On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe look at the trending category of flavored tequila. Following Diageo’s purchase of 21 Seeds, will we see more products like this on the market soon? Will this play out similarly to the trajectory of vodka in the ‘90s and 2000s? Tune in to learn more.

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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.

A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” And first, before we begin, a special statement. Zach?

Z: Yeah.

A: Love you, man.

Z: Did you miss me?

A: Yeah, but you’re dead wrong about those cocktail books. I just want to be clear. I definitely think that they are useful. But I wasn’t here to say anything, so we don’t have to relitigate it.

J: Adam was so mad to miss that.

A: I was very mad to miss that convo. I think you had a good argument there. What I did agree with is that there are way too many cocktail books based on cocktail bars that don’t deserve cocktail books.

Z: That was my point. That was the argument I was making.

J: That was a point.

A: It was a point. I felt like it very much went into cocktail books in general.

Z: I made a point to say that there’s a value to collections of recipes. You just don’t need a book for it.

A: Interesting.

Z: You’ve got VinePair, what do you need a book for?

A: True. Look at you repping the site. I appreciate it.

Z: I’m pushing the site harder than either of the two of you.

A: Oh, sh*t. OK. Anyways, what did you drink while I was gone?

Z: No, no, no. You tell us about Champagne. Come on, bud. Tell us the most fun.

A: First of all, Paris is great, guys.

Z: Take from Adam Teeter: Paris is a great city.

A: It’s still OK. Still great. So, yeah. I was in Reims. Have you been there before Zach?

Z: For a day, yes.

A: Oh. What I was really bummed about is a bunch of people all kept telling me, “You’ve got to go to this one dive bar called the Glue Pot. It’s this awesome dive bar that they serve Champagne at.” So I looked on Google Maps and I realized that it’s only two blocks from my hotel. I’m getting amped. I showed Naomi while we’re waiting for the plane. We’re gonna go to the Glue Pot when we land, it’s going to be awesome. And of course, that was the one week they decided to take their f*cking vacation. So I didn’t get to go.

J: That always happens.

A: Although I can assure you that, because you were in France, it was definitely not the one week they took a vacation.

A: For this month.

J: I love that name.

A: Yeah the Glue Pot, so cool. So in Reims we went to three Champagne houses that were very gracious to host Naomi and I. This is not a press trip, this was our vacation. But I told the people I was going and they were like, “We’d love to have you.” So I got to go to Krug, which was one of the most epic experiences I’ve ever had. It was just an incredible time there. They were so gracious. The wines are incredible. It was really cool to see the cellars, to meet with them, and to learn about how they make the wines. It’s insane that they literally vinify by plot and by row. For any given vintage there or harvest there, they are vinifying 450 to 500 individual wines. Which is just awesome and crazy. We also got to go to Billecart-Salmon, which was awesome. They believe that in the U.S., they’re really only known for their rosé, which I thought was interesting. When they encounter consumers, a lot of consumers in the U.S. think their name, Billecart-Salmon, is because they make a rosé and it’s salmon color.

J: Interesting, and that bottle, too.

A: They have to be like, “No, no, no, no, no. We make a lot of other wines, but we’re glad you like the rosé. Thank you so much.”

Z: To be fair, the rosé is f*cking awesome.

A: Yeah, it’s amazing. They don’t identify as many different wines as Krug does, but very similar practices. Everything is by parcel and by row. Krug does everything in used spent oak barrels and Billecart only does about 20 or 30 percent of that. And the rest is stainless steel, the small stainless steel vessels. And then Taittinger, which you’ve also been to, Zach.

Z: I have.

A: And that was really cool. The Champagnes there are also great, but I think you will agree because you’ve also been there. Probably the coolest thing is the caves. I mean, they’re these incredible ancient caves that have been dug since the 3rd century.

J: Wow.

A: You have never been in anything like that before. Obviously, they were not dug for Champagne. They were dug to actually dig the stone out to build the city. They are these chalk caves. And they were then repurposed to house Champagne. You see old carvings from when people had to be down in the caves during the wars. The chalk is so soft still and what happens is once it’s harvested, then it hardens and it becomes really strong. And they were able to use it to build buildings. It was really cool.

J: What was the music thing that you did?

A: That was Krug. So Krug’s whole thing is they use music to sort of explain the wines. And they use music to represent the various still wines that are inside the Champagne. It was cool. When you hear about it, you’re like, “Is that cheesy?” I don’t know. But doing it there was fun. But yes, it’s a little bit of a stretch. And then I went to Paris and Paris is just the best. The best.

