The readymade cocktail has often been considered the black sheep of the spirits family. These little cans or pouches of booze often hang out in convenience and liquor stores next to the beer as an easy and often inexpensive alternative. Lately, spirit companies have been looking to this space as a new way to reach customers and deliver their products in ways that are more portable and can go where bottles simply can’t (like boats, beaches, and concert venues). Our recent coverage of AIR (Alcohol Inspired Refreshment) showed that consumers are starting to pay more attention to this space, too. Our review got picked up on the Huffington Post and Food Republic and then went viral.
Many of the beer alternative canned beverages are in fact malt based (including Smirnoff Ice, Jeremiah Weed Spiked Cola, and Air), which enables them to be sold outside liquor stores in many states. Malt has its place but it also has its limitations. We were pleased to find that the Kahlúa Iced Coffee line uses actual rum as its base, the same spirit which is used for the coffee liqueur.
Kahlúa Iced Coffee (10 proof/5%, $2.50 per can/$9.99 per 4 pack, 150 calories) comes in three different flavors: Kahlúa Iced Espresso, Kahlúa Iced Mocha, and Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice. Since the Kahlua coffee liqueur is fairly sweet on its own, we were expecting these iced coffee drinks to be sweet, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that they are fairly balanced. All three flavors have a soft quality to them; the coffee flavor is softer and more subtle than we expected, with a flavor more aligned with drip coffee than espresso. The chocolate notes in the Kahlúa Iced Mocha are also soft and subtle, mixing well with the coffee notes. Even at 5% alcohol, you simply can’t taste the spirit in these drinks, which makes them extremely easy to drink. The only flavor of the new Kahlúa iced coffee drinks we really didn’t care for is the Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice. While the other Kahlúa Iced Coffee drinks are soft and subtle, the cinnamon spice hits you with a strong and off-putting artificial cinnamon note right from the start. This flavor dominates the drink and lingers on the finish.
Kahlúa is one of the most recognized and widely used coffee liqueurs, but oddly enough in bars it’s rarely mixed with coffee. While bars are good with drinks, they often don’t brew coffee, so getting the coffee liqueur in coffee at a bar can be quite a task. Also, most places we get our iced coffee from don’t have spirits, so getting Kahlúa and iced coffee in a can is a real treat. The cans of Kahlúa Iced Coffee also look a lot more like cans of espresso than alcoholic beverages, which makes them a perfect choice for situations that require more stealth.
Aside from the Cinnamon Spice, the Kahlúa Iced Coffees are an unexpected treat in the ready-to-go market. If they connect with consumers, which we think they will, we expect to see even more products in this space.