Local entrepreneur Richard Alexander Pomes is co-owner and chief marketing officer of Ghost Tequila (www.ghosttequila.com), but before that he was a brand ambassador for Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. Pomes, a New Orleans native and longtime member of local theater company The NOLA Project, spoke with Gambit about what he learned about liquor and why he got into the tequila game.
What did you learn as a brand ambassador with Fireball?
Pomes: It was a lot of fun. When I started, I was hired to basically do social media, and my job just grew and grew as the brand got bigger and bigger. It was just really fun to be a part of that team. The sexy part, or the really exciting part, was the barhopping all over the country. It was really guerilla marketing on steroids — barhopping and buying people shots and having a lot of fun and building relationships. It's really about getting people interested on the ground level, going against what some of the bigger liquor companies are doing and staying away from traditional advertising or cramming new products down people's throats via point-of-sale. It's about genuinely going out there and shaking people's hands and having a drink with them. What surprised me the most is how easy it was to cultivate affection for a brand by being genuine with people and building relationships — being their friend as opposed to trying to sell them something. It's old-school advertising.
The most interesting thing I've learned is that most people don't care about history and tradition and how the product was made. Don't get me wrong, there are people that love that brand X that's been aged for 100 years and is a really high-quality product — and that's wonderful. But what people really love celebrating is the now. Over the last 10 years or so, it was all about the cocktails that took 10 minutes to make, or you were lighting things on fire or something. That was really cool and really exciting, but what I noticed is that most people don't really care about that. They want a shot and a beer, or something that doesn't take more than three steps.
How did you get into tequila?
P: One of my business partners with Ghost Tequila, Chris (Moran), came up with the idea. He was working at a tequila bar in Boston and he learned that a lot of people were coming to the bar, but not ordering tequila. Most people have a terrible breakup story with tequila, whether they had too much of it during spring break or college. So he came up with a cocktail, which was kind of sweet and kind of spicy, and made it by infusing ghost peppers. (Ghost) Tequila is 100 percent blue agave tequila infused with ghost peppers.
We (tried) to create a tequila that a non-tequila drinker would enjoy. It's really tough these days to sell tequila to non-tequila drinkers. You either get people who love it and are tequila aficionados, or you have people who had a really terrible (Jose) Cuervo experience in college, and (they're) like, "Never again."
What we've learned is that the hardcore tequila aficionado — that guy that's been collecting tequila for 30 years — is a little bit harder to convince. For them, they want it pure and unadulterated. Our target demographic is people that don't necessarily like tequila and bringing them back from the dark side by making tequila delicious again. We're not going elitist. The idea is tequila for everyone, and it's a lot more palatable.
Your lifestyle sounds rough. What's your hangover remedy when you're not on the road?
P: I love getting a bloody maria, the tequila version of a bloody mary. For food, I love Slim Goodies on Magazine (Street) because I can get breakfast and lunch: eggs and a burger and fries. My guilty pleasure is greasy-spoon food. Other than that — a lot of water and ibuprofen.