Z: And this is from a man who knocks France at every occasion.

A: I don’t knock France every occasion.

J: He does love Italy.

A: I do love Italy. I love Italians. You know what I’m saying. There’s the whole warmth and everything. But France and Paris were just amazing.

Z: He loves you, Joanna. You’re good.

J: Keep talking, Adam.

A: I also got to go to Clown Bar, which was really fun. And this new-ish wine bar restaurant called Parcelles. This Israeli restaurant called Shabour and we drank lots of stuff. I felt like I didn’t realize this the last time I was in Paris and maybe I just missed it. People are going to be like, “No, Adam, it’s always been this way.” But especially at the natural wine bars we went to, like Parcelles and Clown Bar, which consider themselves natural, I was very surprised by the majority of the wines being clean. And then also that there were not a lot of Loire wines anymore. It was a lot, a lot, a lot of Burgundy.

Z: Interesting.

A: I’m wondering if that’s because the movement is kind of starting to go away from some of the funkier wines that come out of the Loire. But it was really shocking to me. I expected to see tons of Chenin, tons of Cab Franc, stuff like that. No, there were massive Burgundy selections at almost every one of these wine bars. Including the last place that I went to, Parcelles, where I had the wine made by the winemaker that you know.

Z: Brendan Stater-West, an American.

A: I know. And that was the only Chenin I had. Everything else was Burgundy, which was just really interesting. But I think Paris still continues to be a very exciting city for what’s happening in wine. So it was cool to go to. I will say, I thought I would drink cocktails and I didn’t have one.

J: At all?

A: No, it was all wine. And then Cognac and Armagnac because that’s always fun. Like at the end of meals once in a while. Or when the waiter decided that he liked Naomi and I one day and just brought us glasses of Cognac. He’s like, “You guys are fun.” And that was really fun.

Z: You had a Berthier Cognac?

A: Yeah, I had a Berthier Cognac and a Berthier Armagnac. It was in 1983. I just gave away how old I am. But it was cool because it was only 16 euros. There’s that cool thing that happens with Cognac and Armagnac, where they do these vintage years and you get to have these older vintages that still aren’t outrageously marketable. So it was really fun to be able to do and it didn’t feel like I saw something on the list and was like, “Oh yeah, this is like in ’83, but sh*t, this is 60 euros.” For me when I saw it, it was a no-brainer, this is just fun. So it was very cool.

J: Nice.

A: What about you, Joanna?

J: Well, far less exciting for me. Actually, you know what? I don’t know. I got to go to Manhatta, which is one of my favorite places in the city. It had been closed for a long time, and it recently reopened with this amazing bar program. Adam, you’ve been there. And I had a few really special cocktails, one of which was a banana rum cocktail, which I’m finding to be my favorite type of cocktail.

A: Really? What was it called?

J: It’s called Always Money, which is very clever.

A: I don’t remember that being on the list.

J: It’s a nod to “Arrested Development.” You know, there’s always money in the banana stand.

A: That’s so funny.

J: Which I love even more.

A: I love “Arrested Development.”

J: I also had their take on a Negroni called the Deep Fake Negroni, which is a strawberry Negroni with lemon and olive, which was very delicious as well.

A: Did you have the Black and White Cookie?

J: I didn’t. I had two cocktails. It was a short evening. I have to go back. And then also I had a very delicious rice saison from Transmitter Brewing recently, too. I like their stuff.

A: I like Transmitter. Bad location, good beers.

J: I didn’t go there, but it was good. What about you, Zach? What have you been drinking?

Z: I had a friend in town, actually, an old coworker of mine over this past weekend. She and her kids came over along with another former coworker of ours. We took the opportunity to do something that I haven’t gotten to do a lot of over the last couple of years, which is open a number of different bottles of wine, as opposed to the one that Caitlin and I usually manage a day or less than that. Funny enough, we started off with the aforementioned Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. I do know they make other Champagnes; I actually have some of their other Champagne. But I love that bottle and that was always fun. And then we drank some Chablis and a couple of different Rieslings, which was fun. All of us are kind of lovers of Riesling. So we had a an older Mosel Valley Kabinett of 2002 and then had a slightly younger 2016 Riesling from one of my favorite regions up in British Columbia in the Okanagan Valley. They were really strikingly different expressions. The Mosel is a little bit of residual sugar, that really developed kind of gasoline-lime style of Riesling that you find from there. And then the one from the Okanagan from Tantalus was much drier. It had really, really high acidity and much more like crunchy pear and even a little bit of green apple. Both were really tasty. So yeah, it was kind of fun to do that and do those side by side. The only other thing I did was I actually went for the first time in a while to an actual live event. I went to a recording for a different podcast that I listen to.

