Pour one out: I can’t believe they’ve stopped making Patrón XO Café. Launched in 1992, the infused tequila was discontinued in October of 2021.
Wearing a pale purple necktie, XO was a distillation of premium-economy. It was expensive but not entirely out of reach. It made you think of air travel but only the part of the journey that involves wandering around an airport duty-free. Pulling the rounded cork top off its frosted glass bottle felt like what I imagine it would feel like to be a middle-aged landed gentry opening a crystal decanter, without any of the drawbacks of gout.
XO was not the only commodity to ride the old Bourdieusian symbolic violence train. Michael Kors wanted you to believe you were carrying Louis Vuitton, West Elm asked you to lean back and think of Finn Juhl. All were guilty of trying to flatter a self-conscious bourgeoise into buying status. Like Kors and Elm, XO was not a perfect copy of what it claimed itself to be. It had a viscosity closer to that of barbeque sauce than tequila and a flavor that was more reminiscent of vanilla ice cream than espresso. Unlike Kors and Elm, however, XO was actually nice and, in the world of quasi-luxury goods as well as in the world of alcoholic-things-that-are-meant-to-taste-like-other-things, such a quality is rare indeed.
In Tennyson’s blank verse poem ‘Ulysses’, the hero of the Trojan war and now aging Ithacan king reflects on his party days. He isn’t quite ready to let them go. “I will drink/life to the lees,” he promises some unnamed audience while making a mental note to look into whether Calypso is still in Ogygia.
Being distilled rather than fermented, XO was not the kind of drink to have lees. It offered something much better: a dark sludge that would pool at the base circumference of one’s glass and which, no matter how diluted, would always tint water from a melting ice cube just enough to have you believe you still had something left to drink. Like the contents of Ulysses’ chalice, drinking XO felt like traveling back in time, to some terrible bar at some terrible point in your 20s where you nonetheless had the time of your life.
XO Cafe is survived by friend Mike who shouted my first ever shot of the stuff in 2012 at an otherwise terrible office Christmas party, and by Nulgah Kavanagh whose Change.org petition to stop the discontinuation of XO Café is only 900 signatures shy of its 5000 signature target.