Posted on | March 25, 2013
Written by | Kristen Wolfe Bieler
The last person who ever imagined Tequila Avión would produce a flavored tequila is Jenna Fagnan, the company’s president. “We never thought about flavors because we are tequila purists—it’s all about the agave.”
But then Fagnan and her team started noticing the number of people doing a shot of espresso and a shot of Avión together. And accounts across the country started asking when they were coming out with a coffee flavor. And then founder Ken Austin started playing around at the distillery in Mexico with Italian espresso and Avión Silver with delicious results. And Avión Espresso was born.
Avión Espresso has little in common with other flavored spirits on the market. To begin with, the distillery doesn’t use a neutral spirit as the base, but real Avión Silver—a decision which means it’s more expensive to produce and has leaner margins (Avión Silver retails for approximately $40 a bottle, and Avión Espresso is $24.99). “We wanted to make sure we were priced competitively and giving the consumer great value for their money,” says Fagnan.
Second, it’s remarkably unadulterated, without the quantities of gums, sweeteners and additives that many employ. “We focused on Avión Tequila, Espresso, and a touch of sweetness,” says Fagnan. “We really want the flavor of the agave to come through.” Austin and Fagnan chose Italian espresso rather than any other coffee—“we felt the Italian espresso process made the best partner for the Avión, and you can immediately smell the roasted espresso beans on the nose.”
The result is something that will surprise even the most flavor-jaded in the business. The lack of excessive sugar means Avión Espresso isn’t cloying or viscous, and possesses an appealing tequila freshness upfront. Fagnan rightly points out, “It keeps making you want to go back for another taste.” It’s also exceedingly mixable in a range of cocktails.
“We’ve been so lucky because bartenders have embraced Avión,” says Fagnan. Although it has just begun to officially roll out, a few instant favorites have already emerged. “People love the Red Eye, which is equal parts Avión Espresso and Jameson on the rocks; others love mixing it with iced espresso, which is extremely refreshing,” Fagnan reports.
The creativity springboards from there. Similar to what mixologists have done with Avión’s tequila expressions—subbing in the Silver in cocktails which call for vodka, and switching out bourbon or Scotch in favor of Avión Añejo or Reposado—bartenders are finding ways to mix with Espresso in deliciously unique ways.
We paid a visit to Colin Maxwell, lead bartender at The General, a new restaurant in downtown Manhattan, to see what he had been concocting. From its unlikely marriage with lemon and grapefruit juice in Maxwell’s Black Ops to the layer of complexity it added to the dark, nutty, fig-laced Full Metal Jacket the Avión Espresso shined through every time with a versatility that surprised all of us.