Flavored Tequilas in Full Bloom

hornitoslime-shot-bottle.jpgYour rum has been coconut flavored since you were your school’s reigning keg-stand champion. When you got your first job, and finally had a little cash in your pocket, your vodka flavor du jour became your calling card—pepper, Mandarin orange, citron, cucumber. And recently, hipster that you are, your whiskey tastes like cinnamon candies, honey, maple syrup or even bacon. So it was inevitable that your tequila would want to get in on the game.

Around this time last year, Tanteo rolled out a line of infused blanco tequilas—jalapeño, tropical and cocoa—which arrived in Las Vegas just in time to miss the pool season. Back this summer with a vengeance, look for Tanteo Jalapeño ($39, Total Wine & More) at Gordon Ramsay BurGR in Planet Hollywood, Commonwealth, Red Rock Resort, Dos Caminos at Tivoli Village, Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Javier’s in Aria and at the Palms. And if you’re feeling adventurous, here are the latest entries into the flavored tequila pageant.

Hornitos Lime Shot

If you like your tortilla chips with a “hint of lime,” Casa Sauza’s new release is for you. In a bid to own the shot occasion, Hornitos Lime Shot pairs the fresh floral, herbal and wooden notes of un-aged Hornitos Plata tequila with the refreshing taste of lime and a hint of salt, transforming the gauche salt-tequila-lime ritual into a multitasking single shot that respects your time. $26 at Total Wine & More, HornitosTequila.com.

Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila

California and Nevada were among the first states to welcome the newest issue from Peligroso Tequila last month. The 84-proof cinnamon-infused spirit is warm and savory, with spicy aromas and a light finish. If you’re still chasing the last flurries of spring skiing, try Peligroso Cinnamon in a hot Mexican chocolate après-ski warmer. $30 at Lee’s Discount Liquors, PeligrosoTequila.com.

Tequila Avión Espresso Liqueur

In need of a pick-me-up? Avión ultra-premium silver tequila—voted World’s Best Tasting Tequila at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition—is now being bottled with Italian espresso. Launched in March, 70-proof Avión Espresso adds just a touch of sweetness and a lot of grown-up appeal. Try it on the rocks, as a chilled shot or in mixed drinks, such as an Irish coffee or an iced espresso. $18 at Khoury’s Fine Wine & Spirits, TequilaAvion.com.

Counterpoint: ‘Tequila should taste like Agave’

Not everyone is feeling the whole “Look! My tequila tastes like a cupcake!” thing. Offering a timely counterpoint is Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy’s, An American Restaurant & Bar, in Aspen, Colorado, which is an incubator of sorts for top bartending, mixology and beverage-industry talent. “Flavored tequilas are nothing but a gimmick attempting to cater to the lowest common denominator of the social crowd,” Yeager declares. He is on intimate terms with agave spirits, an expert who has spoken before Mexico’s congress on the subject, so his opinion is an important one.

“Of all spirits produced,” he says, “tequila’s most redeeming quality is that it is best experienced in its purest form.” He allows that aging is itself a tequila flavoring, and loss of agave character is a point of contention among tequila makers. But coffee, hot peppers and fruit? “There is nothing to be gained in terms of cultivating new tequila lovers by introducing these ‘adulterated agave-based-spirits’—I have a difficult time calling them tequilas. If anything, these new products may stand in the way of introducing a newbie to the wonderful world of quality tequila.”

Yeager cites as proof an 875 percent increase in the production of high-quality tequila and the 32 percent increase in lower quality agave spirit production over 15 years (1995-2010).

“You tell me what the consumer is saying. Do they want more terrible tequila, or do they want the fresh taste of agave in 100 percent agave tequilas?” At one time, the Jimmy’s tequila menu boasted more than 150 labels. Following an epiphany about quality trumping quantity, Yeager has since whittled that down to about 70, each expression carefully chosen—not a one of which is flavored.