In a devastating blow to fans of the silky coffee liquor everywhere, Bacardi-owned tequila brand Patrón recently announced it is to retire its beloved XO café liqueur.
Beloved for its rich chocolatey coffee notes, and no boozy burn, it’s fair to say, many fans have not taken the news well, launching a petition on Change.org asking Patrón to reconsider. But, we’ve got some good news. Though undoubtedly a beautiful drink (we’re sad too), there are a number of alternatives out there if you like your coffee with a bit of a kick.
From single-origin to cold brew, drinks makers have been incorporating specially-sourced or roasted beans into high-quality liqueurs, vodkas, tequilas, mezcals and tequilas, among others. So, whether you enjoy the dark bitterness of a darkly roasted bean, or you’re into the smoother, more delicate, and less acidic notes only found in a cold brew, there’s a boozy alternative out there for you. Shoot it, sip it, or mix it into a cocktail.
How we tested
In our taste test, we were not looking for an exact replica of Patrón. Instead, we were looking for rich, satisfying, and authentic coffee flavours, that avoid being overly sweet like many of the coffee liqueurs of old. Products that balance out and showcase both the boozy base liquid, as well as the coffee itself, scored highly too.
And though they should be delectable sipped on their own, we’re also looking for tipples that can blend beautifully; give your homemade espresso martini that something extra, or try our simple favourite, and lengthen with tonic. Here’s our suggestions for staving off any Patrón-induced sadness. Stay strong.
The best Patrón XO Café alternatives for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Conker Cold brew coffee liqueur 25%, 70cl: £28.25, Thewhiskyexchange.com
- Best for espresso martinis – Mr Black cold brew coffee liqueur, 23%, 500ml: £23, Waitrose.com
- Best for a hint of smoke – Ojo de Dios ODD cafe mezcal, 35%, 70cl: £39.25, Thewhiskyexchange.com
- Best for a coffee and tonic – Faith & Sons coffee gin liqueur, 37.5%, 50cl: £29.95, Masterofmalt.com
- Best for dialled-down bitterness – Fair Café liqueur, 22%, 70cl: £21.29, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for a lighter option – Quick Brown Fox Coffee Liqueur, 20%, 500ml: £25, Majestic.co.uk
- Best for eco-conscious imbibing – Maraba coffee liqueur, 25%, 50cl: £21.95, Masterofmalt.com
- Best for full-flavour – Derw Coffee Anglesey cold brew coffee liqueur, 23%, 50cl: £27, Masterofmalt.com
- Best for value – Cazcabel coffee liqueur, 34%, 70cl: £24.95, Thewhiskyexchange
- Best for mixing – Vivir Café VS coffee liqueur, 30%: £27, Vivirtequila.com
- Best for roasted coffee notes – Mis Amigos coffee tequila, 25%, 70cl: £35, Threshers.co.uk
Conker cold brew coffee liqueur, 25%, 70cl
Created by Dorset’s first gin distillery, this boozy brew uses distilled British wheat spirit and a touch of demerara sugar as a base. To that, the good folk at Bournemouth-based Conker have added cold brew Ethiopian and Brazilian speciality coffee to create a spiked, Dorset-roasted espresso. There’s no flavourings, colourings, extracts or thickeners; just cold brew coffee.
According to the brand, the Brazilian beans are roasted darker and longer to accentuate the cacao and caramel notes, whereas the Ethiopian coffee is roasted faster and lighter to accentuate its sweetness and natural citrus character. The result of trial and error of 96 recipes, the final blend is by turns fruity, smooth and earthy, with hints of vanilla and a lingering sweetness. Nuanced, and with a little heat at the end, this liqueur is so packed with coffee beans that it smells exactly like a very dark, very strong mug of freshly brewed coffee. Perfection.
Mr Black cold brew coffee liqueur, 23%, 500ml
Best: For espresso martinis
As soon as you open the lid of Mr Blacks, you get a waft of rich, freshly ground coffee. The New South Wales-based roaster and distiller has produced a liquid that’s truly all about the coffee. It’s made with ethically-sourced, specialty-grade arabica coffee sourced from Papua New Guinea, Kenya and Colombia. This is then brewed slowly using purified cold water to retain the most delicate notes of the coffee, befire being blended with Australian grain vodka.
With just a hint of cane sugar to sweeten, the taste is of silky chocolate – almost milk chocolate – vanilla, of course, fresh and bitter ground coffee, with just a hint of citrus on the finish. As one of the lowest strength products on our list, there’s no discernible heat, only a rounded, luxurious mouthfeel, that gives the booze away. Of course, this makes beautiful espresso martinis. But recommending it solely for that seems a disservice. It is beautiful to sip neat too.
Ojo de Dios ODD cafe mezcal, 35%, 70cl
Best: For a hint of smoke
Yes, coffee is lovely; that’s why you’re here. But sometimes, you want a little something extra, an added dimension to your coffee cocktails, or over-ice slow sipper. Thick in body, this mezcal based lovely is made with angustifolia agave, double distilled in copper alembic stills, and Mexican arabica coffee, grown and roasted by the Mejia Baustista family, 4,600ft above sea level at the top of the Oaxaca mountains.
The mezcal-base means, yes, you’ll find a hint of smokiness here. It’s not overpowering, there’s just a middle note, and a lingering slightly smoked finish, alongside notes of chocolate, spice, with just a hint of cinnamon, and an earthy, fresh-brewed coffee centre. Be naughty and spike your after-dinner coffee with it.
