Tequila is a friend to many. To others, just reading that word sends them into convulsions and dry heaves, likely thanks to a highly regrettable night in Mexico or some other spring break destination. But whatever your feelings on the spirit that’s been blamed for more bad decisions than Knicks’ management, a hard seltzer spiked with tequila is nonetheless intriguing. Especially when it’s being pushed by none other than Brody Jenner.
That seltzer is Mamitas, a new tequila-based canned drink that’s starting to make waves in the already-crowded hard seltzer field. And not just because of the toned, toothy spokesman convincing us all to buy it. The four-flavor line is creeping into parties, bars, and music festivals, and may just be the hard seltzer hit of summer. To find out more about the stuff, Mashed had a long chat with Sam Catalina, the VP of Marketing for Phusion Projects, who makes this stuff. She sent us an eight-pack so we could try all the flavors too, and tell you everything you need to know about Brody Jenner’s new seltzer.
Mamitas comes from the same people who brought us Four Loko
Remember Four Loko? The fruit flavor 12% ABV malt beverage that everyone born between 1975 and 1995 has a story about? It came in magnum sized cans and included caffeine, ginseng, taurine, and your recommended daily allowance of amphetamine (not really, but, yeah, that stuff slapped). It’s still around, minus the speedy stuff, under a parent company called Phusion Projects. And it should surprise absolutely no one that the folks who created the world’s greatest bad decision juice are now serving up a tequila seltzer where you can’t taste the tequila.
Phusion Projects, founded by Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman, has been around since 2005. According to Phusion’s VP of Marketing Sam Catalina, they’ve had a number of partnerships with other alcoholic beverages over the years, including White Girls Rose, Not Your Father’s Root Beer, and others. Then in 2019, Phusion began focusing on creating their own brands beyond the flagship Four Loko. Mamitas is their initial foray into the world of hard seltzers.
Mamitas began development in 2019
Though Catalina tells us the marketing push for Mamitas has really begun in earnest this spring, Phusion began dreaming the stuff up in 2019. "We saw what was starting to happen with the seltzer trend, and we saw what the tequila market was doing too," Catalin says. "When you went into a club you weren’t seeing vodka, you were seeing tequila." With both categories exploding, Phusion projects wanted to find a way to… fuse them together into something that would capture both trends.
The result was Mamitas, standing out in the seltzer arena as the odd drink made with tequila instead of vodka or malt liquor. It hit shelves in 2020, a terrible time to start a lot of businesses, but not a bad one for a new liquor. It made some appearances in trade and lifestyle blogs, with sites like Joe’s Daily, Brewhound, and Chilled Magazine all covering the launch. But beyond that, it wasn’t a household name.
Mamitas is named after a famous beach in Mexico
While Mamitas the canned tequila drink wasn’t a household name, the beach it was named after was a little more famous. The stretch of sand on the north side of Playa del Carmen is also home to the legendary Mamitas Beach Club, a sort of see-and-be-seen day party hotspot. The drink is not at all affiliated with the beach or the club, but the spirit it embodies is a big part of the beverage’s branding.
"Mamitas is a very beautiful beach in Mexico," says Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina. "We take that lifestyle and embed it or embody it with the brand. We try and keep it light, It’s that enjoying life type mentality we try and have with Mamitas."
That light, beachy, carefree feel was a big factor, Catalina says, in why Brody Jenner ended up being such a perfect fit for the brand, too. But we’ll get into all that later.
Mamitas is a tequila-seltzer drink with 5% ABV
After almost a year of formulation and development, Phusion finally settled on a final formula for Mamitas: A tequila-based seltzer drink that’s 5% alcohol by volume, with 95 calories and under 2 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can. As daytime, warm weather drinks go, it’s one of the lower carb options, and while we wouldn’t dream of calling it "healthy," it is, at least, as little less caloric than most beers.
"When we created the actual liquid, we knew we needed to hit 5% ABV so we could keep it under 100 calories," Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina told Mashed. "We’re under 2 grams of sugar on every flavor because we knew consumers were looking for that in a seltzer."
After taste testing all the flavors, we can concur that Mamtias definitely doesn’t fill you up, much like other leading seltzer brands. The carbonation also seems lighter than a lot of seltzers, so if the bubbles were stretching your stomach, that’s not nearly as much of an issue with Mamitas.
There’s not one specific type of tequila in Mamtias
Tequila snobs can go on at great length about the terroir of the Tequila region of Mexico, and why single-origin tequila is a little like the Mexican equivalent of drinking single malt whiskey. That said, if you’re not slowly sipping your tequila as you gaze out over a Mexican sunrise and, instead, using it as a base in a mass-produced canned seltzer, single-origin tequila might not be so important.
