Next month, Es Teran will open Sonora Moonshine Company, a new restaurant with agave-based spirits, Sonoran bites and a speakeasy.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in April 2024. We're republishing it because Sonora Moonshine Company is celebrating its grand opening beginning 10 a.m. Sunday, May 5! 

Es Teran walks into one of his three bars…

While that might sound like a set-up to a bad dad joke, Teran has become a Tucson legend when it comes to creating hotspots filled with good vibes, cold drinks and great food.

With two Borderlands taprooms under his belt, Teran is in the process of adding one more spot to his list of accomplishments. 

Though Borderlands is known for its spiked agua frescas and Sonoran-inspired bites, Teran's new Sonora Moonshine Company, housed on the ground floor of the VFW Lofts, will focus on agave-based spirits, complete with shareable dishes and a speakeasy basement. 

“We wanted to showcase something a little bit different that we thought downtown Tucson was lacking,” Teran said of the new venture at 124 E. Broadway. “We wanted to showcase a little bit of the Mexican Sonoran cuisine, as well as different types of agave spirits, like bacanora, mezcal, tequila, sotol, all those products that are available down in Mexico and are becoming wildly more popular now. We wanted to bring those to Tucson.”

Transforming the place that once housed a public television station was no easy job. Teran and his team had to pretty much start from the beginning since there was no electricity or water. They even had to push back the opening date, which was originally set for last year.

After about two years, the empty space is now filled with agave murals and a pristine white bar supplied with spirits like tequila and mezcal. Of course, no Teran restaurant is complete without a mural by Sangre de Desierto and Sonora Moonshine Company is no exception.

While there is a fair share of basement bars here in Tucson, Teran wanted to incorporate a true speakeasy into his new concept, hoping to capture the secrecy and mystery found in the 1920s.

To even step foot into the speakeasy, Teran said there will be a phone number that customers can text to make reservations. If there is availability at that time, you’ll get a text back about where to meet one of the workers.

They will then lead you downstairs where you get to fully immerse yourself into the speakeasy experience. Bartenders will be ready to create personalized drinks based on the flavors you enjoy.

“To really keep the speakeasy component alive there, there's a small stage that we will be featuring musicians,” Teran said. “It's kind of like a different feeling to what we're trying to build upstairs at Sonora Moonshine. This will be a completely different entity on its own. It won't be open all the time, or the same time as Sonora Moonshine. We want to make sure that we that we keep that theme going.”

Heading back upstairs to the main bar, Teran wanted to bring Mexico to Tucson, incorporating the agave-based spirits into classic drinks. For example, an old fashioned with mezcal instead of whiskey or adding bacanora to your paloma.

“You know how they do wine flights at wine tastings or when you do beer flights at a brewery, we want to do a weekly flight of liquors and go through the history of the specific distilled product. So say one week we decide to do tequila, we'll do five different tequilas and go from the blanco, to the añejo and to the reposado.”

While most may be familiar with tequila and the smokey flavors of mezcal, bacanora may be a spirit some have yet to come to know. Bacanora grows in Sonora and is basically like a moonshine in that region, becoming legal in 1993, Teran said. Back in the '80s and '90s, Teran said people would sell Bacanora on the side of the road, packaging it in Coke or Fanta bottles.

“Tequila is from Jalisco, Mezcal is all over Mexico, but bacanora has to grow in a certain part in the state of Sonora and we wanted to pay a tribute to that,” Teran said. “That's why we named it Sonora Moonshine because it was the moonshine for the state of Sonora.”

To pair with your agave-based drink, Sonora Moonshine Company has lots of shareable bites to choose from, each incorporating Sonoran ingredients and flavors.

Guacamole with carne seca is just one of the sharable dishes on the menu.

Some of the menu includes dishes like guacamole with crispy carne seca, sea aguachiles with octopus, shrimp and salsa Negra and a giant soft pretzel with a side of mole to dunk it in.

“That mole is to die for, it's really delicious,” Teran said.

They are also working on a weekend brunch menu.

Right now, Sonora Moonshine Company is in the soft opening phase, getting feedback from customers to ensure they are ready for their official grand opening next month. On May 5, they will kick off their opening day celebration with brunch, live music and drink specials.

In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of mole pretzels and elote espresso martinis.

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Jamie Donnelly is the food writer for #ThisIsTucson. Contact her via e-mail at