Category Archives: Flavored Vodka

Review: UV Candy Bar and Salty Watermelon Vodka

UV Salty Watermelon 73x300 Review: UV Candy Bar and Salty Watermelon VodkaThe insanity of increasingly unlikely and unnatural vodka flavors continues courtesy of UV, which brings us these new offerings: Candy Bar and Salty Waltermelon. Thoughts follow. Both are 60 proof.

UV Candy Bar Vodka – OK, it’s a candy bar, we get it. But which one? A Caramello doesn’t taste anything like a Payday. “Candy Bar” is just too vague. In truth, UV Candy Bar doesn’t taste specifically like any candy bar I’ve ever tasted, coming across with more of a vague marshmallow/milk chocolate character that doesn’t really seem particularly candy bar-like at all, but rather is more along the lines of many an indistinct dessert-focused spirit we’ve tried in recent months. Is it Toasted CaramelIced Cake? Who knows? It’s relatively innocuous for the category. For my money, I’d say its closest candy cousin is the Reggie! bar. C+

UV Salty Waltermelon Vodka – Nuclear fuschia in color, this flavored vodka tries to jump on the “salted watermelon” bandwagon (try it if you haven’t already!), strangely choosing to go with “salty” as the descriptor instead. Taste this stuff and you’ll soon see why. It may smell watermelon-candylike, but after one sip you’ll be knocked over by the amount of salt that’s somehow been jammed into this bottle. In truth, “salty” is a far better way to describe this stuff than the nuance that “salted” implies. Gag-inducing and wholly undrinkable. F

uvvodka.com

Making Our Own Aquavit with Spiced Spirits

The Zingy 256x300 Making Our Own Aquavit with Spiced SpiritsAquavit is a flavored Scandinavian vodka that has as many variations as there are countries in Europe. Finding aquavit stateside is difficult, though. The few bottlings imported here are mass-produced stuff that is, unfortunately, usually not very good.

Why not make your own, then? Sounds good, but the number of spices required will probably fill a shopping bag — if you can find them — and empty your wallet. And, again, you’ll need to roll the dice when picking a recipe.

Isn’t there an easier way!?

SpicedSpirits.com to the rescue, aquavit fans. This website does one thing and one thing only: It sells bags of pre-mixed spices that you dump into spirits to flavor them. While it offers ale and mead spices, it’s the vodka ones you’re probably looking for. (You can also put them into rum.) At present, eight varieties are available (plus an option to add oak chips). The names range from “The Crazy” to “The Symphonic” — and each offers its own approach to aquavit. (You can learn more about each one on its website.) Total price, $6 to $9 a pack. (Shipping is $3 to anywhere in the world!)

SpicedSpirits sent us three to try out. We followed the instructions — 7 to 14 days of steeping required, depending on the variety you buy — then sampled the resulting concoctions. Thoughts follow, but overall this is a great way to go if you want to experiment with spicing your own vodka at home.

The Sweet – Made with lemon peel, juniper, cinnamon, and “secrets.” Inspired by an Italian recipe. Lovely gingerbread character on this, touched with allspice… plus a hearty dose of juniper underneath it. I could have done with less juniper character (which gives the finish a bitter edge) and more cinnamon and ginger notes, but overall this is a festive and surprisingly sippable beverage. B+ / $8

The Zingy (pictured) – Made with ginger, peppermint, and “22 secrets.” One of those secrets is clearly caraway, which floats to the top of the aquavit and ends up in your first few glasses. (Filter this one for best results.) Not as much depth in this one, but a little mint on the nose and the finish is what earns this product its name. But the primary character here is more akin to licorice, with a slightly weedy finish. A bit more classic stylistically when placed in the aquavit canon. B / $7

The Symphonic – 25 secret herbs and spices, dang! The company calls it “hard to describe,” and that’s somewhat fair. It has light sweetness, some orange notes, and a bit of that licorice note, too. It’s not nearly as sweet as “The Sweet,” but it does offer better balance, with very light bitterness — akin to a very mild amaro — on the finish. Frankly, I’m not one to drink much aquavit, but if I am going to get all Scandi and go to aquatown, well, this is a pretty good one to visit. B+ / $9

spicedspirits.com

Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Wild Strawberry

SKYY INFUSIONS WILD STRAWBERRY 74x300 Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Wild StrawberryWild strawberries, really?

Flavor #11 from Skyy is indeed made with real, wild strawberries, according to the company, a flavored vodka inspired by one of the most popular cocktail flavorings around. (Skyy says the strawberry is “more complex” than you’d think.)

That may indeed be the case. Skyy Strawberry has a solid fruity nose, and on the tongue it is initially sweet and relatively authentic, though perhaps more akin to a vague “mixed berry” character than I’d prefer. That sweetness fades fast, though, leaving behind a rather burly, somewhat raw alcoholic feel. Unlike many of Skyy’s infusions — arguably the best line of flavored vodkas on the market — this one ends with a fairly rough finish. Better with a mixer, where that finish can be mitigated.

70 proof.

B / $16 / skyy.com

Review: Harvest Spirits Core Vodkas, Liqueurs, and Brandies

harvest spirits farm distillery 300x202 Review: Harvest Spirits Core Vodkas, Liqueurs, and BrandiesHarvest Spirits Farm Distillery, in Valatie, New York, focuses like so many other operations in this region on using local fruits to produce artisinal, farm-to-bottle spirits. The lineup below represents a full farmers’ market of goodies. Thoughts on the bulk of Harvest Spirits’ production follow.

