Peruse the shelves at your local bar or liquor store, and it begins to feel like every celebrity has a spirits brand to their name. This trend has been especially prevalent in tequila, with labels tied to Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Michael Jordan and other mega stars — including George Clooney, who famously sold his Casamigos brand for a killing. So, it’s refreshing and almost nostalgic when a tequila brand launches with zero celebrity pedigree, instead relying on a love for the category and its traditional home.
Socorro Tequila was founded by Pablo Antinori and Josh Irving. The duo met in Dallas while working at Southern Glazer’s, the massive beverage distribution company. After selling other peoples’ spirits for years, they decided to branch out and form their own tequila brand.
But first, they had to find the right distillery partner, so they began traveling to Jalisco, Mexico, to meet distillers and to sample products, visiting about two dozen facilities in the process.
On those trips, they got to know the people who worked at the distilleries and lived in the towns. They met children who needed food and didn’t have access to clean water. And on multiple occasions, they were invited into someone’s home for a meal and even offered a bed for the night.
Irving was blown away by the hospitality. He tells InsideHook that, leading up to this point, he wasn’t particularly philanthropic. But these experiences in Mexico kickstarted the founders’ goal to impact the communities where tequila is made.
“We just looked at each other and thought, if we can’t help them, then who are we and what are we even doing?” says Irving.
Socorro translates to “help” or “assistance” in Spanish, which embodies the brand’s core mission to give back. Through its Case for a Case program, Socorro donates a case of clean water to orphanages and nursing homes in Jalisco for every case of tequila sold.
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The company officially launched in 2020, which was not the easiest year to do much of anything, let alone start a spirits brand. But they pushed forward, winning over bar and liquor store owners over the past three years with their story —and what’s in the bottle. As more cases were sold, more water was donated. To date, they’ve donated more than 36,000 cases of water to people in need, regularly going down to Jalisco to drop it off themselves.
“We put a lot of time, effort and energy into what you’re drinking, but this is the best part of what we do,” says Antinori about the Case for a Case program.
What you’re drinking is a lineup of three tequilas: blanco, reposado and añejo. Each begins with fully mature agave, which is cooked in traditional brick ovens before fermenting for a minimum of 96 hours. The blanco has notes of cooked agave, sweet vanilla, citrus and tropical fruits. The reposado is aged for about four months and brings mild oak to the party, with caramel and vanilla. The añejo matures for about 14 months and presents more oak, plus toffee, baking spices and cocoa.
Many aged tequilas are matured in used bourbon barrels or other used American whiskey casks. Socorro initially tried this route, putting tequila into bourbon barrels, but they didn’t like the results, finding the oak too spicy and noting that it overpowered the agave. Antinori explains that since used bourbon barrels are often shipped en masse, the Socorro team couldn’t control the char levels across barrels, which impacted consistency. So they chose to age their reposado and añejo expressions in new American oak barrels, lightly toasted to their exact specifications.
“It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it,” says Antinori, noting that sourcing new barrels is about twice the cost of buying used barrels. “We have to feel good about the product we’re selling.”
Want to try it yourself? You can find Socorro all over Texas, at liquor stores from Amarillo to Corpus Christi, and at bars and restaurants from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio.
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