Such was Phusion’s philosophy, anyway, as VP of Marketing Sam Cataline explained that Mamitas is made with a mixto. What is a mixto, you ask? It’s a type of tequila made with added cane or corn sugars, and a minimum agave sugar content of less than 51 percent. In the case of Mamitas, it’s also a combination of different tequilas from different farms and different producers, all thrown together in one big mix and sold to beverage producers. Catalina assured us it’s still a smooth tasting spirit, and while she wouldn’t go as far as to recommend we should try and acquire some of the stuff and start slamming shorts, it doesn’t seem too rough. After taste testing several cans, we can safely report no one woke up with a spring break well tequila hangover.
Brody Jenner got involved because of a friendship in the company
Every good alcoholic beverage launch can use a little celebrity cache to get itself off the ground. And Mamitas was no different. The brand was looking for ambassadors, and through happenstance, it turned out The Hills and Keeping up with the Kardashians star Brody Jenner was good friends with Phusion Projects’ creative director.
"We wanted somebody who can embody Mamitas, who lives that easy, enjoyable life, and is always living," Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina told Mashed. "We sent [Brody] some product, the minute he tried it he loved it, and it kind of took off from there."
Catalina says Jenner has been "amazing to work with," and that his attitude and enthusiasm for Mamitas has been a huge asset in the drink’s marketing. He’s developed a strong relationship with Phusion founders Jaisen Freeman and Jeff Wright, so much so that Jenner’s involvement has grown far beyond a simple celebrity endorsement.
Brody Jenner is more than a spokesperson, but less than a full owner
Brody Jenner might be the face of Mamitas, but Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina was very clear that he’s not a full-fledged owner of the brand. So don’t look for him to be selling the stuff for a billion dollars any time soon. That said, he’s also not just a face to throw into advertising campaigns.
"It’s a deeper partnership than a traditional ambassador," Catalina says. "He helps us with creative direction. He gives his two cents on everything from flavor to look, and we put a lot of stock in his word as well. He’s more than an ambassador, but not an owner."
Catalina didn’t elaborate on the details of what "deeper partnership," meant, but Brody is, at the very least, using the product to maybe throw some social media shade at his celebrity sister. In April, Brody posted a picture of himself on Instagram, possibly at Mamitas Beach, holding a can of Mamitas. Its caption: "I prefer REAL tequila in my seltzer. @drinkmamitas best in the game." His sister, Kendall Jenner, is a part-owner of 818 Tequila, whose realness has never been questioned.
Mamitas has a partnership with Barstool Sports too
In addition to bringing Brody Jenner onboard, Mamitas has other marketing partnerships with names that might not be as big as Jenner’s, but still garner an audience. The most notable of these is with Barstool Sports, a website that’s become as known for its support of small businesses during the pandemic and One-Bite pizza reviews as it has for sports coverage.
According to Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina, Mamitas has already created custom content with Barstool Sports personalities Adam "Rone" Ferrone, Alyssa Amoroso (the woman behind @publyssity), and Caleb Pressley. Mamitas even went so far as to produce an entire travel show with Rone, and have plans in the works for more Barstool content. Does this mean there’s a possibility for a series of Dave Portnoy tequila seltzer taste tests? No word yet, but if Barstool can rate pizza and chocolate chip cookies, it seems like a logical next step.
Look for Mamitas at music festivals — and everywhere else — the rest of 2021
Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina told Mashed the first phase of Mamitas’ marketing is its celebrity endorsements and partnerships with Brody Jenner and Barstool Sports. The second half of the year, she says, will be focused on installations and music festivals, meaning you’ll be seeing the name a lot this summer.
"We have a really big partnership with Live Nation," Catalina says. "Our first one was in Chicago with the Windy City Smokeout, but we’ll have about 15 over the next six months."
The point, she says, is that if you want to try Mamitas, you’re going to have an opportunity. And the company is confident that once people try the product, they’re going to like it. So what, exactly, should you expect from Mamitas’ flavors? And which ones are best? Read on for our taste test of each flavor, and where each one ranks.
Mamitas comes in four flavors, and you can’t really taste the tequila in any of them
The flavor creation process for Mamitas was no simple task, as Phusion VP of Marketing Sam Catalina says the company went back and forth with their development team an uncomfortable number of times. The goal was to create a drink, Catalina says, that’s palatable for tequila drinkers and non-drinkers alike, and tastes so light you’ve got no problem having a few.
"We love the value proposition of tequila," Catalina says. "It’s an upper, it’s a better-for-you spirit, it’s included in a lot of lifestyle diets, but we know to get to the masses, not everyone loves tequila."
