One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor! That’s the old adage, but that wise warning could be avoided if you choose to cheers with a clean and proper spirit.
Celebrity-backed tequila and mezcal companies aren’t all that unusual in today’s beverage industry, but NHL champion Chris Chelios and his pal, former Green Bay Packers safety Jim Bob Morris, don’t serve your usual tequila.
El Bandido Yankee is a super-pure spirit devoid of those processing and preservative additives which can lead to headaches, hangovers and chemical flavors. It’s also a company that donates much of its profits bettering the lives of the people who farm, harvest and craft the ingredients into a tequila that’s so smooth, in Chelios’ words, it just might be criminal.
We chatted with the hockey great to hear more about his love of tequila, what sets El Bandido Yankee apart from the pack, and how best to enjoy.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. First of all, tell us how you fell into the world of concocting tequila.
I’m a tequila drinker. Jim and I felt like we couldn’t find a tequila where we didn’t taste the additives, so we had the idea to start our own brand. Jim and I met at a charity event, and after a late night of drinking, we were not satisfied with the Tequila we had been drinking. We felt as though we could taste the glycerin and additives in every sip, and we decided we could do it better—we wanted to start our own.
It was really a perfect time and place. Both of us were looking for a new venture that included charity work and giving back to the community. We didn't cut corners and are fully transparent about how and where our tequila is crafted. We partnered with El Viejito Distillery in Jalisco, because of their dedication to process, people and the land, and went one step further by partnering with S.A.C.R.E.D. to make a positive impact on the people and communities who grow our agave.
Has founding this venture deepened your relationship with the Jalisco region and its people?
We chose El Viejito Distillery because of their dedication to the process, their people, and the land. Our company is dedicated to building long-term, impactful relationships that honor the people and land of the Jalisco region. El Bandido Yankee has committed a portion of net proceeds from the sale of our tequila, as well as 100 percent of net proceeds from the sale of our merchandise, to those efforts. We partner with S.A.C.R.E.D, a non-profit focused on improving the lives of people in rural Mexican communities where agave spirits are made, to identify and support vital community needs.
How did you and Jim Bob Morris settle on the name El Bandido Yankee?
The name actually comes from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was the nickname the Bolivians gave them, Bandidos Yanquis. We built a personality around who “El Bandido Yankee” is; a ruggedly handsome, mysterious maverick with a generous spirit, determined to deliver the most outrageously delicious tequila you’ve ever tasted. Our hand-applied label features a playful depiction of our beloved bandit who’s always ready to chase down fun and raise a glass in celebration.
El Bandido Yankee is about unleashing your inner bandido who is always in pursuit of a good time, living life like there is a bounty on his head, and inspiring those around him to live fearlessly and authentically. We made it our mission to deliver a product that shows our passion, and is absolutely delicious. It’s ultra-premium, yet affordable. El Bandido's essence is a passion to live boldly and share generously, and it’s this ethos that drives us personally and professionally. El Bandido is about jumping right in to create memorable moments with family and friends with a delicious tasting drink that's thoughtfully made.
How did you settle on the formula? How does EBY stand out from the competition?
It is incredibly pure and additive-free, which really makes a difference the morning after! All of our tequila is handcrafted from start to finish at El Viejito Distillery in Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco, under our incredible Master Distiller Karina Rojo. She uses centuries-old tequila making traditions, slow-roasting our hand-selected blue weber agave for 40 hours in stone ovens, and distilling twice in copper pots.
For further refinement, the tequila is oxygenated to produce El Bandido Yankee's signature smooth finish, which makes it incredibly drinkable. There’s none of the “burn” most people associate with tequila.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy EBY?
On the rocks, straight. It's so smooth, the taste is so good that I don’t feel the need to add anything to it.
Why is sustainability an important part of the EBY mission?
I attribute my long career in hockey to a healthy diet and exercise. At El Bandido Yankee Tequila, we care about sustainability and flavor, so we use only the finest mature blue weber agave and 100 percent all natural ingredients without any additives.
At El Viejito Distillery, no mass machinery is used to create our tequila. We slow roast our pinas for 40 hours in stone hornos (ovens). In fermentation, the sugars are mixed with special yeast strains to convert to alcohol. Our liquid is twice distilled in copper pots at low temperatures, and Oxygenation is used which naturally produces our smooth taste. Finally, we bottle by hand without large bottling plants.
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Do you take any lessons with you from your professional NHL days that help in the commercial beverage industry?
My experience in the spirits industry is more from my family’s restaurants than from my hockey career. My parents owned a chain of Greek restaurants which I lived and worked around all my life, and later opened my own restaurants. The lessons I learned from restaurants, and from hockey that carry me through my life include: hard work, perseverance and a strong competitive spirit
What’s better; winning Stanley cups on the ice, or kicking back with some EBY on the rocks?
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of winning a Stanley cup as a reward for intense competition, but at the end of the day, it is extremely relaxing to sip on a glass of El Bandido Yankee Reposado.
When was the last time you laced up and hit the rink to have a bit of fun?
Recently I had the joy of guiding my granddaughter on ice skates, and I can’t wait for my grandson to be old enough to do the same.
Anything else you’d like to share or mention?
It would be an honor to have your readers taste the smoothness of our Tequilas—so smooth it’s criminal!
Visit El Bandido Yankee online to learn more and taste its ultra-smooth finish for yourself.
Photography by: Courtesy of El Bandido Yankee Tequila