I’m a pretty brave guy when it comes to trying out-there types of alcohol.
I’ve poured a glass of Apple Pie wine. I’ve consumed both a beer made from crickets and one that was flavored with French’s Mustard (and that’s just the tip of the weird beer iceberg). But when I was face to face with a bottle of Doritos-flavored liquor, I’ll admit — there was some trepidation.
Maybe I should have trusted my instincts.
The spirit, which will sell for $65 for a 750-milliliter bottle in New York and California, as well as online, is certainly one of the more unique ones I’ve tried. And Empirical Spirits, the distiller behind the drink, unquestionably has chops when it comes to mad scientist food and beverage concoctions. But would that haute cuisine background connect with a mass audience that traditionally interacts with the corn chips by shoveling them into their mouths?
Opinions, of course, will vary, but for me, the blend was a hit-or-miss affair.
I didn’t get the scent of Doritos when I uncorked the bottle that other early tasters did. The only corn that hit my nose was akin to the scent of corn whisky, with a harsh, almost plastic-like follow-up. My first sip, neat, definitely did contain the umami-and-onion base of a Dorito, but I didn’t get the nacho cheese hit I was hoping for.
That could be because the alcohol overrides some of the flavors. At 42%, this is not a weak drink.
Whether you like it or hate it, the Doritos booze, technically called the Empirical x Doritos Nacho Cheese Distilled Spirit, will stay with you. It coats your mouth like an oil and the flavors stick around for a long time, much like a barrel-aged stout or an old port.
While the liquor didn’t connect with me on its own, Empirical suggested a few cocktail recipes to experiment with—and it seemed only fair to give them a try.
The Red Bag Old Fashioned? It was about as far from a typical old fashioned as I’ve ever had, but I must admit the Doritos taste I was expecting was on display this time. The nacho cheese finally emerged from the other flavors, though the drink (which I made with Mezcal, the suggested alternative to Empirical Ayuuk) seemed overly sweet, even with the Angostura bitters.
The Double Triangle Margarita, though, was the best of the bunch. The Doritos flavors were muted, but present. And they paired nicely with the fresh lime juice. It was, at its heart, a margarita—but one that had a slight twist. It’s a drink that would be fun to make blind for friends, then see if they can identify the mystery ingredient.
Doritos is a widely loved brand, so it’s a virtual certainty the fan base will cause a quick sell-out of this truly unusual liquor. (Distribution is set to begin next January.) While it’s not cheap, it’s still much less than many premium spirits, making it easier to justify the cost.
The taste? Some reviewers loved it. For me, it didn’t quite connect. That said, I am looking forward to experimenting more with the bottle to see if I can find a mixed drink where the flavors fully emerge and the overall taste is one that makes me crave another as much as I do a fistful of the chips on, well, just about any given occasion.