Drinking Rules

Film Director Guillermo del Toro’s Exclusive Tequila Project

The Oscar nominee talks tequila, port and the importance of the right glass.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast Rights

Patrón Tequila just released a special edition that you helped create. Can you tell me about the project? “The idea was to create a centerpiece and make the tequila the centerpiece of the centerpiece. It’s a shrine. And I think it looks beautiful as the centerpiece of any bar.”

How long did it take you to design the intricate bottle and case? “You know we went through many permutations. In total, the whole adventure took three and a half years. First the idea was a reliquary but reliquary for me is too European and I thought altar. And we started thinking of a journey narratively for the box. First and foremost, the box is covered in a black suede with a silver skull. You start with black and then you open it and you see the box, which depicts all the stages of the processing of tequila, which is being done by skeletons to signal the ancestral tradition. Then all of a sudden you go from black to that beautiful two-dimensional box and then you open the wings and you reveal huge color and three-dimensions. You end up having a journey. You have votive candles that you can light. It’s a very beautiful piece.”

Was this harder or easier than making a film? “It’s a completely different process. I have helped conceive collectables for the movies but in this instance, you’re talking about a really high-priced piece [$399] and you have to marry the artistic needs that you have with the fact that they need to transport this piece throughout the world in containers for weeks at a time. So, some of the packaging considerations were difficult to navigate.”

Are you a tequila fan? “I like the smoothest tequila. So Patrón suits me. The ones I love the most are the flavor infused ones with chili, coffee, citrus and mango.”

Do you have a big home bar? “I have a reasonably big home bar but I’m very monotone. I’m a real port fan and I mostly drink port and tequila. I like very dainty drinks like Baileys. I’m not a guy that you would spend an afternoon browsing my shelf. I love a good wine. But I don’t like them necessarily super sophisticated. My favorite is Silver Oak because it’s one of those wines that I truly taste the wood. I really taste the oaky flavor and that pleases me.”

Do you make cocktails at home? “The thing that I love is Gin & Tonic. It’s simple. It’s very, very delightful. I love the Buñuel Martini. It is such an alchemical surreal idea about a ray of light of sun hitting the vermouth and the molecules passing onto the drink. I’m not a really good bartender. I like a good bartender. I enjoy it.”

So that’s it? “My favorite drink that I do make at home is a mix of liqueur St-Germain with a little bit of fresh grapefruit juice and a lot of ice. I don’t know if it has a name but I love the cocktail. It’s delicious.”

What do you call it? “I call it the drink I like.”

How did you get into drinking port? “The reason I love it is because when I first went to Spain in the mid ‘80s everybody was doing incredibly wild things. It was Madrileña, which was basically everybody doing all sorts of drugs and this and that but when you went to the traditional restaurants at the end [of the meal] the dessert very often was either Tio Pepe, a sherry or a port. I felt there was an almost high-bound tradition of port and I fell in love with it back in the ‘80s. I really like a good Fonseca and you can get it most everywhere. Port is absolutely one of my favorites.”

What kind of port do you like? “You can easily guess, I have a sweet tooth. You don’t drink Baileys to get hair on your chest.”

When you’re making a film do you go out with the crew? “No. I keep it very low key. On Fridays, the last day of the shoot it’s a tradition that the DP, the cinematographer and the director give money to the camera crew and the camera crew goes and buy good wines and cheese. You basically get a little shitfaced. It’s a very honored tradition.”

Do you cook a lot? “No. My specialty is to eat and drink.”

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Would you design another liquor bottle? “Over the years, we’ve gotten some big offers and I’ve never done it. But I’m a quarter Irish, so maybe whiskey one day.”

Do you collect glassware? “I’m fascinated by that. That’s the drinking paraphernalia that I like the most. As you may imagine most of [my collection] revolves around glassware with skulls. I love cut glass. Port looks better in a proper glass. Part of what makes it appealing is that it looks like a little jewel. Port you need to, if possible, drink from the right glass. I have a bottle of port next to my writing desk and a couple of clean glasses and at the end of the day I do drink a little port.”

Like a reward. “Yeah. That’s what I feel.”  

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Interview has been condensed and edited.