Review: Soltado Picante Tequila


Why would you take a perfectly good tequila and dope it up with a bunch of cinnamon and hot peppers? I can’t speak to the logic, although it’s hardly the first time anyone has tried to impregnate tequila with added flavoring agents. That said, flavored tequilas rarely have any serious pedigree. Not so with Soltado, which starts with 100% agave anejo tequila, aged 28 long months in American oak. It’s then flavored with cinnamon and local, organic serrano peppers. (No sugar is added to this mix, by the way.)

The results are, somewhat surprisingly, exactly what you’d expect. The nose has all the hallmarks of a good anejo — dense vanilla, creme brulee, and a bit of agave… plus an undercurrent of spicy peppers. On the palate, the tequila kicks off with the same elements, in the same sequence: First, gentle sweetness, then a touch of herbal agave, then the heat. This builds slowly but powerfully — those with chapped lips will suffer greatly at the hands of Soltado — an authentic and all-encompassing spiciness that feels like you’ve downed a solid slug of Tabasco. (The cinnamon doesn’t come through at all, however.) As it fades, the caramel of the tequila comes back to the fore, though it remains tempered by racy serrano notes that linger for several minutes.

Soltado is clearly designed for mixing, but nonetheless it remains a bit of an oddity.

80 proof.

B / $33 /

Review: 1800 Coconut Tequila

1800 coconutFlavored tequila can be a mixed bag, and straight out of the bottle, 1800’s coconut-flavored expression smells exactly like Malibu — at least until you stick your nose into the glass, when sharp agave notes come to the fore.

On the palate, it’s a combination of the two, as the spirit bounces between notes of sweet coconut flakes and brash, green, and peppery blanco tequila (100% agave is used here, though), with very little else happening in between. A touch of pineapple hits the finish, but otherwise this is sugary coconut and punchy agave notes, trying to live side by side.

My mind struggles trying to figure out the appropriate use for the spirit, though. As a sipper the two styles never quite get together in a friendly enough way. As a mixer, the same issue applies — the tequila clashes with cola or another standard add-in.

That really leaves one option: Coconut margaritas, anyone?

70 proof.

C+ / $24 /

Review: Hornitos Spiced Honey Tequila

Hornitos Spiced Honey Bottle ImageThe flavored tequila world isn’t necessarily the most successful one out there. Most offerings in this space are tolerable at best.

Hornitos Spiced Honey is a more ambitious product than the Hornitos Lime Shot that came before it — lime-flavored tequila isn’t much of a stretch — adding honey and a blend of spices to standard blanco Hornitos.

The nose offers a slightly sweet take on dense agave, vegetal notes balanced by what at first seems more like apple cider than honey. On the palate, it’s quite sweet, with notes of pineapple, ripe pear, and indistinct spices — gingerbread character, with a backing of toasted marshmallow.

The palate is as sweet as expected, with notes not just of honey but of milk chocolate and a bit of cinnamon. Some coffee notes emerge with time, and the herbal agave character shows its face as things open up. Not so much pungent as it is mildly sultry, the agave meshes fairly well with the honey and the spice notes — though these don’t really add much aside from a layer of sweetness atop an otherwise straightforward blanco.

70 proof.

B- / $18 /

Review: Blue Nectar Tequila

blue nectar special reserve

Blue Nectar is a new brand producing three varieties of tequila from the Lowlands of Mexico. The three expressions are not the traditional trio you might be familiar with in the tequilaverse, but let’s not spoil the surprise.

All expressions are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.

Blue Nectar Tequila Silver – Intense bell pepper, jalapeno, and red chilis on the nose lead to a racy and spicy initial rush. This manages to settle down quickly to reveal some surprising layers of sweetness — light butterscotch and a bit of vanilla. You can’t keep that vegetal/pepper character down for long. It makes an overwhelming encore on this enigmatic — and slightly off-putting — spirit. B / $37

Blue Nectar Tequila Reposado – Claimed to be “a unique blend of reposado and limited production extra anejo” tequilas, which puts this into a category of bizarre tequila recursion. Is Blue Nectar Reposado somehow blended with itself? No matter. The addition of some three-year anejo aside, this is a well-made reposado, offering a pleasing mix of rich agave, silky caramel, and gummy vanilla notes. Both the savory and sweet sides of this spirit are in balance here, giving it a punchy, peppery counterbalance to its sweeter side. Lots to like. A- / $40

Blue Nectar Tequila Special Reserve – You might presume this is a fancy name for Blue Nectar’s Anejo. You’d be wrong. It is actually reposado “tequila infused with natural spice flavor.” Said spices are not revealed, but they do include “vanilla, nutmeg, and orange peel, plus a hint of agave nectar.” The overall impact is a bit weird and hard to pin down. It’s a very light, almost fruity spirit, with notes of orange juice, banana, vanilla ice cream, and a dusting of agave spice on the back. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad product. In fact, it’s pleasant enough, but it’s harmless to the point of being nearly inconsequential. I’m not sure what Blue Nectar did to this spirit, but it ultimately did a bit of a disservice to the raw material. B- / $45

Review: Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila Liqueur

peligroso cinnamon tequila

Bottled at the same 84 proof as its standard tequila lineup, Peligroso curiously markets this cinnamon-flavored variety as a “liqueur.” But what’s in the bottle is 100% agave blanco tequila infused with “100% pure cinnamon and a blend of secret ingredients, creating a distinct juice with a kick that leaves some sweet heat on the palate.”

