In the fall of 2021, when Patrón decided to discontinue XO Cafe, the tequila-based coffee liqueur the brand first launched in 1992, it seemed like a smart idea. Tequila sales were booming, up 30.1 percent, while coffee liqueur sales were flatlining. The Bacardi-owned brand surely figured: Why waste such a popular spirit in an unpopular liqueur?
Patrón’s president, Mauricio Vergara, admitted as much, telling The Grocer that the brand was focusing “on growing and protecting production and supply of our core super- and ultra-premium tequilas.”
Of course, just a year later, 2022 improbably became the year of the Espresso Martini (and today some metrics rank it as the fourth most popular cocktail in the world). Quickly, bars, retailers, and home consumers clamored for quality coffee liqueurs to make the cocktail.
All of the sudden, Patrón had an extinct unicorn on its hands.
“Demand is increasing,” says Ryan Kubek, a spirits collector from New Jersey, who explains that the discontinuing of a product doesn’t mean it’s not available anymore, just not in production. “The stock produced is still out there,” he says. “It’s just harder and harder to find on shelves.”
Harder but not impossible. Eduardo Ureña, another spirits collector from New Jersey, has only been purchasing bottles of Patrón XO Cafe since June. He’s had luck finding them at retailers in lower-income neighborhoods and even Mexico, where he travels several times a year.
“Everybody’s drinking tequila. It’s the No. 1 spirit everywhere. And the same with [Espresso] Martinis — everyone is drinking them, especially as winter comes,” he says. “So I kind of figured it was just going to go up in value somehow.”
His inclinations were correct. On Wine-Searcher.com, which catalogs retail availability across the nation, the cheapest bottle of Patrón XO Cafe is currently listed for $99. Most others hover above $250, however, including a $1,500 vintage bottle. Even 50- and 200-milliliter minis are selling for extraordinary costs, with one currently priced at $150. Retailers across the globe have taken to social media to boast of dead stock they’ve found and now have to sell.
“We managed to get a few more bottles of [Patrón XO Cafe], probably the last pieces available in the world,” claimed a Hungarian retailer in November. “Very limited quantity, get it as soon as possible!”
“This is the most iconic nightclub drink ever known to man.”
On Frootbat, an allocated bottle marketplace more prone to pushing Blanton’s or Weller, you’ll find similar prices. The coffee liqueur has improbably begun to appear at online auctions, too, like Whiskey Auctioneer, where eight different lots of Patrón XO Cafe bottles sold in a September auction, among rare and vintage whiskeys from brands like The Macallan.
In recent weeks, Patrón XO Cafe has even infiltrated the gray secondary markets on Facebook where other unicorn spirits are sold. Predicting that would eventually happen, Kubek started picking up bottles at retail cost once the discontinuation was announced. Now that the price has risen, he’s started to steadily move them via private groups devoted to spirits like tequila.
“[There was] room to make a few dollars after shipping and logistics. Just like Goodwill and garage sale shopping for easy flips,” he says, claiming that purchasers so far have mostly been bar and restaurant clients.
You might wonder: Why all the fervor?
Maybe it’s simply a case of people wanting what they can’t have anymore. But plenty of middling products are discontinued and quickly forgotten about — even from Patrón (any one remember Patrón Citrónge Mango?!).
To be clear, it’s mostly not tequila connoisseurs who are chasing Patrón XO Cafe. In fact, on r/tequila, upon hearing of the discontinuation, most posters mocked the liqueur, calling it “cloying,” “disappointing,” “disgusting,” and even noting that “it’s not going to be missed.” These people were never Patrón XO Cafe’s core audience.
“It had a viscosity closer to that of barbecue sauce than tequila and a flavor that was more reminiscent of vanilla ice cream than espresso.”
“This is the most iconic nightclub drink ever known to man,” claimed U.K.-based TikToker Leila Kurdash. And others have noted something similar. To its fans, Patrón XO Cafe wasn’t simply a replacement coffee liqueur for brands like top-selling Kahlua — it was literally their favorite drink. “I’m not being dramatic when I say this is the worst day of my life,” posted another XO Cafe fan, Jack Remmington, at the time of the discontinuation.
It’s no surprise that these stans immediately began stocking up (in between #uglycrying and signing petitions fighting its cancellation). Even today, two years later, fans continue to reminisce about their favored coffee liqueur.
In August, writer Sahar Tavakoli penned an obituary to it, explaining its unusual charm. “It had a viscosity closer to that of barbecue sauce than tequila and a flavor that was more reminiscent of vanilla ice cream than espresso,” she wrote. Tavakoli considered it an affordable luxury and couldn’t help but admire the dark sludge that would coat the bottom of one’s glass and stain any ice cubes.
Enthusiasts have begun to try to recreate poor man’s versions of Patrón XO Cafe. Blogs and newspapers, like Metro UK, have offered their own how-tos, while people have taken to social media to offer jury-rigged hacks. TikTok recipe account @mob, with some 1.3 million followers, thought a solid at-home proxy would see a bottle of Patrón Silver infused with an entire vanilla bean and coffee grounds, then filtered and blended with simple syrup.
“I know we were all gutted when they stopped making Cafe Patrón, so I’ve come through with a homemade version,” the chef says in the video. “Just make it, and thank me later.”
Meanwhile, other brands have arisen to fill the void and capitalize on the eager market.
“Having trouble finding a luxuriously delicious coffee liqueur?” trolled Cantera Negra on Instagram just three days after the Patrón announcement. A day later, Vivir tequila launched its own coffee liqueur dubbed Café VS, though co-founder Nav Grewal insisted both the release timeline and name were pure coincidence.
“Considerable time was put in, in order to create our own unique flavor profile that wasn’t just copying Patrón XO,” he told Drinks International. “We use Mexican coffee beans and local sugarcane piloncillo. We also want to ensure our price is competitive in the long term and reflective of our brand positioning rather than profiteering in the short term.”
Cazcabel Coffee, yet another tequila-based coffee liqueur, first launched in 2014, saw a steep rise in sales, reportedly taking over 95 percent of Patrón’s U.K. distribution space with sales tripling in Australia.
Bandera Tequila, a U.K.-based brand started by Alexis and Michaeline DeJoria, the daughters of Patrón co-founder John Paul DeJoria, brought to market Bandero Café in 2022. They insinuated it was a similar recipe to Patrón XO Cafe and that landed it some solid press coverage, though the initial buzz has since waned.
More recently, Tequila Cazadores launched its Cazadores Café in July, explicitly trying to capitalize on the XO Cafe void and burgeoning Espresso Martini orders across the planet. But Patrón XO Cafe’s fans don’t want a replacement; they want the original. Even Ureña, who admits he mostly drinks more serious spirits, understands why.
“A lot of people are moving into non-additive tequila because they want to appreciate what tequila really is,” he says. “So this is one of the few coffee liqueurs out there that uses no additives. They actually use real coffee. They actually use tequila. So it is pretty much the best true coffee liqueur you can get out there. And it’s not made anymore.”
None of the other releases or DIY hacks seem to live up to the beloved XO Cafe, which is why secondary market prices continue to rise online. It’s also why wheelers and dealers like Kubek and Ureña continue to capitalize on the most unlikely unicorn since Crown Royal Peach.
In the last couple months, in fact, Ureña has moved over 400 bottles of Patrón XO Cafe. Believe it or not, most of his customers are retail stores in places like Kentucky and the District of Columbia, both of which legally allow for the purchase of vintage spirits from private collectors.
“You’re saving them time,” he says. “I’m selling wholesale, in a way, and they’re going to sell at an ultra-premium price.”