Get to Know The Watermelon Tequila Shot That’s Taking Off in Texas Bars

The fruity, spicy Mexican Candy shot is a longtime, late night favorite along the border, and it’s gaining popularity, according to the latest OnPrem Insights report
Mexican Candy Shot

Have you ever heard of a Mexican Candy Shot? Chances are if you’re in Texas, you have. 

Sometimes listed on menus as a Paleta shot in reference to the popular candy for which it’s named, this shot has long been popular in border towns like El Paso. It’s fruity, spicy, sweet,  and sour — just like the Mexican chili-dusted candy it’s fashioned after. A few variations exist, but the most popular recipe is made with Tequila, Watermelon Pucker or Schnapps, a dash or two of hot sauce, and a rim lined with Tajín, an iconic Mexican spice mix made with chili peppers, lime, and salt.

“This flavorful Tequila-based shot has been a warm-weather mainstay at many Texas bars in the Union network, but our data shows that it is becoming more popular year-round,” says Gary Ross, Union’s Chief Growth Officer.  “In light of Tequila’s overall rise on-premise, it’s no surprise this fruity, easy-to-drink Tequila drink has the potential to capture guests’ attention in bars across America.”

Guests are Raising a Shot Glass to Mexican Candy

In Texas venues, the Mexican Candy shot represented a whopping 4.6 percent of all cocktails/mixed shots sold in the 12-month period ending September 30, 2023, a rate that held steady over the past two years. But that doesn’t mean it’s a Texas-only trend. The shot is also on Union menus across Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and California, though the Mexican-themed drink performs best in the Lone Star state. 

Across all of Union’s U.S. venues, the Mexican Candy shot represented 1.75 percent sales share of all cocktails/mixed shots sold in that period, and its share of cocktail/mixed shot sales grew by 7.4 percent compared to the prior period. In states outside of Texas, the shot grew by double that rate during this period.  The latest data shows the Mexican Candy shot as the third most popular mixed shot served on-premise, following the Green Tea shot and Vegas Bomb.

Mexican Candy Shot Growth at On Premise Bars
Source: OnPrem Insights, 12-month period ending September 2023 compared to the previous 12 month period.

In the past year, on-premise sales of the Mexican Candy shot have been increasing steadily across all of Union’s venues. The drink is available at nearly one out of four venues across the country, and half of all venues in Texas.

“What stood out in this report was the incredible growth this shot has seen in the colder weather months, in Texas as well as other states,” says Ross. In 2022, October saw 47 percent growth, November 45 percent, and December 55 percent growth across the U.S. as compared to the prior year.

“That’s substantial,” says Ross, “especially during the celebratory and heavy-foot-traffic O-N-D end of year period. It demonstrates the potential for this drink to be enjoyed outside of obvious themed opportunities like Cinco de Mayo, or in the summer, when watermelon flavors are popular.”

The Mexican Candy Shot is a Late Night Favorite

The Mexican Candy shot is a late night performer at Union venues. In fact, 70 percent of these shots are ordered after 11 p.m. Compared to cocktails/mixed shots overall (37 percent ordered after 11 p.m.), the Mexican Candy shot is ordered at nearly double the rate during that daypart.

“Our data points to the fact that this is a party drink,” says Ross, “popular on Saturday nights at high-volume venues.”

Mexican Candy Shot by Daypart
Source: OnPrem Insights, 12-month period ending September 2023.

Compared to all cocktails, Mexican Candy shots average higher sales on Saturdays (35 percent of Mexican Candy shots are ordered on Saturdays, compared to 30 percent of all cocktails/mixed shots.)  The drink sells for an average price of nearly $8.00.

“Women are only slightly more likely to order a Mexican Candy shot than men, compared to the average cocktail/mixed shot,” says Ross. 

Beyond Lime and Salt: A New Tequila Shot for On-Premise

From Margaritas to Palomas, Tequila cocktails are booming on-premise. At Union venues, Tequila-based cocktail sales ranked No. 1 in base spirits for cocktails, beating out Whiskey-based cocktails by less than 2 points. Tequila cocktails made up 26.3 percent of all cocktail sales during the current period, up 0.2 points, or 0.8 percent, compared to the prior period.

Mexican Candy made up 6.7 percent of all Tequila-based cocktail/mixed shot sales during the current period, across all Union venues, up 6 percent compared to the prior period.

Considering Tequila and watermelon flavor trends, the Mexican Candy shot has potential to continue growing outside of Texas, explains Ross.

He says: “It’s certainly an established regional trend and has been steadily selling in Texas in particular.  Given the tremendous growth of Tequila over the last several years, we see the potential for this shot to trend nationwide. This unique drink represents an opportunity for bars outside of Texas that want to offer guests more Tequila-based options.”

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