J: That’s fun.

Z: Folks, I do listen to other podcasts. And there I drank something that I hadn’t had in a long time either, which is Rainier, our not local local beer. But it’s a staple of Seattle even if it’s now made in California.

A: Cool. So today we’re going to talk about tequila because it’s that week. It’s like the tequila Super Bowl, because it’s Cinco de Mayo this week. We thought it would be a really interesting time to have a chat about tequila potentially — not saying it’s going to happen — going the way of vodka and what that means. So right now, tequila’s sitting at third position in the U.S. But first in a lot of people’s hearts. It’s behind vodka and whiskey, bourbon specifically, still. But it’s growing every single day.

J: Rapidly.

A: Rapidly, yeah. Especially among younger demographics like millennials and Gen Z. Vodka’s probably being helped by the Gen Xers that no one talks about. The Gen Xers that are drinking that cold vodka and calling it a Martini. But anyways.

J: That’s my parents and they’re boomers.

A: Just cold vodka. But I thought it would be interesting to look at it because you are starting to see tequila following some of vodkas patterns. I’m curious what you guys think of this. The three patterns, besides massive explosions, is this. Tequila is now being created specifically for nightlife, like bottle service tequilas. I think you could put 1942 in that camp. you can put a few of them, but 1942 probably being the most well-known ones. Casa Azul being the other one.

J: That’s super premium.

A: Super premium, nightlife-focused, flex bottles. You have a lot of celebrities rushing into the category. You had the same thing happening in vodka years ago. You’re starting to see it, and I think the acquisition 21 Seeds a few weeks ago is proof of flavored tequilas.

J: Yes.

A: A lot of this makes a lot of tequila purists really nervous because there is something that tequila seems to have. There’s magic that tequila seems to have that other categories don’t. A lot of that is that artisanal aspect to it. I think there’s a fear that if this continues there, there will be a very big division, but also a blowback. That’s why I think you’re starting to see a lot of the artisanal brands really speaking up about being anti-celebrity, anti-baller bottles. It’s the high-end artisanal, trying to tout their additive freeness and the way they make the product, etc. The move away from the diffuser. Because a lot of these bottles, too, are made with diffusers. They’re not made in the traditional method. They’re made in ways that actually don’t make as high quality of a liquid.

J: Takes less time.

A: Takes less time and put it in a high-end bottle. And it is what it is.

J: You can make more of it.

A: Yeah, exactly. It’s an interesting time for tequila and I’m sort of curious what you guys think about all of this. And specifically what you think of celebrity tequila and what you think of flavored tequila.

J: One parallel that we’re seeing as well is the health halo around tequila. It’s the same thing that we saw with vodka. I think that plays into this idea of infused tequila or flavored tequila, because people wouldn’t want to admit that they prefer those spirits because they have flavor without added calories. And I think that’s a really big part of this conversation as well. But it’s interesting that you say the nervousness around it, because purists want to preserve tequila as this artisanal spirit. Something that I was thinking about in thinking about this conversation is how Diageo just acquired 21 Seeds. Will these bigger tequila players launch their own lines of flavored tequila because there’s a market for it? Or will they try to preserve the authenticity of their brands?

A: It’s really interesting that you say that, and I’m sure Zach has thoughts here, too. But I think the bigger companies are going to hedge their bets. In any world of business when you talk about conglomerates, you sort of hedge your bets with your investments. There’s a large conglomerate and they own, let’s say, an auto manufacturer. But they also want to own, I don’t know, maybe a bicycle manufacturer in case everyone moves to bikes. You want to have as many things in your portfolio to diversify. I think the larger companies will continue to diversify their holdings in tequila. You already see it, if you look at some of these companies and tequila brands, some are are very artisanal. Others are made with diffusers. So they’re made more cheaply. They can hit that under-$40 price point or under-$30 price point in a lot of places. They don’t have the character of agave anymore because they’re made with a diffuser. But a lot of consumers don’t care. I think you’ll see some of them diversify into flavors because they’re going to say, “Well, we need to have this as an aspect of our portfolio.” There will be a few holdouts, like from some of the smaller multi-brand companies that are only going to hold spirits that are made in this way, etc. But I mean, you look across the board at a lot of these companies. If you think about Buffalo Trace, they own a lot of the best bourbons in the world. But the Sazerac company also own Southern Comfort. It’s a flavored whiskey. They’re also diversifying their holdings. Who knows what’ll happen with smaller tequila distilleries. Will they all start making flavored ones? I don’t know. Zach, have you ever had flavored tequila?