Faith & Sons coffee gin liqueur, 37.5%, 50cl
Best: For a coffee and tonic
Coffee and tonic anyone? Manchester-based Faith & Sons has shrewdly combined its own gin dry gin with cold press coffee to make this liqueur. Green coffee beans are roasted at the micro-distillery before being cold brewed.
As with most cold brew products on our list, the resulting coffee is less acidic and lacking the super bitter elements found in other coffees. Slightly chocolatey and with a peppery kick, there’s even a hint of orange in the finish. Again, sip alone or lengthen with tonic.
Fair Café liqueur, 22%, 70cl
Best: For dialled-down bitterness
Organic, and made using fair trade arabica beans from a co-op of 1,900 independent farmers in the Huatusco region of Veracruz, and sugar from Malawi and Paraguay, this is coffee with a conscience. Slow roasted for intensity and to fully extract the flavour, the beans are then infused directly into the spirit. The result is dry and earthy and much more akin to an espresso.
Slightly syrupy, with a little more sweetness than the others on our list, this is infinitely accessible, especially for those that find overly bitter coffee off-putting, but still tastes quality. Shake with espresso over ice for a simple espresso martini.
Quick Brown fox coffee Liqueur, 20%, 500ml
Best: For a lighter option
Described, rather specifically, as like dunking a spiced cinnamon roll with a caramel chocolate syrup centre in a dark roast French press coffee, this liqueur from Dunedin, New Zealand, is made with coffee sourced from Sumatra, Columbia and Papua New Guinea. Free of artificial ingredients, fair trade, organic, and roasted to slightly darker than espresso, the coffee is cold brewed into a very strong extraction, then macerated with the organic Indian cinnamon.
Free from any clawing sweetness, the body of this one is enjoyably light. Packed with flavour, the cinnamon itself is a subtle background note, letting the roasted, chocolate notes of the coffee shine through. The brand says its best served and appreciated as a digestif neat or on the rocks, and we agree. Though it’s beautiful mixed simply with some tonic water, and a squeeze of citrus, too.
Maraba coffee liqueur, 25%, 50cl
Best: For eco-conscious imbibing
A drink with a purpose. Gorilla Spirits, the makers of this tipple, source red bourbon arabica coffee beans from individual small growers in Rwanda. Roasted by Moonroast Coffee in Hampshire, the coffee is then cold brewed for 72 hours, to gently extract the flavours, keeping delicate floral notes, alongside the more chocolatey. To top it off, the bottle is made from 100 per cent recycled glass and, while a donation from each bottle also goes to The Gorilla Organization, to help conserve the endangered Mountain Gorilla population. By turns buttery and earthy, we love it.
Derw Coffee Anglesey cold brew coffee liqueur, 23%, 50cl
Best: For full flavour
Boozy and delectable, this Welsh coffee liqueur is really one to wrap your taste buds around. Made by what is believed to be Wales’s first cold brew coffee producer, the Derw brand was only begun by its founders, Chris and Intan, at the beginning of the pandemic, but has already gone on to win numerous taste awards.
Made using cold brewed coffee – a process that takes 16 hours – the liqueur is also infused with tonka beans, giving it a distinct richness over the other products in our list. It’s both sweet and bitter, and there’s a luxuriously thick mouthfeel, followed by warming spice (cinnamon and ginger), clove, vanilla, chocolate, and of course, nuanced roasted coffee notes.
Cazcabel coffee liqueur, 34%, 70cl
Best: For value
Another one for tequila fans, this liqueur combines Cazcabel Blanco with luxury arabica coffee from the coastal region of Soconusco in Mexico. Substantially lower in price than other coffee tequilas on our list, this is a great alternative if you’re looking for something a little lighter on the wallet. What really comes out in this blend is a profound amount of chocolate. But also dry and sour, there’s a distinctive and intense – almost hot – punch of booze at the end. Less balanced than others on our list, it’s still a great value alternative.
Vivir Café VS coffee liqueur, 30%
Best: For mixing
Tequila drinkers, gather round. This brand new launch from Vivir uses tequila blanco as a base, flavoured with unspecified coffee beans (though the country grows mostly Arabica) sourced close to the Jalisco distillery and is sweetened with piloncillo – a Mexican unrefined whole cane sugar.
There’s some green, grassy notes, and almost a little apple, followed by a little chocolate and the earthiness of fresh brewed coffee. That sweetness comes at the end, but it’s subtle. With a little fruitiness in this one, we love it with tonic and a twist of citrus, and trust us, a little salt. It also works great in an espresso martini, again, add a pinch of salt before shaking. You’ll be able to get your hands on this from 26 October.
Mis Amigos coffee tequila, 25%, 70cl
Best: For roasted coffee notes
Made with Arabica beans, roughly crushed and then macerated in tequila for 24-hours, before being cold filtered, this liqueur offers perhaps the truest taste of freshly brewed coffee that we have on our list. To sip, the coffee taste is upfront, followed by just a little chocolate, and then a pepper heat, just to remind you that, you know, this is tequila you’re drinking. Finishing with a cooling softness, it’s an easy sipper.
The verdict: Patrón XO Café alternatives
In the same way that there are many ways to drink your cup of coffee, there are many, many ways to combine it with booze. Though the right one for you will depend in part on which alcohol base you prefer, the coffee really does do all the talking with most products on our list. Instead, we ask, how strong do you like your coffee? Our pick of the bunch, for its full flavour and lip-smackingly satisfying coffee hit, is Conker.
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Made for sipping, not slamming, these are the best tequilas to try
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