Meet the Whiskarita, Only the Fifth Cocktail to Be Trademarked
How a new-make whiskey take on a tequila-based classic got legal recognition
You probably know the Dark ’n Stormy®, Sazerac®, Painkiller® and Hand Grenade®.
These are classic cocktails made in a very specific way. And they’re all trademarked (hence the ® you’ll see all too often in this article; apologies in advance).
Joining them this summer: The Whiskarita®, the intellectual property and creation of 291 Colorado Whiskey. The name pretty much sums up the drink: Triple Sec, lime juice, simple syrup and, most interestingly, 291 Colorado Whiskey’s Fresh Whiskey, a small batch, un-aged whiskey distilled in a copper pot still.
291’s Fresh — made from corn, malted rye and malted barley mash, and coming in at 45% ABV — was designed for mixed drinks, specifically in cocktails that that normally don’t utilize whiskey. While it could be seen as a gimmick, the clear spirit has its fans: It won the 2021 World Whiskey Awards for “Best American New Make.” (Side note: Why more whiskey makers don’t market their new-make product is a mystery to me. You can sometimes try it at the distilleries, and while barrel maturation contributes the majority of the final flavor, tasting the product in its earliest stage can give you clues on where your whiskey, or other aging spirit, is headed.)
Still, why trademark what is a new take on a margarita? “For a long time I had been using whiskey in traditional cocktails that don’t use whiskey — like using rye in a Bloody Mary,” as Michael Myers, Founding Distiller of 291, tells us. “Coming up with the Whiskarita® allows people to understand what I was looking for without too much explanation. And having the trademark allows us to start conversations and stories … and to protect the creation and quality of the drink.” (It also, as Myers admits, potentially adds value to the company.)
Outside of a cocktail, 291 is a bright spirit with some sweet and floral notes on the front of the palate, followed by citrus and a slight leather note. Overall, there’s a very clean finish and, as Myers suggests, a slight similarity to tequila, which “we believe comes from [being] three times pot distilled.”
So it’s intentionally a versatile spirit, and certainly one that could work as a replacement for, well, a tequila-based classic.
One quibble with trademarks: Admittedly, it’s not that hard for venues to call a ginger beer and rum drink something besides a Dark ’n Stormy if they’re not playing by Gosling’s rules — and using that name without the proper ingredients or recipe maybe isn’t fair to the consumer (that said, your regular ol’ non-protected margarita could show up in any form the bartender wants). But many people in the industry have experienced exceedingly quick action by certain alcohol producers that can sometimes feel like legal overkill. Even as a writer, I once received a cease and desist letter because I mentioned a certain drink’s name in print, literally in the context of “this bar serves a [trademarked cocktail].” I could not prove the bar played by the drink’s trademark rules, and well, a lawyer for the publication suggested a quick rewrite.
Thankfully, 291 isn’t that concerned about legal action, at least for now. “Our focus is on the quality of the cocktail, and we want people to use 291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey in the drink,” says Myers. “We’ll evaluate situations as they arise. At the moment there are very few white whiskeys on the market so if someone walks up to a bar and orders a Whiskarita® it’s going to be hard to make without our whiskey. In this situation I’m happy because someone is asking for it by name and either knows how it’s made or will have to look it up.”
Fair enough. Now, less litigious talk, more drinking. 291’s trademarked cocktail, below:
1 1/2 oz of 291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey
3/4 oz Triple Sec
1 1/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Shake ingredients in a tin with ice. Strain over ice into Collins glass. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge.
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