By Charles Passy
It’s easy to mock the idea of a tequila-spiked espresso drink. After all, isn’t the whole thing about two buzzes for the price of one?
But after sampling Avion Espresso Tequila, I find myself marveling at the sheer cleverness – and sheer deliciousness – of what goes into that frosted bottled.
First, a little background. If you haven’t heard of Avion, clearly you’ve not been a fan of the HBO show “Entourage” (slated to become a movie). When the tequila brand – in its straight, non-espresso form – was launched a few years ago, it got a considerable boost from the fact it was worked into the series’ plotline. The tie that binds? A friendship, extending back to a Long Island grade school, between Avion backer Kenny Dichter and “Entourage” creator Doug Ellin.
But Avion has also been winning kudos on its own. If anything, it’s one of the few new tequilas to successfully vie in the premium space that’s long been owned by Patron. And it’s got the reviews from serious sippers to prove it. Christopher Null of the Drinkhacker site called the brand a “solid, top-shelf product.” In particular, he gave a rare A-plus rating to the Avion anejo (the most aged version), calling it “a masterpiece” with “huge vanilla and cinnamon character” and “an absurd bargain” with its $55 price.
It turns out that Avion Espresso, which is actually a tequila-based liqueur (as opposed to a tequila), is also something of a bid for the sizable Patron following. The drink is obviously a challenger to Patron’s XO Cafe, another liqueur made with tequila and java. Patron’s XO is flavored with straight coffee; the Avion Espresso is flavored with, well, espresso. I’ve been a huge fan of XO – it goes great over ice cream, too – but I have to say that the espresso seems to give the liqueur a depth and intensity that you don’t get from regular java. Moreover, the earthy character of espresso seems to bring out the herbaceous character of tequila (or perhaps it’s the other way around?). Finally, the Avion product avoids the dreaded curse of being too sweet and syrupy – the downfall of many a well-flavored liqueur. Oh, and at $25, it’s a relative bargain, too.
But will it play well with the “Entourage” fan base? Hard to say. Frankly, liqueurs have never been a guy-centric thing. But I do think this is as close to a “manly” liqueur as you’re going to find. And it certainly has a lot more character than other coffee-liqueurs on the market (think Kahlua). Moreover, flavored whiskeys have been huge of late and this is way to continue that trend with the tequila crowd. In any case, I see Avion Espresso being around for quite a while.
What else I’ve been sipping of late…
Bowmore 25 Year ($413.99 at Astor Wines & Spirits): I love a good peaty Scotch. But I love one that tames all that smoke with a hint of sweetness. And that’s what Bowmore does with this expression, available at select retailers, that gets plenty of time in sherry and bourbon casks. Granted, the price makes this a single malt that’s out of reach for many, but it’s definitely a bottle to keep in mind for an extra-special dad on Father’s Day.
Smirnoff Sorbet Light ($15.99). No, this is not a frozen concoction – it’s just a flavored, low-calorie vodka (in raspberry pomegranate, mango passion fruit and lemon varieties) that’s intended to evoke the warm-weather “feeling of getting that scoop of sorbet,” according to Smirnoff brand director Dan Kleiman. It’s a bit gimmicky, especially since the “light” aspect (it’s 78 calories for a 1.5-ounce pour) comes from the fact it’s lower alcohol (60 proof), too. But as “skinny” pours go, it’s a fun, tasty and summer-friendly one.
Orleans Bitter ($35). Speaking of summer drinks, I sometimes prefer the bitter kind – meaning an aperitif like Campari CPR.MI -1.51% that cuts through the stickiness of a hot, humid day. In that vein comes this great new sipper that’s a hard cider — from Vermont-based Eden Ice Cider — with all sorts of bitter boosts (from dandelion and gentian bitters, in particular) and a nice reddish tint (from red currants).
For more info on a couple of the above offerings, see these WSJ Live videos: