyes pulled the curtain back on it’s second act, Ancho Reyes Verde. A similar fever followed suit, but unlike the original Ancho Reyes, which set aflame the hearts of bartenders, Ancho Verde sparked the curiosity of the at-home mixologist, who added it to pitchers of margaritas for a spicy kick. 

Ancho Reyes and Ancho Verde found their home in cocktails, and yet that was never their intended use. 

“In the beginning, we thought this was going to be enjoyed neat because it's so good,” said Iván Saldaña, founder and creator of Ancho Reyes and Ancho Verde.  “We figured people would drink it like an amaro or as an after-dinner digestive. Instead, what happened in the U.S. has been an incredible surprise. We have seen that the spicy trend is a very powerful thing everywhere in the world, particularly in America.”

That never happened. Instead, Ancho Reyes became a fiery force in the spicy beverage trend that continues to burn across the U.S.--a fortuitous accident for Saldaña. 

So how did this ancho amaro become the industry’s top pick for spicy heat? According to Saldaña, it started with a storied recipe.

An Inspired Recipe

Iván Saldaña: Ancho Reyes is an inspired interpretation of a real liqueur that no longer exists. 

Originally, there was an ancho chile liqueur made by the Reyes family back in 1927. At the time, each household in Puebla would have their own homemade liqueur to serve to guests. Each liqueur was unique, and the recipes were passed down through the family.

We never had the chance to physically know the details of the Reyes family’s recipes--just bits and pieces. We knew that is was high proof and that it wasn’t too sweet. We also know that during that time, fruits and vegetables were often preserved in alcohol. Since the region produced the largest amount of sugar cane in the country, we concluded that a sugar cane distillate was most likely the base. From there, we simply started macerating ancho chiles in the sugar cane and started tinkering.


Tempered Expectations

There's something I call the "Parking Lot of Ideas.” It is where a lot of my ideas go when I’m not sure they’re going to make it to the finish line. This is where I expected Ancho Reyes to reside. 

It started off just as an exercise of a concept. After a while, however, I realized that there might be something interesting here. Once we took Ancho to the U.S., that’s when it really drove away. 

I mean, my partners and I knew it would be an interesting ingredient, but the reaction from the industry has been overwhelming. We’ve been named one of the top trending brands in the world by Drinks International three years in a row.

That’s unheard of for a small brand like Ancho.

Verde Gets the Green Light

When came out we Verde in 2017, our idea was to make the poblano spirit more accessible to consumers. For most people, when you think poblano, you think about fresh and vibrant green chiles, not the smoky ancho. We wanted something that spoke directly to those consumers and created Verde as an extension of the brand that they might find easier to utilize. We didn’t want Verde to be this obscure liqueur that only a select group of people knew about. 

My hope is that very soon, we’ll see more and more consumers head into the liquor store, buy a bottle of Verde and make a pitcher of spicy margaritas in their own home. 

It all Comes Back to Puebla and the Poblano

 Ancho Reyes and Ancho Verde are both all about the poblano chile. Both green and sun-ripened forms of the chile. These bottles of Ancho are a taste of Puebla. The liqueur’s history and original recipe are from Puebla. The fields of where the chile are grown are in Puebla. I'm not discarding of the other great chiles of Mexico, but Ancho Reyes is not about them. 

Ancho Reyes is about the heart and soul of Puebla. 


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