Sipping Tequila With the Boss: Casa Dragones CEO Bertha González Nieves

As the first woman to be named “maestra tequilera,” González Nieves wants to showcase tequila in a different light.

Sipping Tequila With the Boss: Casa Dragones CEO Bertha González Nieves

After just two days in the agave fields of Jalisco, Bertha González Nieves knew she wanted to pursue a career in tequila making.

Courtesy of Casa Dragones

It was a little bit of diplomacy—and a lot of love for tequila—that catapulted Bertha González Nieves’s career into the spirits industry. At age 22, González Nieves was studying business administration at a university when she applied to a cultural exchange program called Ship for World Youth and was chosen to represent Mexico as an ambassador to the Japanese government. As part of her training, González Nieves traveled throughout Mexico to learn about the country’s industries, economy, and history. One of her stops was in Tequila, Jalisco, where visits to agave fields and distilleries started her passion for tequila that eventually led her down her career path.

“After two days of being there, I called my parents, and I told them I wanted to go into the tequila industry,” said González Nieves. “They thought I was too young to commit. But they knew that if it got into my heart and in my head, it was going to be difficult to sway me.”

Today, as CEO and cofounder of tequila brand Casa Dragones, a small-batch, ultra-premium sipping tequila, González Nieves is thankful she found a career that still excites her every day. Not that it was passion alone driving her forward: González Nieves spent a decade in senior marketing and commercial roles at Jose Cuervo International, including global director of new business and innovation and global brand director. Eventually, González Nieves decided it was time to venture out on her own to be part of the new crop of tequila producers like Espolon and Milagro that were shaping the industry for the future.

Joining forces with MTV founder Bob Pittman in 2008, she created Casa Dragones, hoping to reimagine tequila and prove that it can compete alongside luxury spirits like cognac and whiskey, and even give wine a little competition when it comes to pairings within fine-dining experiences.

“I wanted to seduce that tequila drinker and the spirits connoisseur by expanding the repertoire to showcase tequila in a different light,” said González Nieves. First came Casa Dragones Joven, a smooth sipping tequila with hints of vanilla and pear that can be served like a single malt or cognac. Casa Dragones Blanco and Casa Dragones Barrel Blend complete the trio of the brand’s tequila line.

We have meals with our family with tequila. We pray with tequila. We declare our love with tequila.

González Nieves’s aim was to present tequila through craftsmanship, quality, and innovation, with packaging that translated the meticulous attention to detail of the production process. As a result, Casa Dragones’ bottles are sleek, lead-free crystal, individually hand-engraved with intricate designs using a traditional Mexican technique called pepite. (A grinding stone manually carves out patterns of small, decorative pepita-like shapes.) The design won the Grand Prix Stratégies du Lux, “a product/packaging award typically associated with the likes of Hermès, Guerlain, and Louis Vuitton,” reports JustLuxe, making Casa Dragones the first Mexican brand to receive this prestigious recognition.

González Nieves also spent 12 years studying at Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila, where she would become certified as the first female maestra tequilera all while growing her business. When she received the honor, she jokingly told the room full of men that she almost had to grow a mustache for them to accept her.

But whether they accepted her or not is inconsequential, because González Nieves has continued to gain recognition for her hard work and dedication to her craft. Forbes named her “one of the 50 most powerful women in Mexico” in 2018, and Revista Expansión, Mexico’s leading business magazine, called her “one of Mexico’s top young businesswomen.” In 2018, she was awarded the Endeavor Entrepreneurship Award for “Pride of Mexico,” which celebrated her work in creating a globally recognized Mexican luxury brand.

González Nieves isn’t just producing one of Mexico’s most well-known tequila brands—she’s also honoring her Mexican culture by weaving in cultural identity and family celebrations. “Tequila is part of our social fabric in Mexico,” said González Nieves. “We have meals with our family with tequila. We pray with tequila. We declare our love with tequila. It’s part of our culture. I am selling the Mexico that I grew up in and the one that inspires me every day.”

>>Next: 13 Trips to Fuel Your Passion

I’m a cocktail and travel writer with bylines in Architectural Digest, Food & Wine, Punch, Zora, Lonely Planet, afar, The Points Guy, Wine Enthusiast, Thrillist, Travel & Leisure, and Shondaland
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