The effect is surprisingly mild.

The color bestowed on this silver tequila by the spice infusion brings it into the world of anejo, and those spices push it that direction on the nose and body, too. The nose is a curiosity — earthy agave takes the front seat, with sultry cinnamon notes underneath. There are hints of red berries and a distinct floral character there too, something you wouldn’t expect to find in either unflavored tequila or a cinnamon spirit.

The body is a bit more straightforward. The cinnamon and baking spice notes are easily evident, with a strong, vegetal agave underpinning. The overall effect is something like caramel corn meets jalapeno peppers meets Cinnabon (sans the cloying sweetness). The finish is surprisingly easygoing and palatable, not nearly the bite you’d expect.

I’m still unsure what the point of flavored tequila is — a shot of tequila with a little cinnamon liqueur would let you mix things up to your own tastes — but I think what Peligroso is trying to do here is at least an intriguing and worthy experiment.

B+ / $36 /

Review: Hornitos Lime Shot Tequila

I was surprisehornitos lime shotd to see Hornitos — one of the most respected names in mainstream tequila — releasing a flavored product like this, clearly aimed at the party-crowd shot market. At the same time, I was intrigued. If anyone was going to do a good job with a “lime shot” tequila, it ought to be Hornitos.

The tequila, a very pale green/gold in color, doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation. It’s a 100% agave tequila, kicked with a touch of natural lime flavor. (The website says there’s salt added too, completing the trifecta.)

The nose offers quite a bit of lime, with a modest agave underpinning. More Meyer lemon than lime, at first blush, but close enough. The agave notes build over time as you let it settle in the glass, the overall effect becoming more “tequila-like.”

The body offers more of the above, but with more sweetness than sourness in the mix. Lime is abundant, something like a lime candy, but I don’t get any salt. What I also don’t get: Much tequila. What’s there is mild, a simple plata with just a touch of vanilla to give the sugary character some interest. Other than that, you won’t be able to pick out much more given all the lime flavoring.

If the idea was to recreate a bar shot, where you really don’t taste anything but lime juice, mission accomplished. But honestly, I’m still scratching my head just trying to figure out what the point of this is. Are limes that hard to cut up?

70 proof.

B- / $18 /

Review: Tanteo Flavored Tequilas

Thanks to new Mexican legislation, flavored tequilas continue to arrive, and Tanteo has two of the most intriguing concoctions we’ve seen yet (plus one already-familiar infusion). All 100% agave, these three tequilas add natural flavors to an 80 proof base, with curious results. All appear to use unaged blanco tequila as the starting point: Though the final tequila in this tasting has a yellowish tint to it (not going to spoil the secret just yet), I presume that’s from the additional ingredients, not barrel aging.

Tanteo Tropical purports to be flavored with mango, pineapple, and guanabana, and “gently kissed with the essence of jalapeno.” In reality, this one’s pineapple all the way — the nose is filled with the spiny fruit’s signature flavor, and it’s strong on the body, too. Mango plays a distant second fiddle, but it’s there, alongside traditional, herbal agave notes. It’s like a pineapple vodka, but with more nuance. This is interesting when consumed solo (drink it cold or on the rocks), but it’s clearly destined for greater things as part of a unique margarita or, as the name suggests, as a replacement for rum in tropical drinks. A-

Tanteo Jalapeno doesn’t mince words: Its only infused additive is jalapeno peppers. A real bruiser, I was immediately reminded of Agave Loco‘s powerful concoction, though Tanteo’s version has considerably less peppery heat to it. As with Agave Loco, it’s not typical jalapeno that presents itself but more of a vinegary sport-pepper character. The burn is more akin to a strong black pepper or cayenne, particularly on the nose. Not bad at all, but as with all pepper-infused tequilas I’ve reviewed, it’s not for everyone. B+

Tanteo Chocolate – We save the most interesting for last. Because, seriously, who doesn’t like chocolate? A staple in Mexican cooking, it’s a natural addition to tequila, but also a really surprising one. In keeping with the theme, Tanteo adds not just chocolate extract to the tequila but also jalapeno again, too. The results are intriguing: Chocolate, not too dark or bittersweet, is the prevalent character, but the jalapeno creeps up on you in the finish (unlike in the Tropical, where it’s not really noticeable at all). The result is sweet followed by heat, and a long agave-like finish. Again I like this one served cold, and again it’s got tons of promise in cocktails, primarily in the dessert drink milieu. A-  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

$55 each /

tanteo tequila

Review: Gran Centenario Rosangel Hibiscus Tequila


We’ve gone through flavored vodka and flavored rum. Now you can start adding flavored tequilas — hitting the market in earnest now — to the mix.

