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Founder of Catan Pisco company brings Chilean spirit to US

ABC7 Chicago | Tanja Babich

SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) – Education, employment, and opportunity are at the forefront of reasons families immigrate to the United States. But that doesn’t mean they forsake their homeland’s customs and traditions.

Sometimes, families find ways to integrate the best of both worlds.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Tanja Babich sat down with the first Chilean and American to own a pisco company.

“My father asked us one day at the dinner table, ‘So what do you all - four kids - what do you all want to be when you grow up?’ And I was like, ‘I want to be a business woman!” and he’s like, ‘No.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean no?’ And he was like, ‘I’m paying for college and you’re not going to school for business.’” Catalina Gaete-Bentz said.

Gaete-Bentz did not go to school for business. But she has always had the heart of an entrepreneur.

“I moved to Chicago to date a boy named Dan,” she said. “And two-and-a-half years into the relationship it was time for my parents to meet his parents.”

And to mark that occasion a celebratory toast with her country’s signature spirit, pisco.

“And I was like, “Holy ….That’s it! I need to bring pisco to the USA,” Catalina said.

In the name of love and ingenuity, Catalina created a portmanteau, combining her nickname - Cat - with her boyfriend’s name - Dan.

“So I looked at him and said, ‘I’m going to call it Catan Pisco so you better marry me!” she said. “And it worked! We launched July of 2018 and we got married the same year.”

Her plan in place, Catalina got to work.

“So pisco is a hard alcohol distilled from grapes,” she said.

Just as the French have cognac and the Italians have grappa, “You can only call it pisco because the denomination of origin is in Chile and Peru,” Catalina said.

“I wanted it to be double distilled, translucent,” she said. “I wanted it to look like a vodka to speak to the American consumer. And how we got the recipe is flying them back and forth in an airplane.”

The only remaining obstacle was self-doubt.

“I told my mom, ‘Mom, do you think this is crazy?’” Catalina said. “My mom said, ‘Mija, the only crazy things or ideas are the ones that are thought up of and never acted upon.’ And I knew I had to do this.”

Catan Pisco is distilled in Chile and imported to a warehouse in Skokie where it is, then, shipped to vendors. After her husband Dan and their two sons, Callan and Gavin - Catalina’s pisco is a source of pride and, she hopes, inspiration to others.

“It’s a story that’s going to be passed on and hopefully inspire other Latina women to just follow their heart and their dreams and just do what they want to do despite being told no - how i was told no,” she said.

Catan Pisco is sold at Binny’s and through several online retailers Asked about whether her father has finally conceded that business was the right path for her, Catalina said he’s eager to take credit for her success, claiming he used reverse psychology.

See more at ABC7 Chicago