Most coffee drinkers would probably say that they stay away from coffee liqueur except for very specific cocktail situations. At best, coffee liqueur can mean Bailey’s or Kahlua. At worst, it is coffee mixed with vodka or tequila as a weird kind of afterthought to a product lineup. Looking at the various unsatisfying options for coffee with liquor, some coffee lovers might ask why liquor companies hate coffee so much to do what they do to such a precious drink.
Australian-distilled Mr. Black coffee liqueur aims to be different. The company aims to “bring Australian coffee culture into the night,” which is something hipsters around the world can relate to. The recent boom of coffee culture started in Australia and the mixture with the also recent cocktail boom makes this coffee liqueur a natural marriage. While this coffee liqueur is being brought into the night, it is also going “Beyond the Coffeehouse,” one of the top food trends for 2018.
The liqueur is made with vodka and three different kinds of Arabica beans. The taste is less vodka and more coffee. The original flavor is advertised as a cold brew, a shrewd move for markets where cold brew is king on hot summer days.
They also feature an Amaro variety that is more bitter, inspired by Italian after-dinner drinks. Mr. Black advertises that you can drink either neat or in cocktails. The drinks are also more caffeinated than Kahlua. Not as much as a morning espresso but enough to give you a kick.
While Mr. Black is obviously not taking shortcuts and trying to appear as coffee snobs in name only, they are also getting great reviews for their design esthetic. The design of the bottle and the site are clean and evoke a vintage feel. This approach is similar to how Hendrick’s gin became so popular, renewing the image of an often-forgotten bar item with a great recipe and an eye to design to attract Millennials. Coffee culture is partly about design, and the esthetics of Mr. Black are likely to be a strong competitive advantage.
Food and beverage manufacturers should look to a brand like Mr. Black for how to seamlessly refurbish a bar menu item that no one really likes and doing it well. Coffee culture enthusiasts are very serious about their coffee. They want to know where the beans are from and what kind they are and how they were roasted just to start. But any small-batch distillery should have that same eye to ingredients and advertise that in serious detail on their websites and packaging.
Redoing forgotten bar items also works well when the product tells a story. Mr. Black uses Australian coffee culture. Hendrick’s uses the very British tradition of gin. What other stories can be told? What other local spirits need a facelift?
Coffee is no longer just for morning pick-me-ups, it is now an entire day drink that consumers are becoming way more educated about. This makes manufacturers and marketers get far more serious about how they create and talk about their coffee products. But with such a wide global market, the right product with the right ingredients and design esthetic, coffee drinkers will drink it right up.