Bubbly: Buffalo Chow on Cream Tequilas, Especially 1921

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1921 Crema de Tequila
Web: 1921 Crema de Tequila
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"We're keeping our fingers crossed that some local shop will find a way to make 1921 available here - thus far, no store will even special order it from its NY-based distributor."

Imagine falling in love with a certain food or drink, then moving someplace where it's unavailable. If you've ever left Buffalo, you probably had a list of these items - we did - but now that we're back, there are some things from California that we miss. A big one is 1921 Tequila Cream. We discovered this uniquely wonderful Mexican spin on Baileys Irish Cream on our honeymoon, realizing that we'd found a universally palatable version of a less than universally beloved alcohol, then rejoiced to find bottles at California shop called Hi-Time. In Western New York, however, we've had no luck: 1921 doesn't seem to be available anywhere here. So this week, we went on a hunt for a local substitute.

As we noted on iLounge last year, cream tequila is to Irish cream what hot wings are to mild wings: the 1921 in particular has a "fire and spice that beg to be enjoyed quickly, rather than stored away; hints of caramel, coffee, and cocoa are also evident in the light brown, sweet and creamy drink." Kind-hearted family members in California have been helping us to maintain our 1921 supply since we moved back here, which enabled us to directly compare an unopened bottle against two just-purchased alternatives from Premier Group's Premium Wines on Transit Road in Williamsville. One, suggested by a reader after we discussed our love for 1921 on iLounge, was Tequila Rose Java Cream - a $20 mix of tequila, coffee, and strawberry cream liqueur that comes in a 750ml bottle and contains 15% alcohol. The strawberry element is de-emphasized on the label, though it's apparently a part of all three of the Tequila Rose variants that are sold: standard, Cocoa, and Java.

We found the Java version Tequila Rose to be fine: it's indeed creamy, if a bit watery by reference to the 1921; the titular coffee flavor is obvious, rather than subtle as in the 1921, and the kick of alcohol is especially apparent in the aftertaste. The strawberry actually hits the nose before the mouth, and is only really apparent when a cup of the Tequila Rose is directly compared against the others. Our opinion: not bad, not great.

The other alternative was Baja Mocha, part of a series of eight different 750ml, 15% alcohol cream tequila bottles from White Rock Distilleries that also includes Baja Del Rio (raspberry), Rosa (strawberry), Luna (blackberry), and Tango (Orange), amongst others. Each is sold for around $20. White Rock describes each as combining imported tequila, rich cream, and an additional flavor; since there's no version with just tequila and cream, we picked Mocha in the hopes that its chocolate would be judicious and delicious rather than overwhelming.

In short, we weren't impressed by Baja Mocha. Of the three cream tequilas, it had the least obvious tequila and most watery cream - truly, the flavor and consistency were more akin to a chocolate liqueur mixed with half-and-half than anything else, and one of us found the chocolate taste to be so artificial as to be off-putting; the other found it similar to other chocolate liqueurs, unimpressively shallow rather than rich. It had a strong alcoholic aftertaste, and didn't seem like it was in the same league as the others. Another White Rock bottle we've recently tried, Ryan's Irish Cream, struck as as a similarly weak alternative to Baileys, sold with lower-quality ingredients at a lower price, so perhaps it's just part of a brand strategy.

That brings us back to the 1921, sold by Corporacion Licorera 1910 S.A. de C.V. under the formal name 1921 Crema de Tequila. It also consists of 15% alcohol and comes in a 750ml bottle, here sealed with a plastic-wrapped wax top, and sold for around $24 when it was purchased for us. In our comparison tasting, 1921 had the thickest, richest cream of the bunch, with the most obvious bite of tequila - authentic blue agave with a decidedly less mellow kick than the friendly Baileys Irish Cream. As its flavoring is mild, there's little to interfere with the two primary tastes that work well together, the tequila and the cream; they collectively awaken several taste senses, including "spicy," "silky smooth," and "sweet." It softens the tongue and feels a little exciting when it's in the mouth. We'd have much preferred to have a cheap local substitute, but after trying the alternatives, there's just no replacing it.

Our ratings of the three drinks were as follows: the 1921 received 3.5 stars based on the quality of both the cream and the tequila; it's obvious after trying alternatives that the company knows what it's doing. The only downside to 1921 is its comparatively brief lifespan once opened - due to the cream, it's only good for 30 days once the special seal is broken. Tequila Rose Java Cream rated 2.5 stars, due to its weaker cream, weaker tequila flavors, and unnecessary strawberry element; it's still a nice drink, though, and keeps for 90 days once opened. Finally, the Baja Mocha rated 1 star, with the weakest cream and tequila of the bunch, and an overbearing flavor of chocolate liqueur. To call this a cream tequila is, perhaps intentionally, just confusing: it's more a cream chocolate liqueur, and if it had been billed as such rather than as tequila, it would have been a better pick.

We're keeping our fingers crossed that some local shop will find a way to make 1921 available here - thus far, no store has even been willing to special order it from its Manhasset, New York-based U.S. distributor; however, there are at least two NY-based merchants, Astor Wines and 67 Wine, selling it online for $30 a bottle. Since it's part of a small family of four 1921-branded drinks, the other three without cream, make sure to order the right one if you want to give it a try... and definitely let us know if you're able to find it someplace in Western New York.

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