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They've got it all, from anejo to Z

January 23, 2008|Betty Hallock | Times Staff Writer

THE sign on the side of the building says Tequila Warehouse, and that's what you'll find inside Ramirez Liquor in Boyle Heights: wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with bottle after bottle of tequila.

Above the cash registers hang a couple of rifle-shaped bottles of Hijos de Villa reposado; on the counter is a display of mini-bottles and caballitos (shot glasses). Cases of Herradura, Don Eduardo, Asombroso, El Charro, Gran Centenario and 1921 Crema con Tequila (a creamy liqueur made with tequila) sit side by side, taking up much of the floor space.

Co-owner Alex Ramirez has helped put together a selection of more than 350 tequilas, including coveted bottles such as 1800 Millennium. His family has been in the grocery business since the '70s, but, Ramirez says, "my brothers and I decided to take the business in a different direction." Ramirez Liquor opened in 1995 and remodeled about four years ago, taking the leap into maximum tequila coverage: "Before that, we stocked less than 50 tequilas -- the mainstream stuff."

Ramirez keeps his dedo on the pulse of tequila and can guide you to interesting choices in various price ranges: Abandonado reposado in a ceramic green jug (the bottle may be changed soon), or Para Mi, a tequila made by former LAPD officers.

"There are so many ultra-premium tequilas in the market now," Ramirez says. "We try finding out what's coming out in Mexico and what's selling there. Many tequilas aren't sold through the big distributors. You've got to do your homework; it's like putting the pieces of a puzzle together."

736 S. Soto St., Los Angeles, (323) 261-2915, ramirezliquor .com.

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Tequila bars to try

Whether you like your tequila served in a snifter, in a shot glass or in a margarita, there's something out there for everyone; you just have to go out and find it. Here's a selection of restaurant bars with extensive tequila menus (100 or more). It's not a comprehensive list: There are also some Mexican-themed sports bars with lots of tequilas, and a growing list of established Mexican restaurants that are beefing up their tequila offerings.

Amaranta Cocina Mexicana

An upscale Mexican restaurant where more than 350 tequilas reside in attractive cubby holes at the blond-wood bar. The 14 margaritas each feature a premium tequila, and monthly tequila tastings are held the last Monday of the month. 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 1029, Canoga Park, (818) 610-3599, amaranta restaurant.com.

Antonio's

Owner and tequila connoisseur Antonio Gutierrez stocks more than 300 tequilas at this Melrose Avenue Mexican stalwart. Gutierrez sometimes works behind the bar on Sunday evenings (after his son Manny's shift is over), and he's pouring his private- label Antonio's tequila. 7470 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, (323) 658-9060.

El Carmen

It's like a wormhole to Guadalajara. Mexican wrestling masks, diablo-esque lighting and more than 400 tequilas at this Fairfax-area tequila mecca. The weekend crowd likes their beer and tequila cruda (salt, lime, you know the drill). Flights include the vato loco: Porfidio plata (blanco), Don Fulano reposado, Corzo anejo and Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal. 8138 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 852-1552.

L'Scorpion

An in-the-heart-of-Hollywood tequila bar accented by black leather and wrought-iron chandeliers, with a list of more than 250 tequilas -- that's more than four times the number of seats. Maybe the best deal in town: half-price tequila from 6 to 9 p.m. Tequila tastings 7 to 10 p.m. Thursdays, $45. 6679 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 464-3026, scorpionhollywood.com.

Malo

At Silver Lake's neighborhood taqueria and tequileria, more than 170 tequilas, plus 22 mezcals. For a margarita, try the "100% Organic" made with organic 4 Copas tequila, agave syrup and organic lime juice. Manager Matthew Dickson can help you select tequilas for a tasting. 4326 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 664-1011, malorestaurant.com.

Mucho Ultima Mexicana

A new by-the-beach Mexican restaurant with an expanding tequila selection; right now, it's at 150. Flights of tequilas, from $15 to $75. The house sangrita is a tangy mixture of tomato and orange juice, to be sipped alternately with tequila, "not chased," the menu instructs. 903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 374-4422, muchomb.com

Pink Taco

An extra-large icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe presides over the more than 100 tequilas at this "let's go crazy after a rough day at the office -- or at least have a margarita" joint. Young, tightly T-shirted staff are friendly and eager, if not experienced. Westfield Century City Mall, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 789-1000, pinktaco.com.

Su Casa

You won't leave your wallet in El Segundo. This pretty, cozy Main Street Mexican restaurant carries nearly 150 tequilas, served in thick, blue-rimmed snifters -- and you can get a sip of Don Julio Real for $35 (you might pay twice as much or more at other bars). 403 Main St., El Segundo, (310) 524-9985.

-- Betty Hallock

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