Z: That’s a really good question. I think I’ve had a jalapeño tequila before, but I don’t think I’ve had anything else in the flavored realm. It’s really interesting hearing the two of you talk about this. The other thing that I was interested in thinking about in this line of conversation or in this thought experiment about ways in which tequila might be walking a similar path to vodka, is that one of the things that was really interesting about that period of time in in vodka’s growth in the ’90s and 2000s was you had all of these things going on and you also had an increasing emphasis being put in some parts of the vodka category on what the base distillate was. You had your potato vodkas for people who were gluten-free and didn’t understand how distillation works. You had your grape vodkas.

A: Just a little bit of a dig there.

Z: I was hoping you wouldn’t call it out so that it would just slide by.

A: It was too good, Zach. Continue.

Z: You’ve had all these different things that have happened in vodka, including some of what we’ve talked about on the podcast in the past. This interesting, almost reemergence of ultra-premium vodka. Not necessarily centered around the base distillate in some cases, but just in terms of trying to get away from the image that vodka largely cultivated in the ’90s and 2000s. With tequila, you have these kinds of interesting — perhaps — barriers against some of what happened there. You do have the reality that tequila has to, at least in part, come from agave. You can get away with a lot of things depending on how you want to classify your tequila. As you pointed out, Adam, if you’re using diffusers and things like that, it doesn’t mean you’re particularly getting a whole lot of agave character in the finished product. But agave is a somewhat limiting resource in terms of its growth cycle and availability and all that. You also have this other obstacle that we’ve talked about on the podcast in a way in the past, which is a resistance to some of the colonialism of the big-alcohol trade in something that is at its heart, an indigenous product of Mexico. Obviously, our own personal politics and the politics of some people may not in the end amount to much when compared to dollars on a spreadsheet. And I understand that. Obviously, there’s been a lot of moving and angling and positioning around this. But I do think that those things serve as potential obstacles that some brands might face in trying to establish more of a foothold in the market. The thing I really want to ask both about is this question of flavored tequilas. We kind of got to this before, but I would love to get your more specific thoughts on this. Do you think that when we look at some of these big players, are we going to see new brands that are launched or things like acquisitions of 21 Seeds, which is its own kind of independent brand? Or do you think you’re going to see some of the really well-known tequila brands launch a flavored tequila line? Because I think that that’s where that kind of question comes. It’s one thing to develop a new product that doesn’t have any kind of backstory and say, “Here’s our line of flavored tequilas,” to hit that part of the market that we think wants these, versus, “We’re going to put the heft of our well-known tequila brand or brands behind the category.” Those are two different things.

J: That’s what I’m wondering as well. While Adam has a good point about purists wanting to preserve the authenticity of this spirit, I think there is value and we’ve explored this on the site before — Tim has specifically, that flavored tequilas are very useful to the trade if they’re done right. And I think that people really like them. So that’s why I’m wondering, will Don Julio come out with a line of flavored tequilas?

A: They already have.

J: Oh, OK.

A: Sort of, not truly. But if you look at their most recent release, it’s been aged in orange wine barrels. Not orange wine like the orange wine we’re talking about. Wine that was made from oranges. And it gives this orange flavor to the reposado. And then it’s in a bottle that looks like 1942. So I think that, yes, you will.

J: But in a different way.

