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La Pulga

Three Fort Worthians are giving the tequila business their best shot.

In Spanish, "la pulga" directly translates to "flea," but culturally it means much more. 
"It is the nickname for the open-air markets in Hispanic communities," says Andrew De La Torre, one-third of the founding team behind the tequila brand of the same name.

De La Torre teamed up with Sarah Castillo, the brains behind Fort Worth staples like Tinies Mexican Cuisine and the Sidesaddle Saloon, and Stephen Slaughter, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer, to bring La Pulga to life. 

To the team, La Pulga isn't just tequila, it's a way of life and a commitment to authenticity. 
"When Covid hit, the open-air market in Fort Worth was almost torn down," says De La Torre of the "pulga" located off University near Joe T. Garcias. "That market has been there since 1940, and it represents a tremendous amount of culture."

With that on his mind, De La Torre called up his close friend Castillo, and using the creativity-generating power of a bottle of sotol, the two sat on the tailgate of his truck and formulated a plan to create a Mexican spirits portfolio, starting with tequila. But they knew it couldn't be just another tequila filled with additives and sold to the public by a celebrity, it had to be "la pulga," pure and distilled from the culture. 

After their meeting, Castillo got a call from her childhood friend Slaughter. "He got right to the point," says Castillo. "He asked me if I had my own tequila brand, and I didn't know if he had heard something, so I asked him, 'Why, are you trying to start your own tequila?' And he was, so I told him about our project."

The project, which will eventually include sotol and a boutique hotel, was still in the beginning stages and was moving slowly. They decided to meet with Slaughter for coffee to see if they could work together. "Stephen's background in oil and gas and real estate really threw gas on the fire," says Castillo. "We started meeting with a couple of different sourcing partners in Mexico via Zoom," explains Slaughter. "And we connected with one that we still work with today."

And Slaughter's real estate background aided the team in saving the nearly dead Fort Worth "pulga." 

"I had no idea the flea market was struggling and available (for purchase)," says Slaughter. "I have a background in bringing historic buildings back to life, and although there will be some changes made to it, it intrigues me to tie the market into our brand. So, we got it under contract."

With the brand now indefinitely tied to the market, the team knew they needed to honor their culture's commitment to quality ingredients and traditional preparation. "Common additives in tequila are glycerin, sweeteners, caramel coloring, oak extract, and other flavorings," says De La Torre. "Once you've distilled a beautiful spirit, it's an abomination of traditional tequila to add all of these flavors at the end of the process. We represent the traditional way of doing things. And we are celebrity-free because we want our tequila to speak for itself." And the team agrees it's an honor to bottle the spirit of "la pulga" and share it with the community. 

"We are trying to curate a really great back bar and have brands that we respect in this industry," explains Castillo. "They might not have all the crazy marketing dollars, but it's a better product. And right now, we are all about education. I really believe the celebrity additive tequila will go away because the public is educating itself, and I'm passionate about that."

And that's what La Pulga is all about, people. "We are trying to spotlight the spirit of community and share that with people," says De La Torre. "We don't have a big fancy bottle and charge a lot of money for our tequila because that's not communal. We want to redefine what constitutes a premium spirit." And while the team isn't interested in bringing any other brands down to prove their point, they caution the community against buying expensive tequilas, saying that we all work hard for our money, so we deserve quality products that don't rely on additives to imitate flavor. 

"This is our backyard," says De La Torre. "We want to build a business in Fort Worth and make the community proud. We appreciate the support we have received so far and are excited for the next steps." And the team is confident in their ability to bring people together because they started with each other.

"I've learned a lot over the last few years," says Slaughter. "So far, the tequila has been really well received. Sarah and Andrew are the true experts of tequila, and they guided me through that process. It's really been a fun journey alongside the two of them."

In Spanish, "la pulga" directly translates to "flea," but culturally it means much more. 

To the team, La Pulga isn't just tequila, it's a way of life and a commitment to authenticity. 

That market has been there since 1940, and it represents a tremendous amount of culture.

We represent the traditional way of doing things. And we are celebrity-free because we want our tequila to speak for itself.

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