KAH Tequila: Spirit of the Afterparty
Over the past couple of decades, we’ve seen tequila evolve from a spring break and game day staple to a myriad of spirits. Hit your favorite bar or retailer, and you will find a tequila for everybody, from the urban hipster to the devoted foodie to the traditionalist Mexican grandparent paying his or her respects to the culture and heritage. Just like Mexican Food, tequila is no longer a one-size-fits all affair. Available in high-end, budget-priced, regionalized and, now, fresh organic variations, distilleries have new tequilas devised for every type of tequila fan.
Kim Brandi and her company, Elements Spirits Inc., meanwhile, bucked trendiness in favor of launching KAH Tequila, which draws its inspiration from Mexico’s Day of the Dead. This choice seems a little surprising at first glance. However, when one discovers that Day of the Dead (originated with the Aztecs 3,000 years ago) is actually a celebration of life, creating a tequila around it makes perfect sense.
“The word KAH literally means life when its translated into English from its original language.” notes Brandi. “The hand-crafted bottles are also directly inspired by the motifs and sugar-fashioned skulls that decorate the festivities and represent the continued presence of the spirit. The experience of buying, drinking and even cooking with KAH is meant to be a metaphor for celebrating life whenever and wherever you can.”
Brandi carefully thought the concept through, starting with actual Day of the Dead festivities observed in Mexico in the first week of November, coinciding with America’s Halloween. The two holidays share many similarities, from skulls and spirit motifs to parties, parades, a seemingly endless supply of sweets and food, and the fact both holidays are observed as a no-holds-barred celebration of life.
While some Americans may find it strange to mix the concepts of death and festivities, for most Mexicans and Hispanic-Americans, the two ideas are inseparable. The indigenous peoples of Mexico kept tradition and culture alive by believing that the souls of their departed loved ones came back to visit with their living relatives. All guests, living and dead, are there to eat, drink and be merry. For this reason, people stage the festivities at cemeteries or decorate their homes with cheerfully decorated skull artwork. Day of the Dead also celebrates life and love that in many ways resembles Valentine’s Day more than Halloween.
Graves, altars and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed are lovingly prepared by family and friends. Candles are lit and incense is burned, providing the perfect backdrop for prayers and shared memories to call the dead to the party. Like any good party brimming with friends, family, good food and music, the festivities go well into the night, and sometimes until dawn. With America becoming more multi-cultural, in turn, the traditions have not only found their way into America via Mexican-American communities, but also in other countries around the world. In Prague, Czech Republic, for example, local citizens celebrate the Day of the Dead with masks, candles, and sugar skulls. Mexican-style Day of the Dead celebrations can also be found in Wellington, New Zealand, complete with altars celebrating the deceased with flowers and gifts. Throughout the year and around the world, Day of the Dead motifs turn up in other pop cultural phenomena such as the popularity of tattoos, car culture, rock music and high fashion.
“While the skull bottle definitively taps into Mexican tradition, it also strikes a nerve in our modern world,” admits Brandi. “Celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D’s Day of the Dead tattoos are heavily influenced by these traditions, and now finding their way onto tee shirts and a cosmetic line available at Sephora. Lowrider Magazine recently dedicated a whole issue to Day of The Dead-inspired artwork and the Latino artists bring it to life stateside.”
To ensure the bottles read as artistic statements instead of a marketing gimmick, Brandi and Elements joined forces with Javier Gonzales and Sandra Lugo, two of North America’s top street artists, to create KAH’s statement bottles. The buzz about the bottles is already generating interest in product extensions such as a KAH line of t-shirts and custom jewelry.
The Life of The Party
Besides being culturally attuned and naturally curious about the world around her, the L.A.-based and New York City-bred Brandi boasts a multi-faceted background in magazine publishing, graphic design and product marketing—a triple threat that has made her a star in her field and prompted major players like Patron, Skyy Spirits and Bacardi and Spectrum, her own advertising agency, to tap into her endless reserve of artistry, business savvy and enthusiasm.
Through the years, Brandi has actively sought out opportunities to work with different producers of tequila—her spirit of choice. She describes this sensory journey as one that allows her to indulge in her passions, including different forms of Latino visual artwork and tequila tasting (especially the Anejo). This, combined with the spiritual impact of Day of the Dead ultimately led her to bring KAH to life.
Brandi adds that KAH Tequila, by design, compels with real substance, including traditional Aztec and Meso-American observances of Day of the Dead, which in turn represent rebirth and new beginnings. KAH also offers a life-affirming organic and Kosher certifications, enabling a greater number of people to discover what makes tequila an essential part of entertaining and appreciating life as they do in Mexico. Likewise, it was also very important that the tequila’s manufacture and its bottles capture that enduring spirit, from each variety’s distinctive design to the quality of the flavors inside.
“The steps taken to garner these certifications insure high quality, and superior taste that will reflect well on the host serving the drinks,” she says. “Furthermore, I think people will appreciate that the production facility is one of the few environmentally correct distilleries in Mexico, using its own water from its private artesian well on property. This aspect is combined with over 50 years of distilling and aging expertise.”
Tequila and cooking are synonymous in today’s elite culinary circles and increasingly so in the American diet. More and more often, you are seeing food pairings with tequila. KAH’s originality as a tequila with historical roots, combined with its artisanal qualities make it even more of a perfect fit with a variety of foods. Though you could buy a spirit with a tie to some celebrity, most true tequila fans are seeking out an authentic product like KAH, which has a history, a story, and a very high degree of quality.
Notes in the Tune of Life
- KAH Tequila Blanco, is perfectly suited for classic warm weather cocktails and recipes involving fish and poultry, as it is characterized by an immediate full agave rush, followed by a spicy white pepper punch and an unusual pumpkin-floral finish.
- KAH Tequila ‘s Reposado is the perfect margarita foundation, with its balance of sweet notes, oak and agave.
- KAH Anejo, meanwhile, is the perfect mate for barbequed meats and a post-BBQ cigar, with its subtle wood notes, smooth body, vanilla spice notes and sweet melon finish.
- The KAH 4 1/2 year old Anejo limited eddition bottle, meanwhile, not only bears the best of this precious liquid, but is cased in a bottle adorned with Swarovski crystals. Brandi and Melendez emphasize this incarnation is intended for special celebrations and has its own story of authenticity as skulls of noble families unearthed by archaeologists were found with gems embedded in them.
Editor’s Note: KAH also celebrates Day of the Dead, and practically any other occasion celebrating life, with these lively food pairing, recipe and cocktail suggestions appearing in our Day of the Dead story in Our Spirits of Mexico issue.