The result is a line of four flavors: pineapple, lime, mango, and paloma — which is effectively a grapefruit flavor. Mango and pineapple, Catalina says, were fruitier flavors geared toward all consumers. The lime and paloma are more for tequila-lovers. But after taste testing the entire line, we can confirm it’s hard to taste the tequila in any of them. So, ya know, be careful.
Paloma is the best flavor of Mamitas
A paloma, if you’re not so versed in the spirits world, is a pretty basic cocktail consisting of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda. And it is perhaps because Mamitas based this flavor on a cocktail and not just a fruit, that it’s the best grapefruit-flavored seltzer we’ve had. That makes it tops among Mamitas’ offerings too, bringing the strongest taste and most intriguing flavor of anything in the eight-pack.
It’s a little less carbonated than the other flavors, the mellowed mouth feel making the grapefruit stand out. That said, the stuff is still seltzer, and if you taste an actual palmoa right next to it, they’re not really comparable. But comparing seltzers and hard cocktails isn’t really fair. This is more like a grapefruit soda, with something extra added. You might assume that "something" is tequila, but it’s hard to detect in paloma, and all the Mamitas flavors.
If grapefruit is not your thing, Mango is the second best
For non-tequila drinkers, your best bet for Mamitas is going to be mango. If you have fond memories of your parents putting out plates of dried mangoes when you asked them for a bag of M&Ms, or just enjoy the big bags of them from Trader Joe’s, you’re going to love Mamitas mango. It has a very distinctive dried fruit flavor — maybe mango, possibly apricot — but it will certainly bring you back to natural foods co-ops of days gone by.
Of all the flavors, mango tastes the most natural, and certainly the best of the fruit flavors geared toward people looking for less tequila. Make no mistake, there’s still booze in here, but perhaps more than any other Mamitas flavor it’s hardest to detect in the mango. Be advised, though, if you’re not a fan of mango, dried mango, or even apricots, steer clear of this one. The flavor might be legit, but if it’s not your style you’ll probably put the can down somewhere and purposely forget about it.
Pineapple is the third best flavor of Mamitas
A similarly good option for non-tequila lovers is the pineapple flavor, another of the tropical fruit line Catalina says is meant for the masses. Upon first cracking open the can, your nose is met with an aggressively sweet blast of pineapple soda, a little like Jarritos Mexican sodas if you poured a shot of tequila inside. Interestingly, the nose doesn’t continue onto tasting the pineapple, as the flavor mellows and when you sip the stuff and blends in nicely with the fruity seltzer.
Pineapple certainly seems like the most carbonated of the Mamitas options, even if they are all produced the same way. It’s got an artificial taste, which combines with the carbonation to give it a slight chemical twinge if you drink it at any other temperature than ice cold. The tequila stands out more in this one than the paloma, but you’re still not getting anything closely resembling a boozy taste. So if you don’t love tequila but you want something in your hand at an all-Mamitas party, pineapple is your move.
Lime isn’t bad, but of the four flavors it ranks last
No flavor of Mamitas is so bad you’re going to spit it out or get mad at whoever suggested you drink it. They’re all pretty tasty but when you rank four flavors, well, someone’s gotta finish last. And in our experience, it was lime. One might think that tequila and lime would be the most natural combination, as it’s found everywhere from margaritas to TGI Fridays’ special menu. But this one just doesn’t hit the mark.
The combination of alcohol and lime gives off more of a cleaning supply note here than it does anything resembling a margarita. Not that it’s like drinking Simple Green, but it’s definitely got an artificial overtone. And the warmer the drink gets, the more that stands out. Still, sipping it ice cold on a warm day is refreshing, and still preferable to the glut of lime infused light beers on the market. You won’t taste much tequila here, either, so if you’re expecting a lightened-up cocktail flavor like the paloma pulls off, you’ll be largely disappointed.
Mamitas has cocktail recipes, and a smoking goblet drink coming to Sugar Factory
Ok, so maybe cracking open a Mamitas or five and making a day out of it just isn’t enough for you. Maybe you need a little more pizazz in your drinking experience. Mamitas understands that seltzers are as much a base for other drinks as they are a stand-along beverage, and have crafted a few cocktails you can find on their Instagram. This one, called "Kiss me, it tastes like tequila," is a St. Patrick’s Day-themed drink that includes sour mix, tequila, and Mamitas lime.
Not to be outdone, the over-the-top drink gurus at Sugar Factory are coming out with a head-turning new goblet cocktail for Mamitas. The Mamitas Hurricane will combine Mamitas pineapple with Mario Lopez’s Casa Mexico silver tequila, a bunch of rums, lemonade, and mai tai flavors. The whole thing is served with dry ice in a gargantuan goblet, perfect for Instagram and/or excessive in-restaurant attention, starting August 6.