Chinaco Blanco Tequila

As I drove up, I was blown away by the recent changes along 32nd Avenue east of Zuni Street. While I'd been aware of all the gentrification further west, I couldn't believe that this stretch -- which a politically correct person would have described as "urban" three years ago -- suddenly has modern-looking townhouses within crawling distance of Aztec Sol. But that doesn't mean the joint has gone upscale. Aztec Sol still has its soul, even if Diane, the new woman behind the bar, is a gringa who doesn't speak Spanish (when her customers still speak more Spanish than English) and is somewhat challenged by the magnitude of tequila options that seem to change daily. When I asked for a shot of ultra-premium tequila that wouldn't cost a fortune, she suggested Chinaco Blanco ($5), a 100 percent agave tequila packaged in a pretty bottle. Then-Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Guillermo Gonzalez began producing Chinaco tequila in an old cotton gin in Tamaulipas back in 1977, the same year he won a self-serving fight to amend the country's laws to allow tequila production in the states of Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Michoacan and Nayarit. Chinaco was first distributed in the United States in 1983, one of the early offerings in the ultra-premium-tequila category -- at a time when "sipping tequila" seemed as odd as soda pop packed with caffeine. Before I could ask for another round, Diane revealed that from 5 to 8 p.m. on Mondays, house margaritas and draft beer are just a buck. A buck! Instantly, ultra-premium tequila seemed as ridiculous as Sunday-night football. A marg made with Zapopan Reposado tequila (neither ultra nor premium) was all I needed to quench my thirst. This is one dollar store I plan to visit more often. Hey, I wonder if one of those townhouses is available?