A: They’re doing it in a higher, sophisticated way. It’s called Primavera. I think you might. I also think that the majority of consumers don’t care about this colonialism stuff we’re talking about. I think trade does. All you have to look at is the massive adoption of people running for 818, Kendall Jenner’s tequila, and things like that. She has no right to make tequila. If you’re talking from this perspective, she has no Mexican heritage. OK, she lives in L.A. And she named the tequila after the area code of the Valley. So she has no true claim, either. And there’s going to be a lot of people who write about that and get angry about that. And there’ll be a bunch of who don’t drink it because of that. And a bunch of people that don’t care. And that was always the same way in vodka, too. I remember when vodka was the hot thing. There was the smart consumer who was like, “I only drink Grey Goose and Ketel One and Chopin because these are well-made vodkas.” And the next person is like, “Give me the one that tastes like Dole Whip. I don’t care, I’ll take the donut vodka. This is fun.” The other thing that’s really interesting between the two, that health halo that we’re talking about, is they both did have one. And they’re both interestingly related to hangovers. This idea that tequila can’t give you a hangover now because it’s this natural product from agave. And the idea with vodka was it was clear, that clear spirits didn’t give you a hangover. Every 10 to 20 years we claim there’s a spirit that can’t give us a hangover as much as other spirits. Maybe it’ll be gin next.

J: Or mezcal.

A: One can hope. But that’s for sure what we’re seeing. I do think that there will be higher-end stuff. First of all, before I answer the question, Joanna, have you had a flavored tequila?

J: No, I don’t think I have. Unless I’ve ordered a Spicy Margarita at a bar or restaurant and it had flavored tequila in it, because I understand that’s where bartenders are using them. That’s where they’re very valuable.

A: That’s where I think it’s interesting that that’s the flavored tequila that Zach has had. Right. And that’s the flavored tequila that I have had. There are flavored tequilas with that jalapeño flavor that are working because a lot of bartenders are saying, “Well, we don’t want to take the time to infuse jalapeño into a tequila here. We also don’t want to figure out how we’re just crushing jalapeños.” Then a lot of consumers complain it’s too spicy. Someone figured out how to do this, so we’re fine with it.

J: And it’s consistent and it’s good.

A: Exactly. Where there’s going to start to be more blowback are some of the other crazy flavors coming out from 21 Seeds, etc. First it’s going to be Valencia orange, then it’s something that doesn’t make any sense at all. Maybe it’ll be 21 Seeds or maybe someone else that does some crazier flavor. And I think the flavors are happening because of what we’re seeing in tequila as a whole, which is it’s a way to mask cheaper agave.

J: Or like the way we saw with vodka, which was to make a generally unpalatable spirit more palatable to people who didn’t like it.

A: If you’re making it via diffuser, which is much cheaper, you’re not extracting all the agave flavor anyways. You’re probably harvesting agaves at a much younger age than you should be. Adding flavor to it makes it palatable.

Z: On top of that, it’s not even just the quality of the base spirit. It’s also the reality that for a segment of the tequila-consuming population, with vodka as a parallel here, you have the people who are health conscious who saw a vodka soda as their drink they could have that was the lowest- calorie option. If they want a well tequila soda but they don’t really love the taste of just plain tequila, especially if it’s well tequila or whatever, such and such flavored tequila and soda is going to carry the same caloric load. But it’s going to have a more palatable flavor for them. That’s an automatic win for a certain segment of the drinking public. I don’t even think that’s inherently a bad thing. There are real questions that we can ask and should be asked and should be considered by everyone about how is this being made? What exactly is going into getting this product on a bar shelf at a cheap price for something that, at its core, is not really a spirit that should be able to be made super cheaply and with quality? But again, a lot of people don’t care about that. I don’t think any of us are going to really sit here and be admonishing people for wanting a $9 well spirit and soda that they’re going to drink. Because they’re out for a different kind of experience than maybe the one we talk about at the beginning of the show, let’s put it that way.

A: I have a question for both of you, because now we sort of examined this. We didn’t talk about celebrities as much since we’ve talked about before. So I have a question for both of you. You can look at vodka or you don’t have to look at vodka. Where do you think the bigger backlash is going to ultimately come from? Is it going to come from consumers and the trade against all the celebrity tequilas we’re seeing? Because at some point, there was this backlash and push against vodka. And then a lot of bartenders started saying, “I don’t make cocktails with vodka anymore.” I don’t think it ever truly happens with tequila because there are too many artisanal ones. But there’s going to start to be a drumbeat of, “We’re sick of this.” I wonder, is it going to be that we’re sick of all the celebrity tequilas, or have we just begun to see the proliferation of flavored tequila and we’re not even prepared for the backlash that’s going to happen against those.

J: Do you think that flavored or celebrity tequilas will really overtake the premium tequila part of the category?

A: I think that’s a fear from a lot of premium tequilas. Not the flavored yet, but I think a lot of them are looking at Casamigos‘ continued growth and they’re staring at Teremana’s continue to growth. Those are two very different tequilas, by the way. Teremana is not made with diffusers.

