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With the grand opening of Lula Cocina Mexicana‘s Big Red today, Voice of Santa Monica’s Marco Sandoval decided to stop by the popular Santa Monica bar and restaurant to chat with the Director of Operations, Martin Lee about the launch and what should the tequila aficionados expect on the big day.
Martin Lee (left), Director of Operations, with staff at Lula Cocina Mexicana
Martin sat down with me as Julian, bartender extraordinaire at Lula, poured me a very strong margarita. Martin told me that he gained inspiration to remodel the bar after attending a tequila tasting one night with Geraldine Gilliland, owner and executive chef of Lula. His goals were to remake the bar, add more tequila brands, and booths for patrons. He also wanted the new bar to resemble a library where brands would be grouped together on different shelves. A new bar was then assembled and shipped. It was so big that it arrived in two pieces and was installed securely in a short amount of time. The difference was noticeable as the new installation took up less space, allowing the chance to stock up on their inventory while creating more space for booths and patrons. When choosing a color for the new bar, Martin chose red over blue and purple. Thus, Big Red was born.
Martin then worked with Lula’s tequila ambassador, Rafael Lizarde (known affectionately as “Rafi” by both staff and regular patrons), to put together a very good tequila selection. What started as a small selection of 25 tequilas has since grown exponentially to 472 tequilas and mezcals – and counting. Martin and Rafi will continue to add to the bar going forward.
If that sounds a little overwhelming, then don’t worry: There will be a drink book that will list every tequila in stock along with a guide explaining the differences in tequila types. The drink book will also include a brief history of tequila, margarita, and mezcal. This will help customers learn and decide which tequila they will enjoy the most. Rafi and his staff are also more than willing to offer suggestions to ensure that everyone enjoys the tequila best suited for them.
I asked Martin which were his favorite tequilas and he offered to share a few of them with me. I developed a fondness for tequila several years ago when I worked for Jose Cuervo International back in New York so I was curious as to what would be served. First was Gran Corralejo Añejo, the exclusive reserve of Casa Corralejo. That one set the tone early – albeit in a good way. Next was Avion Añejo, the same tequila made popular in the latest season of HBO’s “Entourage”. It was so smooth that I wouldn’t be surprised if the cast snuck in a few shots of the real stuff while shooting those episodes. I was very impressed. Finally, I tried Gran Centenario Rosangel, an ultra premium tequila which is flavored with hibiscus. I had no idea what to expect from that combination but I came away liking it a lot. I usually prefer reposado tequilas but I could see myself enjoying any or all of these añejo tequilas in the comfort of my own home.
So stop by Lula this Friday night, September 24 at 9pm and join in the celebration for the grand opening of Big Red! And don’t forget to submit your coolest recipe for a tequila shot or cocktail along with the story on how it became your favorite to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are being accepted through the month of October, and the winners will be announced on November 4, 2010 during the Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos.
Lula Cocina Mexicana
2720 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Did You Know?
Marco Sandoval (@Marco1019) is a native New Yorker who fell in love with Santa Monica after spending two weeks here back in 2006. He made the big move to California in April of 2007 to start a new chapter in his life and was determined put his roots down in Santa Monica. He achieved his goal in 2008 and has loved living here ever since.
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