Unlike, say, Agave Loco, Centenario’s Rosangel is a much more subtle product. The only similarity is the original base spirit: Reposado tequila, rested for two months (in Port barrels in the case of Rosangel). Centenario then infuses the tequila with hibiscus flowers (not roses, mind you),and once it’s taken on a pink hue, it’s bottled and sold for you to sample.

The experience is quite unique. Though quite flowery on the nose, the initial taste is vanilla-packed tequila with a decent amount of agave flavor in it. The finish brings on, however, not tequila’s frequent astringency but a hefty flower power that lingers a bit, quite pleasantly. It actually does taste more rose-like than hibiscus (perhaps an instructive in how it was named), but in any case it’s definitively flowery in character.

As intriguing as Rosangel is, it is more curious as a cocktail ingredient than on its own, and I’ve spent the last two weeks tinkering with it while sipping it straight. Sub it in for regular tequila in any recipe to spin your cocktail in a different direction. The best thing I’ve created, though, is a spin on the company’s own margarita recipe. Mine — recipe below — is simplified a bit from Centenario’s, and it lets the Rosangel shine a bit more clearly. Oh, and trust me, you don’t need salt.

80 proof.

A- / $35 /

The Drinkhacker Rosangel Margarita
1 1/2 oz. Rosangel tequila
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 1/2 oz. Cranberry Juice
Juice of 1/2 a lime

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

Review: Agave Loco Pepper Cured Tequila

The story goes that master distiller Tom Maas and his crew found that, in the old days, some enterprising people in Mexico were preserving peppers not in vinegar but in tequila. And rather than simply eating the deliciously tequila-flavored peppers, someone had the idea to try to do it the other way around: Use the peppers to flavor the tequila.

This isn’t the first peppered tequila I’ve tried, but it’s certainly the first 100% agave version: Agave Loco is 100% agave and reposado to boot. It was unheard-of until recently that anyone would “waste” 100% blue agave spirit on something that would then be “destroyed” with an additive like peppers.

Don’t tell Maas that: He puts six kinds of peppers (their identities all secret) into his reposado, and the peppers each soak for three days to two weeks before being removed. They leave behind a load of pepper taste — and also a curious haze, which Maas refuses to filter out, saying “haze equals flavor.”

Agave Loco is nothing like the killer fire-breather that Tabasco’s pepper tequila is, but they don’t exactly call it “Loco” because it’s subtle. The aroma is unmistakable, but the initial taste is surprisingly very mild. The pepper flavor comes on strong after that, but the finish fades quite quickly, leaving you with a clean palate and a strong thirst — either for water or for more tequila.

I have no idea how you’d pick out which six varieties of peppers are in this mix by taste alone, but the specific flavor I get is of those little green tabasco peppers that come packed in vinegar (aka “sport peppers”) and are a fixture in diners across the south. I don’t see them much any more, but the taste of Agave Loco made the memory of that flavor come rushing back at me like a chicken fried steak to the face. Yeah, agave is also in there, but it’s significantly in the distance. You can even catch wood, too, but while you’re busy trying to pick out those flavors, the pepper creeps up on you and wipes everything else out of your head.

Agave Loco is best in moderation — it really builds up as you sip through a shot — but I’m already thinking of ways to use the stuff in more complicated cocktails. Best idea I’ve heard comes from Agave Loco itself: As an ingredient in an “adults only” guacamole.

71.1 proof.

B+ / $30 /


Review: Tabasco Spicy Tequila

Today is Mexican Independence Day. (Independence from Spain in 1810, Einstein.) That means you should be drinking tequila right now. Or at least a Pacifico. Alas, I’ve but one bottle of tequila in the Drinkhacker review queue, and it’s not exactly something you’re going to want to suck down til dawn. Sorry.

Anyway, you read the subject line: We’re talking about Tabasco Spicy Tequila. As in tequila with Tabasco Sauce in it. For real.

If you’re the kind of drinker who throws back a shot of Cuervo and immediately growls, “Wow, that didn’t burn enough going down!” then Tabasco Spicy Tequila is for you. This tequila gives you two kind of burns: One from the tequila and a totally different one from the hot sauce. The result is an overpowering sense of imminent death, should you be so unwise as to drink a full 1.5 ounces of this in one gulp.

Now this isn’t a slam. The whole wheat side of me can see this tequila being used in moderation in super-hot cocktails (maybe your occasional Bloody Maria)… but the frosted side figures it’s going to become popular with the frat boy/bar bet crowd. “$20 if you can do three shots in a row…” God help you if you don’t have salt, lime, and a Bible handy.

The tequila’s 80 proof and the base spirit is nothing special. It’s a mixto tequila (common with adulterated/flavored tequilas) that has a fair amount of agave character despite the heat of the Tabasco. (If you’re looking to save money, you might even try mixing your own version of this. Tabasco Sauce is cheap in comparison.)

As for those shots, regular readers will know that I prefer to sip my tequilas rather than taste them just once in a shot. This is one of those experiences where I figure many, alas, will be tasting it twice.

C / $22 /