Cuervo Cinge: Should Dethrone Energy Drinks

Cuervo Cinge: Should Dethrone Energy Drinks

Bottom Line: this is more properly styled a liqueur… it’s very sweet and difficult to shoot. We’re not convinced that cinnamon and agave are working well together. As a shooter, no. But in trials, we find it flavors a frozen slushy drink very nicely and we find that it works splendidly well in coffee—anyone who drinks vodka and energy drinks should immediately switch to Cinge and coffee. This could be the greatest marriage of coffee and spirits we’ve seen in a while.

Now the details.

The only relevant question we should be asking here is does the cinnamon flavor in Cinge make Cuervo a better experience?

Here’s why. Do you love Jose Cuervo tequila? Love might be a stretch. The ubiquitous gold tequila is everywhere in college parties (helped along with licked salt and sucked lemon) while hidden behind under the bars as a well for mixed drinks. It’s not a bad product: Cuervo Gold sits in the Tier 2 category from a string of decent awards in our database; the white fared somewhat better critically thanks to a surprising Gold Medal result from San Francisco in 2011. The user reviews tell a somewhat different story more in keeping with the college desperation shot.

But don’t kid yourself: it’s an inexpensive, mixto tequila and has never pretended to be anything other. You or anyone else comparing it to 100% agave sipping tequilas from the top shelf isn’t any more appropriate than comparing some blended, down-market scotch to Highland single malts. Why would you do that?

Here’s what Cuervo mixto tequila is good at:

1)      Shots

2)      Well drinks

Here’s what Cuervo mixto tequila is not good at:

1)      Sipping contemplatively by the bar pondering what the Most Interesting Man in the World drinks when he’s not drinking beer.

Let’s turn to flavor. Flavoring tequilas is an interesting adventure. As of this writing, there are 27 flavored tequilas in our database out of 960 total tequilas (a bit under 3% of the total). Compare that to 60 flavored whiskeys (4% of total); 156 rums (25%); and a whopping 724 flavored vodkas (49%). To help visualize, here’s a graph:

Clearly, the market is resisting the idea of flavored tequila to a greater or lesser extent. There’s something about the agave that makes it difficult to flavor… far more problematic, apparently, than garden-variety vodkas and rums but also whiskey.

Turning to the product at hand, right now Cinge is one of only two cinnamon tequilas in the world and both were released in 2013. Maybe cinnamon is the solution… let’s find out. 

In order to find out we sought to do a very simple tasting:

Step 1: is Cinge better than regular Cuervo in a shot?

Step 2: is Cinge better than Cinnamon Whiskey in a shot?

Step 3: is Cinge better than cinnamon syrup in vodka in a shot?

Step 4: does Cinge improve the taste of ready-made margarita mix?

Step 5: does Cinge work in a cocktail setting?

Oftentimes we test spirits in rigorous and varied cocktail settings but that didn’t seem appropriate here. Cinge is a shooting tequila made for people who like to take shots; so we took shots in a variety of styles to see if it was worth the switch.

Regular Plata vs Cinge

We used the silver Cuervo Plata as the natural analogue or base of the Cinge. Preparation: as simply as it gets, pour unadorned in a shot glass and go. We did not use salt or lime, which would presumably give an advantage to the Cinge.


Cuervo Especial Plata

Cuervo Cinge

Unbridled Response

Sort of smooth; a bit sweet. Kind of an odd herbal note. Much better than the gold… burns a bit in lingering. Rotten cabbage a big. Kinda harmless.

Smells sweeter or perhaps sweetened. Brown sugar. The agave smells very funky missed with the cinnamon. Tasting it is very sweet… almost schnapps like. All sugar. There’s a cinnamon burn but it’s all candy. Is it tequila? We can’t tell. No agave on the palate, only in the funky aroma.

What We Learned

This is an interesting try to sweeten and flavor something that is—by all accounts—at least complicated to handle. This might work very well in coffee. But it’s syrupy that way. This is definitely a try for the dessert areas of spirits. But does this improve Cuervo? No, this is not going to appeal or replace people who like to do tequila shots. This is an entirely different (and maybe seasonal) market.


Cinnamon Whiskey vs Cinge

Preparation: let’s check it out versus cinnamon whiskey (we used Fireball) acknowledging the whiskey is much sweeter and lower-proofed. But who’s examining label details when doing shots? This time, we chilled the shot before drinking.


Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey

Cuervo Cinge

Unbridled Response

Smells all cinnamon; like a cinnamon jolly rancher. Or Big Red gum. This is what one wants to drink with apple pie! Or a little vanilla ice cream! Tasting it’s all sweet cinnamon. But it’s spicy. Nice balance of spice and sugar. Good as a sweet shot. Nothing wrong with it. Note: no whiskey really.

Cinnamon aroma is colored by something… presumably tequila. Smells of sulfur a bit. Something is not quite matching the cinnamon. It’s much sweeter; the aroma comes through as the top layer across the flavor notes but it’s not quite as cinnamon intense. It’s much more on the sugar side and overbalanced in that direction.

What We Learned

Chilling helps. But at the moment, we still don’t find that this an improvement over tequila for tequila crowd and we’re not finding this an improvement over the big market cinnamon liqueurs (and indeed, this Cinge is nothing if not a liqueur).


Cinnamon Syrup vs Cinge

Preparation: another common issue with us is wondering if you could just recreate the same effect at home? We took garden variety cinnamon coffee syrup and dumped it in some regular Plata to see what would happen. Mix; chill; shoot.


Plata + Cinnamon Syrup

Cuervo Cinge

Unbridled Response

Whoa… the aroma is very poor here. It was slightly poor before but really bad in homemade setting. This is terrible.

Coming off of the terrible, horrible, homemade effort, this is way, way better. This is the first time it tasted good. But it’s still missing the cinnamon punch at the end. If there was more cinnamon this might be more successful.

What We Learned

Credit the guys at Cuervo, we were unable to make this at home in any setting that made it remotely palatable. We have to assume that Cinge was the result of a long effort at making something tasty. Again: do not try this at home!


Margarita Time

Preparation: no artisan crafting here. We had some ready-made margarita mix (we used Hempnotic) and tried it first with Plata and then with Cinge; ratios were 1:1. We didn’t expect good things from a lime mix so we went with a berry mix instead, thinking it was more in keep with cinnamon. We’re a little afraid of the sweet quotient from the Cinge. But this is for all you people who like to scoop your margaritas out of a pre-made slush bucket.


Margarita Mix Plain

Margarita Mix Cinge

Unbridled Response

This is rancid all the way through. Smells all of tequila… no berry here. It’s mostly inoffensive. Not too bad… with shaved ice would get a party going. This is the stuff in the 3ft lanyard glass in Vegas. But it’s definitely Cuervo: you can pick it out.

Cinnamon really comes out on the aroma here. Other was all tequila but this is all cinnamon. This is monstrously sweet; it has to go in a blended ice drink. Must. But given that, this is better. Way better. Way, way better. The cinnamon is able to get through the sweet and if this were at the Vegas pool no one would ever leave.

What We Learned

For something billed as a shooter, we feel like we’ve found the Cinge’s true calling. In frozen drinks, it’s lovely. The cinnamon is lovely with the strawberry. It’s not sophisticated and it’s not for sipping. But for that market of big glasses and slushies and loud parties, it’s quite good. As a second or third round drink of the night… holy cow!



Preparation: we said earlier that coffee might be an excellent complement here. Having tried the shots and tried the frozen, pre-mixed drinks let’s turn our attention to hot and coffee. We brewed a cup of coffee (Folger’s, naturally) and tossed in a measure of Cinge.


Cuervo Cinge


Unbridled Response

Wow! This is a beautiful mix of cinnamon and coffee and sugar. For some, it’s not quite enough cinnamon. Still, for all you assholes drinking Red Bull and Vodka, you may want to switch.

For whatever reason, the cinnamon vanishes here in comparison with the Cinge. Surprising as hell because there is more cinnamon when tasting neat but less here. The tables have turned and the Fireball cannot hope to compete here.

What We Learned

Coffee and cinnamon and tequila all go very nicely together. And this is a fantastic use for Cinge. If you’re into morning-after drinks, this is it. No question and we have a unanimous consensus here.

 In Summary

We entered this journey trying to determine what use a Cuervo Cinnamon tequila. We can offer some notes for the marketing guys here: it seems to be offered as a shot but that is not (in our opinion) its highest and best use. The Cinge finds its voice when mixed. For whatever reason, the cinnamon is muted alone but comes out in flavors like berry and coffee. We thought it decent in berry margaritas but in coffee, oh heavens!

[Disclosures: we received a bottle of Cinge free to review; all other products mentioned we acquired at our own cost.]

by Neal MacDonald, Editor

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