J: It’s a good tequila.

A: Yeah, and Casamigos is not. But they’re looking at both of those. And those are celebrity tequilas.

J: I guess it really depends on what we’re asking here, which is the bigger brands going flavored. I could see that being a point of contention. Some will, but others won’t. People are gravitating towards the flavored tequilas, then I think that’s where it could get a little contentious.

Z: I think you’re going to see more pushback against flavored and inexpensive tequila. Here’s the reason or the reasons why. I think the pushback against vodka and the sort of bartender saying, “Oh, I don’t make drinks with vodka,” was really about a thing that crept into the consumer mindset in that period of time. Whether it was a health halo or whatever, you got a lot of people who came to the bar and were like, “I want to have this cocktail, but can you make it with vodka instead of whatever?” I think a lot of bartenders felt, maybe incorrectly at the time or maybe correctly, that it wasn’t interesting to them to work with vodka. That people were ordering vodka cocktails because they wanted other flavors and the vodka was just the alcohol delivery system. I think with tequila, no bartender, I don’t think, is ever going to like, “I’m not going to make a Margarita.” What kind of bartender is that?

A: It’s the No. 1 cocktail in the country.

Z: Again, I can’t imagine a bartender with a straight face saying that to someone. But I do think you’re going to see a pushback against stocking some of the more outlandish flavors. In the same way that the whipped cream vodka was not something you saw on the shelf at every bar. You saw it in a certain kind of bar where people wanted it and they knew to go for that kind of thing. And you didn’t see it in other than cocktail bars and stuff like that. On the celebrity side, that’s much more where I agree that producers, especially traditional producers who have an established market share, are concerned because for so many people they are relatively new to the tequila category. So many people that I’ve met and know who have been devoted Casamigos people are people who didn’t drink tequila before they started drinking it. It was cool so they got into it through that. They may or may not, at some point, be interested in moving into other other parts of the tequila category. But if the growth is mostly happening with these celebrity tequilas or celebrity-backed tequila, I think there is real reason to be concerned. And that’s where I think you’re going to see the more focused pushback from certain people within the trade and certainly some of these more established producers.

A: Yeah, interesting. I do think the celebrity thing is interesting because there’s a lot of people who make the case that they’re really good for trial. And it’s what’s bringing people into the category, like adoption. But then people just get stuck drinking those.

J: But don’t you think it’s going to wane some time soon?

A: I think it’ll wane when a bunch of celebrities realize that there’s no more exit potential here. Eventually we’re going to see the same thing happen with tequila that happened with craft beer or things like that. People just bought enough of them, right? There’ll be people who just aren’t interested in these celebrity tequilas anymore. They’re interested in other tequilas like brands that feel more artisanal or are flavored or whatever. 21 Seeds had no celebrities connected to it. It’s three women.

J: I think it has a lot of other things going for it, though. It’s female-founded, it’s very young and hip. It’s flavored, obviously. It was one of Oprah’s favorite things.

A: I think Katie Couric loved it, too. It had people who really got into it, but no celebrity. Again, proof that these products can come from lots of different places, not just from celebrities as the people who will have these great exit potentials, etc.. I don’t know. I do think it’s going to start to die off because I think people will realize, what’s the point? There’s a reason why only a few celebrity tequilas are really successful. There’s a reason that only a few celebrity spirits are really successful. We’ve talked about this before, too, but it’s worth remembering. It’s the spirits where the celebrity is massively involved. The Rock talks about Teremana all the time. Ryan Reynolds, even though he sold Aviation, still talks about it all the time. Same with Clooney and Casamigos. These are brands that they really are connected to and they believe in. There’s so many other celebrity brands that the celebrity doesn’t talk about much. Cool man, you did a drop. Awesome. Onto the next thing. I mean, we’ve talked about this a lot with with Cacti. It was out there and then it was gone and it was barely talked about again. Travis Scott didn’t care.

Z: I mean, there were other reasons, too.

J: I mean, it was also bad.

A: This was before that. The brand was already dying and then that was a great excuse, not the fact that people died.

Z: I mean, the quality of the product was so bad. .

A: It was terrible, too. I think that’s going to be the thing. For a lot of celebrities, once they see that it’s a lot of hard work, they don’t really want to do it.

