Ph.D. exams completed with flying colors

by Michael Alderete on 6/8/2003

As I described prior to our vacation, Rochelle and I have been working hard on our Ph.D. (in tequila), and had planned to take our final exam this past Sunday (June 1st). I’m pleased to report that we passed with flying colors.

The exam is a serious one — maybe not as tough as a real Ph.D. orals exam, but certainly equivalent of a college undergraduate final exam. 70 questions, multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank; you must finish in 20 minutes, taking it at the bar, with the other patrons chanting at you.

Many of the questions are trick questions, and require you to know, for example, the difference between Herradura Silver and Herradura Blanco (at most distilleries, they are one and the same). No one has ever scored a 100% on the exam, and only one person has missed only one question. I missed two questions, and Rochelle missed three.

We studied hard for this exam. We bought two very good books on tequila, and read both (and you should see Rochelle’s color-coded page tabs!). Julio provides study material, and Rochelle and I each created a set of flash cards to study it. Although we didn’t do as much studying while we were on vacation as we had planned, it was basically all we did on Saturday and Sunday prior to taking the exam. We knew our flash cards cold, and the couple of the questions that were not in the study materials were either in the book, or had so annoyed our friend David (who took the text a couple months ago) that he kept repeating them, over and over, whenever he talked about his Ph.D. (quick, what was the original logo for Patrón tequila?).

We did end up taking the exam with a handicap. You only qualify to take the exam when you’ve completed your Ph.D. tasting card, which requires you to sample 35 100% blue agave tequilas while at Tommy’s (and you cannot sample more than three in a single visit). Before our vacation I was two visits away from finishing, and Rochelle was one. We had intended to go once before our trip, so that Rochelle could be done, and I would only have to have two tequilas before taking the test.

Well, we never made it there, and an hour before we headed to Tommy’s for the exam, we realized that Rochelle needed to drink two cocktails before taking her exam — and I had to drink five. That’s 10 ounces of tequila, folks.

Fortunately, we had three hours at the bar before we took the test, and Julio let me start the exam once my fifth cocktail was poured (so I had only drunk four), but even so, I was not even close to sober. So I suppose the fact that I didn’t remember the town where Chinaco tequila is made can be excused.

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