But regardless of quality, Ron Santa Teresa­ was verging on bankruptcy in 1998. "After my father left for the Vatican in 1995, a number of other people, not from the family, were running the company. There wasn't really an identity or an identification with the company," Henrique says. Sales were low, but overhead, in the form of too many employees, was high. "And we'd had a merger with a distribution company that basically imported whiskey and brands from abroad. They had a philosophy toward distribution, not production. And those two philosophies clashed. We were importing whiskey, Champagne, wine, tequila, everything, and this one powerful board member who had basically taken over Santa Teresa said rum wasn't a viable business."

Though Alberto and Henrique have always been close, they have different per­sonas. In looks as well as charisma, Alberto resembles a young, Latino John F. Kennedy: the dynamic dreamer. Bespectacled Henrique is a dead ringer for Stargate SG-1's studious yet studly archaeologist/linguist Dr. Daniel Jackson. Fluent in four languages, he's never at a loss for words: a facts/details guy. But in this family crisis, they saw eye to eye. And what they saw was red. "No," corrects Henrique. "Purple!"

So they proposed a coup. "We told our father we were positive that if we took over, sent everyone packing, and kept just rum, focused only on that, we'd be successful," explains Henrique. "If you saw the numbers for what you get for a case of rum and of whiskey, you have to sell two or three times more rum. So a lot of people said we were mad, that it was impossible, that we were going to go bust two months later. But here we are. The year we took over we had a 27 percent loss. The following year we had a 4 percent loss. The year [after that] it was [a] 14 percent profit. This year we closed at 22 percent profit."

Among the specific restructuring steps the brothers took, Henrique ticks off, "We cut employees from 600 to 264. We've lowered costs. We've been much more effective at handling inventory. We've increased prices. We increased exports; we'd been very focused on domestic business and production and thought we were focused internationally­ because we had a guy in Spain, Italy, and Peru. But there wasn't a concerted effort towards that. We weren't even in the United States three years ago.

"On the domestic market we rebuilt our name. The presence of the sons of the owner out in the streets, doing the work and talking with clients, has really helped the esteem of the company and raised confidence. They hadn't seen the owner for a long time. They got the wrong message.

"And then there's a whole branch of activities we started to do to lift up the category: a lot of education on rum, product launches, tastings - high-end things. In other markets we've seen whiskey take an important part of markets and consumers' minds, and then vodka. We've seen tequila go boom. And I've been hearing that rum is the next category to rise, grow, be fashionable. Definitely, there are more people out there now prepared and educated enough to appreciate our product."