Tequila and the art of making the spirit are both steeped in time-honored tradition. Arizona-based company, Lovely Rita Spirits gives a uniquely Arizona spin to its double distilled 100% tequila, creating an incredibly “smooth” sipping tequila that is outstanding by itself, or ready to be utilized in the most unique craft cocktails.
Lovely Tequila Spirits Co-founders Ray Rita, Michael Meinerz and Bob Derks have created the Lovely Rita brand with both quality and expansion in mind. “There actually is a Rita,” explains Michael Meinerz. “One of our partner’s names is Ray Rita. The tequila is part of a couple of Latino things that we did. We have Arizona Latino website (Arizonalatinos.com), and the Latino Fashion Live, a fashion show where we bring up South American designers, and we did this four years running at Wild Horse Pass Casino.” The event is now looking at a move to the Civic Center in Scottsdale. To support their Latino efforts, Rita had the idea of creating a unique brand of tequila, targeting a primarily progressive female audience.
The Tequila, The Vodka
Lovely Rita Tequila is distilled utilizing traditional slow baking brick ovens and autoclaves to cook blue agave hearts and traditional mills (molinos) to get the thickest honey sugar out of the agave. The fermentation process then occurs in old-fashioned pots, keeping to a traditional method of tequila making. The result is a beautifully smooth and balanced blanco tequila, perfect for sipping.
The distillery is located in Tequila Mexico and has been in business 90 years. Meinerz says, “They make very high-end short run tequilas, they make Selena’s commemorative tequila every year, and the distiller’s own personal tequila. He wins awards every year. They produce a number of tequilas. They will create a recipe and formula, based on what somebody wants. We went down there and tried to create a formula for our vision, and we’ve done it!” Both peach and orange versions of this exceptional blanco tequila are planned as distribution continues to increase throughout the Valley and beyond. Both flavored tequilas will not be sweet, but smooth, and have a hint of essence on the finish.
Lovely Rita Agave Flavored Vodka is also now available. The product is produced and bottle right here in Carefree Arizona. This premium Vodka is a 6 times distilled corn based vodka.Continuing the focus of the brand concept (Smooth), a hint of the same agave used for the Tequila is added. This addition enhances the vodka with a hint of flavor and adds a smoothness not seen in other premium products. Lovely Rita Gin is also on the brand’s horizon. “We’re trying to create a brand defined by our smooth tasting products that can generate market interest similar to Skinny Girl or Cabo Wabo,” states Meinerz. “We plan to come out with product after product with the same smooth, high quality concept. Who knows where it could end up? We’re trying to keep that brand with a theme.”
The Distribution Factor
When Lovey Rita first started out two years ago, the founders began by courting many of the outstanding restaurants, bars and properties up and down Scottsdale Road. As they secured one location after another, it became apparent that a bona fide distributor with a support and sales system would be in order for Lovely Rita. Breakthru Beverage Group (currently in 30 states and Canada) has taken on Lovely Rita Spirits and it is now growing by leaps and bounds, freeing up the founders to continue strategizing their brand and doing what they do best. “We’re now on the OldTownTequila.com website, too,” adds Bob Derks. “They can ship to 47 states.”
Meinerz had initially secured the first 20-30 accounts along Scottsdale road, and moving to the next level with Breakthru has proved monumental to the brand, necessitating a business pivot. “We restructured the whole company about 15 months ago,” says Derks. “We bought controlling interest from Ray so he could focus on Arizonalatinos.com and brought in some additional investors.” Meinerz adds, “The investors all love our product and have been supportive. It’s put us in a position where everything we have - about 700 cases of tequila in our warehouse and another 800 cases of vodka being bottled, it’s all paid for. We’re healthy from that point. We’ve felt that if we make something really good, people will want to buy it. If they want to buy it, we’d better have enough!”
“The big change is that Michael was doing the selling part time,” says Derks. “We’ve hired a group that has been in the liquor business for years and years. Frank Armanetti and the The Armanetti Group are becoming our brand ambassadors and manager. Frank is part of a family that used to be the largest retailer of spirits in Chicago. One of his first goals in working with us was to establish distribution. With his help in getting Lovely Rita with Breakthru, all of the things we weren’t able to do before, we now have that resource.”
The Future of Lovely Rita Spirits
“I look at this like a journey,” says Meinerz. “We’ve picked a model, and there is no timeline.” The sky is the limit, and the founders and group of investors is committed to making Lovely Rita Spirits the best that it can possibly be.
“We believe that because of the quality and uniqueness of the product, that with the right distribution channels we’ve got two of the three things we need,” finishes Derks. “Then it’s just a little good fortune and sales!”
Lovely Rita Spirits are available at restaurants, bars and properties including Roka Akor, Frank & Lupe’s, Eddie’s House, Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, Sumo Maya, McCormick Ranch Golf Club, The Saguaro 92nd Street Bar and Grill and many others. For additional information on Lovely Rita Spirits and a full list of retail and on premise outlets, visit www.lovelyritaspirits.com.