Awhile back, Sazerac, the owners of Fireball Whiskey, hit a bit of a scandal when small amounts of propylene glycol, an ingredient found in some forms of antifreeze, was found found in their product. But did you really think a little antifreeze was going to stand in Sazerac’s way?
Luckily (or perhaps, unfortunately), the creators of Fireball have carried on and created a new ultra-sweet tequila based drink you can shoot without tasting…alcohol, that is. Tijuana Sweet Heat is made by mixing gold tequila with agave nectar. The resulting spicy liqueur rolls in at a remarkably low 70 proof – traditional tequila usually clocks in at 80.
Though it has yet to hit the market, there’s no doubt the reception to Sweet Heat will be mixed, as it has been for similar brands likes Fireball and Tennessee Fire. Acclaimed bar owner, spirits judge and writer Derek Brown tweeted, “So sad. Sad because we just get less: less Tequila, proof & dignity,” while Geoff Kleinman, founder of Drink Spirits, wrote, “tequila aficionados will surely see Tijuana Sweet Heat as a dumbing down of an amazing spirit, and it very much is.” However, he was quick to point out that for those simply looking for simple, enjoyable drinking, the liqueur is “everything that a shot brand needs to be: it’s sweet, easy to shoot, with enough flavor to feel like you aren’t just shooting pure sugar and alcohol.”
— Derek Brown (@betterdrinking) March 23, 2015
Sazerac’s choice to use tequila as the spirit of choice is definitely a bright one. Although whiskey is still the leading American spirit, volume for tequila jumped 5% in 2014, while demand rose to 15%, according to Forbes. And apparently, millennials are the frontrunners of this trend.
At least, that’s what the brands are predicting. Traditionally, brands like Sauza have partnered with celebrities to bring an element of “cool” to their products. This tactic contrasts greatly with how Fireball targeted college communities, often times offering free shots to an entire bar. This grassroots approach was incredibly successful, and I anticipate Sazerac using the same approach when launching Sweet Heat.
And then there’s the packaging. There’s no denying it’s fantastic. The rattlesnake, roses, rustic font and flask like bottle make this a product you want to carry in your back pocket. I think it’s far more appealing than Fireball’s packaging, because it also gives off the front of being artisanal. The declarations of “Mexicano Auténtico” and “100% Agave Nectar” give Sweet Heat the vibe of being something craft, even though it’s not. Again, smart. Because as much as everyone is quick to point out millennials’ propensity toward “easy-to-shoot” drinks, Sweet Heat imitates another thing my generation is known for: consumer awareness.
I think Sweet Heat’s marketing approach is remarkable, far more appropriate for the millennial generation that made “everyday” YouTube celebrities like Jenna Marbles superstars. Instead of getting a big name celebrity to endorse the brand, the Instagram-worthy packaging and clandestine release inspire a far more personal connection between younger drinkers and the product.
Look What The Future Holds, one captioned photo from the Sweet Heat Facebook page proudly prompts. Well, place your bets. Does the future hold sweet shooter ennui or excitement for the next sugary liqueur? We’ll find out soon enough. The product hits Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee, and Missouri in March, followed by a release in New Jersey and Wisconsin.
Header image Courtesy Tijuana Sweet Heat