What Is a Diamante Tequila?

Let’s talk tequila. Even casual drinkers of the agave-based spirit should be aware of its basic categories: blanco — or silver — is unaged white liquor, straight from the still; reposado rests in the barrel between two months and one year before bottling; and añejo meets oak for one to three years. While these classifications have been recognized for decades, the recent explosion in craft tequila has led to some slight modifications. It wasn’t until 2006, for example, that Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council officially qualified “extra añejo” as a certified distinction for anything aging more than three years. And what do we make of the diamante category?

In 2008, Maestro Dobel introduced its Diamante onto the market. It was the first aged tequila with a clear appearance — most have a familiar caramel hue. Today, there are several brands offering a so-called diamond-level tequila, and they’d all like to see the category officially recognized. But let’s examine the original diamante to better understand what makes it unique.

Blending reposado, añejo, and extra añejo into a single spirit, Dobel’s flagship tequila utilizes a special filtration process to remove the color. The flavor and aroma is left fully intact, however, as Diamante hints at a complexity rarely detected in its un-aged counterparts. This is the nuanced interplay between oak and agave, wood and soil. It ought to be discernible, as a portion of that liquid has spent up to five years in the barrel — a rare claim for a bottle priced at $45 per 750 milliliters.

I found it to be a superior sipping spirit, enjoyed neat — though that hasn’t stopped several high-end bar programs across the city from exploring its mixing potential. At Nobu, for example, the staff has combined the spirit with pear liqueur and cactus purée in a prickly-pear margarita. There’s a solid backbone to the cocktail that a blanco would fail to deliver.

Beyond the aesthetics, the makers of Dobel, including the eleventh-generation owner of Jose Cuervo, will have you believe their proprietary filtration imparts a certain crispness as the color is removed. It’s difficult to disprove, as you’re unable to sample Diamante prior to that process. But to me, the spirit’s true significance stems from the artful blend of different aged tequilas, arriving to the bottle in sensible harmony.

Dobel does offer a standard blanco, which packs more of a peppery spice and would be better equipped for a paloma or a margarita. The brand’s standard reposado and añejo products are also easily distinguishable thanks to more pronounced caramel notes in the finish.

But Diamante truly occupies its own space. Whether or not it’ll succeed in establishing its own official category remains to be seen. What is clear, aside from the spirit itself, is that Diamante is expanding the boundaries of the world’s fastest-growing spirit.


Winter Is Coming: Stay Warm With a Coffee Cocktail

Biting cold in November is no fun, but tequila sure is. If the national spirit of Mexico makes you think of warm sandy beaches and summertime margaritas, allow coffee to reconfigure your expectations.

The benefits of the caffeine bean are seemingly endless: It adds a a bitter roasted note to anything it touches, it gets you through a long day, and now scientists have even discovered that drinking coffee on the reg can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. There’s never been a better time to add it to your cocktail than right now. You know, for your health.

Of course, dumping several dashes of Jameson into a cup o’ joe is a time-honored tradition — one that I would never dismiss. And you can get one hell of an Irish coffee in this city if you head down to the Dead Rabbit.

But there are far more inventive ways to bring coffee into the cocktail fold. I find the slightly vegetal, wooded notes of a fine reposado to mingle soulfully against the backdrop of a cleanly roasted java. Seemingly, coffee would simply overpower the booze. If mixed in proper proportion, however, they encourage each other to shine.

Surprisingly, there are not enough bars in the city serving tequila-based coffee cocktails. One notable exception is in Bushwick, where Montana’s Trailhouse whips up their Tail Dragger. The $10 drink combines agave spirit with cold-brew iced coffee and a dash of demerara. Served on the brunch menu, it’s a wicked fine way to kickstart the day.

Over in midtown, Middle Branch’s Mathew Resler has fashioned his own tipple of caffeinated agave. The Flat White Reviver melds reposado with coffee-infused Campari, vermouth and an absinthe cream float for a Central American spin on a Negroni. Infusing the traditional Italian bitter aperitif, Resler takes two tablespoons of Vittoria Italian Style Dark coffee grounds to one liter Campari for one hour, before finely straining all the granular residue.

As any high-end craftsman, he’s fairly particular about his ingredients. “Vittoria coffee has a beautiful Italian-style roast that pairs wonderfully with a reposado tequila as they share similar characteristics, full of caramel and chocolate,” says Resler.

If infusions seem daunting, remember: Both coffee and tequila are commonly available in the average household. It’s easy enough to experiment with more pedestrian DIY variations. I recommend a simple concoction called the Joelisco, which hardly requires an advanced degree in mixology:

Depending on how your day is going, take between one to two ounces of your favorite reposado (I use Partida) and add it to about five ounces of strong, black coffee — either cold-brewed or hot-. Add a dash of agave or even maple syrup, a smidgen of milk, and a light sprinkling of cinnamon to top it all off. If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and garnish it with a cinnamon stick. Since you have so many lying around your kitchen cupboard.

Regardless of the temperature, the end result is exceptionally drinkable. An ever-so-slight sweetness is washed away by way of roast. And the slight spark of tequila binds with the cinnamon spice for an unexpected treat. Repeat as necessary.