Community & Culture | Apr. 19, 2021

From Cocktail to Career: My Smoked Mangonada Journey

In late 2014 I was leading the bar program at the popular cocktail bar and social hotspot Parliament in Dallas, Texas. I was invited to participate in Margarita of the Year” (MOTY), a competition-style marketing campaign by Patrón, then in its second year. To be honest I really knew very little about the brand, but loved creating tequila cocktails for my guests and had the perfect idea in mind. 

A barback that I worked with introduced me to a mangonada” from a local fruteria. A delicious blend of fresh mango, mango puree, lime and tajin – I was immediately hooked and knew that would be the inspiration for my submission for MOTY. Using Patrón reposado and mango Citrónge with fresh mango puree and lime was a no brainer and made an amazingly delicious drink. 

The MOTY program was going to bring together six bartenders from around the US to show off their finest work, so I knew that if I was going to be triumphant I would need to find that special twist, something that would add an element of complexity to my game. I tried using aged rum and even mezcal but both of those drowned out the flavor of the tequila, which I knew had to be the star of the show.

One night, after tinkering with this for weeks, I had a breakthrough – using a smoking gun, I smoked the entire cocktail in a glass decanter. I loved the smoky element brought by the mesquite smoke, and it had the added benefit of toning down the sweetness of the mango. Being able to watch the smoke dancing around in the decanter and flowing out when pouring the cocktail added an element of drama that I knew would be irresistible. However, it still was a little too much – the smoky flavor dominated everything and made my cocktail a bit one-dimensional. My aha moment came when I smoked just the mango Citrónge by itself and then added it to the drink…I knew I had finished my cocktail, and I was sure I had a winner. 

Fast forward a few months: I was meeting the rest of my fellow MOTY contenders for the first time as we boarded the bus from Guadalajara and headed out of the city on our journey to Hacienda Patrón. As many of you reading this can attest to, it is hard to put into words how amazing it is to arrive at the Hacienda for the first time. Stories from friends and videos online cannot properly prepare you for what was in store for us. Seeing the whole process from beginning to end and getting a personal tour from Production Director Antonio Rodriguez is a memory I will never forget, and one I will always cherish. 

We were on a tight timeline to record our video content for the campaign website but I remember meeting so many employees during those couple of days, hearing their stories of what they do and how long they had worked there, and learning what a truly remarkable place the Hacienda is. For me, Patrón is and has always been about the people. The company’s commitment to their employees and in turn the employees’ dedication to making the best possible tequila and preserving traditional techniques is completely unparalleled.

I came back from that experience totally inspired and eager to share the stories of what I had seen and learned during my trip. If you came to my bar and hinted at even the slightest interest in tequila, I was likely to step on my soapbox and hit you with my elevator pitch of why Patrón Tequila was truly worthy of a place among the great tequilas being produced. If you had snubbed it in the past I would do my best to persuade you to give it a second look. (And I didn’t even work for the brand, not that you could tell as much from the way I talked about it!)

When the MOTY 2016 campaign finally launched, we traveled all over the country together for events where we would serve our margaritas to guests, while they learned about our inspiration and ultimately cast their votes. The competition was tough and the other finalists’ margaritas were absolutely incredible. In the end I made it to the final 3 but ultimately was bested by Jordan Corney from San Antonio. His cocktail, the Rosa Picante is incredible and is as tasty as it is beautiful to behold. It’s a must-have every time I go there to visit and typically the first thing I do when I get to the San Antonio Cocktail conference.

As the competition began to wind down, it had become apparent that perhaps my destiny was not to be just a passionate promoter of my Smoked Mangonada, on my way to a potential MOTY victory! As it happened, there was going to be MUCH more Patrón tequila in my future. After the program ended, I was offered what I still consider to be, all these years later, a bartender’s dream job. And so it was with great pride that I joined the advocacy team as Manager of Trade Education and Mixology for Patrón, in the late spring of 2016. I still have this job today, so even though I did not win Margarita of the Year,” I ended up with possibly the best prize” I could possibly imagine, and it all started with a Patrón Margarita…

Author: Stephen Halpin

Smoked Mangonada

  • 2 oz Patrón Reposado
  • .75 oz Smoked Patrón Citrónge Mango*
  • .75 oz Mango puree**
  • .75 oz Fresh lime juice
  • Tajin rim
  • Fresh mango for garnish


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill.

Strain over fresh ice into an ice-filled double old fashioned glass that has been rimmed with Tajin (a chili lime salt).

Garnish with a slice of fresh mango.

*Smoked Patrón Citrónge Mango:

  • Pour 6 oz of Patrón Citrónge Mango into a large empty bottle.

  • Using a smoking gun, fill the bottle with smoke and swirl to combine for 20 seconds.

**Mango Puree:

  • Peel and pit one ripe mango and cut into pieces.

  • In a food processor, purée mango with 1.5 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice until smooth.