1) Froot Loop
4) Peanut Butter & Jelly.
5) Whipped Cream
7) Smoked Salmon
8) Cookie Dough
9) Mt. Dew.
Not a bad grocery shopping list, right? You’ve got your meats, your dairy, your vegetables, some snacks and sweets. It looks like I’ve pretty much got breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert covered. Actually, this isn’t my grocery list, but instead a list of some of the popular and trendy flavored vodkas that are popping up behind the bar and on the shelves in your local grocer. And while a flavor like bacon or salmon isn’t exactly flying off the shelf, other flavors that are more fun and fruity are pushing vodka sales to an all time high.
Just when you thought all the different brands had searched high and low for every fruit possible to flavor or infuse with vodka, the mad scientists behind these vodka companies have moved onto a newest trend: “shock vodka”. I like to call it shock vodka because it’s really about making you wonder, what can’t they capture in a bottle?
In addition to fruits, coffee, espresso and flavors like vanilla, chocolate or caramel have been explored to much success but the levels of creativity aren’t stopping there. Ever gone to the bar and saw a martini or cocktail that claims to taste like a red velvet cake or a Washington apple? How about a snickers bar or a cream soda? These are just some of the requests your average bartender comes across every night and the execs at XYZ vodka company have taken notice and decided to cut out the middle man in some ways. With the latest technology, companies like Cupcake Vodka, Pinnacle, Three Olives, Burnetts, Smirnoff and a host of other brands can re-create almost any flavor you can imagine. Unfortunately there are some out there that feel flavored vodkas are ruining the art of mixology, but I wonder if they realize people have been tinkering with crazy infusions long before these came along. I can surely remember times during my college career taking a few mason jars and infusing my own vodkas or gins with friends using Gummy Bears, Skittles, Jolly Ranchers and a few other sugar filled goodies.
Vodka itself is a neutral spirit practically begging to be paired with something to give it life. For those thinking the addition of these flavors promotes laziness, I’d have to say yes and no. In all honesty, the popularity of such crazy flavors is because people are lazy. Why get up, get dressed, go out to the bar and ask for a drink that tastes like a birthday shot (a bar favorite) for $3-$8 when you can just grab a full bottle of cake-flavored vodka on your way home from work for about $16 and enjoy a cake shot in the comfort of your own home in sweats and a baggy t-shirt? But I also say no as well to the laziness idea because we forget that a flavor so crazy as cotton candy or PB&J creates hundreds of new flavor possibilities that may or may not have been possible with the limited ingredients the average bartender may have.
One thing I get asked a lot when out trying to flavors is, “how long can this trend last?” Considering the world was introduced to the first official flavored vodka in 1986 by Absolut Vodka (Peppar), I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s here to stay. Though some complain it seems the vodkas are now being marketed at college students and women, we can’t forget that both of those are huge marketing demographics. Flavored vodkas account for approximately 27% of all vodka sales. At the end of the day wacky flavors are driving the industry and, more importantly, creating all the hype and curiosity in the trend of mixology. Everyone wants to get involved and be inventive, so why not enjoy it?
The next time you’re out, try something new and see if it’s worth all the hype? If not, nothing wrong with going back to a vodka and tonic. Below are 5 flavored vodkas that I feel are unique and add a nice dynamic to your home bar for the next time you want to impress your friends.
- Van Gogh PB & J Vodka: $26-$32 – The fragrance is predominantly of peanut, and is complimented by the fresh fruit aroma of raspberry. On the tongue, the roles are reversed and the raspberry flavor is more apparent, giving it a velvety texture with a hint of vanilla on the side to complete the sandwich effect.
- Smirnoff Marshmallow Vodka: $10-$15 – Tastes dangerously close to the real thing. Aroma perfectly matches of a bag of marshmallows. Works great with dessert-themed cocktails and martinis. A bit of a bite at the end and honestly not as smooth as some of the other dessert vodkas on the market but still a winner for some holiday and girls night out themed drinks.
- UV Cake Vodka: $10-12 – Aroma is exact to that of a fresh and fluffy white piece of cake with a bit of an alcohol undertone. Flavor is that of vanilla icing and white cake. Very smooth for a 70 proof vodka. Mixing suggestions are your typical dessert martini favorites such as milk, creamer, cream liqueurs etc.
- Pinnacle Cookie Dough Vodka: $10-$15 – Flavor and aroma is pretty spot on and self explanatory here. Not much of a bite and smoother than expected. If you liked to like the spoon as a child while mommy made cookies, this one is for you. Mixing suggestions include spiking a milk shake, modifying a white russian, or spiking your coffee.
- Three Olives Loopy Vodka: $17-$22 – A dastardly delicious combination of tropical fruit and vodka with a realistic grainy aftertaste to bring together the essence of a bowl of froot loops. Aroma is that of a freshly-opened pack of cereal. Red berries are the focus flavor in this one. A splash of milk is all this needs to make the process complete. Other ideas include fruit juices such as pineapple or cranberry.
Image courtesy of Strobist.com