Z: In that vein, you could be the one guy like Clooney or maybe a couple of people who really makes a serious chunk of change. But if you’re already pretty well off, ridiculously well off like many of these people, do you really want to invest a ton of your time? To say nothing of money or anything else, just all that energy to build up a brand when it may or may not pay off. You probably got better ways to make money than that in the long run.

A: If you are doing it, the ones that are really being successful are the ones where it’s not connected yet to a big company. The reason The Rock is hustling is because it’s him and a few other people who own the brand and they’re pushing it, pushing it, pushing it to sell it. Aviation was independent. They’re independent brands. So they’re really invested in them because they want to sell them. But they’re seeing this as a payoff. A lot of the celebrity tequilas that we’re seeing right now are also somehow already attached to a company. There’s probably this weird agreement between that celebrity and their agent and the company and how often they talk about it and all that stuff. Cool, I did my contractual five times a month or whatever, done. I’ll do my few appearances. The Rock is going to talk about it all the time because he owns it. I mean, LeBron talks about logos all the time. Why? Because he owns it. And he would like someone to buy it. Guaranteed, because he’s an entrepreneur. But that’s why he’s talking about it all the time.

J: He’s very invested.

A: Very invested in it.

J: I have a question for you guys coming back to the vodka conversation. Do you think either of these things, celebrity tequila or flavored tequila, will ultimately lead to the category’s demise?

A: No.

Z: Demise? No.

J: What will, then? You know, how vodka kind of went away for a long time and is kind of rebuilding its reputation.

Z: I think it’s always been a myth. As Adam said, it’s still one of the top-selling spirits.

J: Vodka pays the bills, right?

Z: It may not have been the center of attention. But as I’m aware, the most successful new brand launch in the last couple of decades is Tito’s. Vodka is still massively successful. Tequila will not be going anywhere, no matter what happens in these categories. Now, who makes the money? That might shift around for sure. What styles are most popular? That might shift around for sure. There’s so much attention paid to it, I can imagine those things moving around. But we’re not going to do this podcast in five years and be like, “Man, remember when people drank tequila? That was weird?”

J: I mean more like falling out of favor.

A: Yes, I do think that. Let’s just talk about favor. I think tequila will always be a core ingredient in the things that we, the three of us, drink. Cocktails at cocktail bars, Margaritas, etc.. Will it continue to be the flex bottle? No, because there’s going to be another flex bottle at the club. It was vodka. It was Champagne. It’s still kind of Champagne. It’s now tequila. Maybe it’s going to be vodka again. People would like it to be rum. Maybe we go back to Cognac. Cognac is on the rise again. More people are drinking Cognac, especially Gen Z. People are really getting interested in Cognac across all demographics. It’s going to be something else because every generation doesn’t want to drink what the people right before them thought was cool. There’s going to have to be something. If I were one of the brands that had one of these flex bottles, I’d be thinking ahead long-term. What’s the next things? What are the next innovations that can keep us relevant in the places that probably won’t drop us? That’s really, really important. And you’ve seen some brands reinvent themselves to do that in vodka. Grey Goose has done that really well. There are a bunch of a bunch of brands out there that have done that to a lot of success.

Z: Tequila is always going to have a core authenticity to it in certain examples. There’s going to be a kind of person who that resonates with in the same way that we see throughout beverage alcohol. Things that have a history and tradition and an identifiable sense of place are always going to have their audience. That audience may grow, it may shrink, but it doesn’t disappear. Because there are people for whom that is a really important thing when they make a decision about what they want to drink.

A: I think these things will weaken it and that people are going to get sick of the celebrity thing. I think there will be blowback in some of the flavors, especially flavors that don’t feel like they fit naturally in classic tequila cocktails. It’s going to be the sheer issue of agave and how much there is. There is going to start to be tequilas that just can’t hit the price point they’re trying to hit — I’m talking about the cheap ones — without really cutting corners. Those tequilas are going to taste sh*t and there’ll be blowback against those like there was against the tequila we all drank in college. We don’t have to name it, but everyone knows that it was the biggest tequila for a very long time. It still probably is at a certain price point. Everyone remembers it’s what gave them a hangover and why they “don’t like tequila.” There’s a risk of that happening in a lot of these tequilas under the $40 price point.

Z: It may just be that you don’t like 49 percent industrial alcohol.

A: Exactly. Anyways, this was a really interesting conversation. I will talk to you guys on Friday.

J: Talk to you Friday.

J: Sounds great.

Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.