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Review: Absolut Hibiskus Vodka

ABSOLUT HIBISKUS vodka 224x300 Review: Absolut Hibiskus VodkaHibiscus flowers are the improbable Next Big Thing in spirits flavoring, and now Absolut is getting into the business with this new vodka, continuing the succession of equally improbably-spelled liquors.

Absolut Hibiskus is infused not just with hibiscus flower but also with pomegranate, a wise choice that gives this vodka some much-needed sweetness. Absolut’s flavored vodkas, bottled at 80 proof, tend to be a bit burly and rough around the edges, making their flavor components somewhat difficult to perceive well.

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Review: Three Olives “Loopy” Vodka

three olives loopy 102x300 Review: Three Olives Loopy VodkaNot getting enough froot in your diet? Now you can up your intake with one of the nuttiest vodka flavors to hit the market yet: Three Olives’ “Loopy” Vodka.

Designed specifically to taste (and look) like a certain breakfast cereal, Loopy is unmistakable when you crack open the bottle. The aroma of sugared, berry-flavored cereal is dead-on uncanny as you pour out a glass. Whoever concocted this flavor (it’s natural, people!) deserves a medal.

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Review: Anchor Distilling Hophead Hop Vodka

hophead hop vodka 129x300 Review: Anchor Distilling Hophead Hop VodkaCigarette smoke.

That was the first thing that hit me when I took the sniff of Hophead Vodka, Anchor Distilling’s highly talked-about spin on the classic spirit.

Hophead doesn’t smell like cigarettes, though. It just reminds me of them. The hops-infused vodka smells exactly like what it proclaims on the bottle — hops and vodka — and there’s something about that combination that makes my mind run back to many a dive bar I’d encountered before everyone started banning smoking in them.

Hophead is “Hop Vodka,” or “Vodka with hops,” both noted on the label. What’s that? It’s flavored with hops in the same way that gin is flavored with juniper, as a botanical used as an infusion during the production process rather than as a vial of “hops flavoring” that’s poured into the vodka before it’s bottled. It may still be a flavored vodka (which gin is too), but it’s clearly done in an artisanal way that San Francisco’s Anchor can be proud of and call unique.

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Review: Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka

seraphine chai tea vodka 112x300 Review: Seraphine Chai Tea VodkaChai tea is one of the “it” flavorings of the ’10s, and Yahara Bay, which produces the V Bourbon we reviewed a few days ago, takes a different tack than the various chai liqueurs on the market.

Instead, the company flavors vodka with chai to create a unique (and more powerful) spirit.

The color of whiskey, Seraphine smells big and chai-like, with that unmistakeable cinnamon/allspice+tea character on the nose. There’s raisins, cardamom, and nutty notes in there. It’s altogether a lot of fun. The body is a different animal, though, and wholly unexpected. Instead of that big, creamy rush, what comes along is a surprisingly thin, and not entirely flavorful animal.

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Review: 360 Buttered Popcorn Vodka

360 Buttered Popcorn vodka 161x300 Review: 360 Buttered Popcorn VodkaI’ve been resisting even opening this bottle for several months, for reasons which must be obvious. Liquid popcorn? I’ve been scared.

360 Buttered Popcorn, in reality, is more harmless than you might expect. The nose is sickly sweet — more like a glazed doughnut (a vodka flavor which 360 also makes) or cotton candy than anything you’d expect from popcorn. The recent Smirnoff Iced Cake vodka has a lot of similarities with this one.

The popcorn component is a bit more of an afterthought. Somewhere in the finish there’s a vague corny character — something like you get in very young Bourbon — along with that distinct chemically sludgy taste that comes with movie theater popcorn butter. The funky aftertaste recalls cardboard and ashes… or perhaps another part of the movie theater: The floor.

70 proof. Naturally flavored (inexplicably).

C- / $13 / vodka360.com

Review: Pomacai Vodka

Pomacai vodka 103x300 Review: Pomacai VodkaPomegranate and acai have developed strong “superfruit” reputations, which have led to many a boozemaker attempting to use these products to make new spirits. But the fact remains that neither of these taste particularly good, which is why most pomegranate juice drinks are stuffed full of sugar or other, sweeter, juices. Acai, based on the few times I’ve tried it in berry form, is pretty nasty, too.

Enter Pomacai Vodka, a spirit flavored with, you guessed it, pomegranate and acai. The product is grape Kool-Aid purple (artificial colors are added), lightly colored but mostly transparent.

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Review: Absolut Tune

Absolut Tune bottle 158x300 Review: Absolut TuneLooking for something different for a sparkling wine this New Year’s than that bottle of Freixenet? Absolut Tune is not that wine.

Immediately curious — it’s a blend of Absolut Vodka and Brancott Sauvignon Blanc wine from New Zealand, then fizzed up with carbonation — this is a bold experiment for both the vodka biz and the wine world. What better way to sell vodka to a vino snob than to blend it down to an alcohol level comparable with wine? (14% in the case of Absolut Tune.) And what better way to push wine to a vodka lover than to slap the Absolut name on it?

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Review: Kinky Liqueur

Kinky liqueur 88x300 Review: Kinky LiqueurTechnically a flavored vodka (5x distilled), Kinky is a bright pink “liqueur” flavored with mango, blood orange, and passion fruit, a clear shot across the bow of Alize, Hpnotiq, and its ilk.

The look and taste are actually heavily reminiscent of pink lemonade. Of the three fruits named in the mix, the passion fruit is the most present, but it’s mostly vague, lemony citrus that dominates. It’s sweet and sour, actually not at all bad to sip on and not nearly as saccharine as the neon color would indicate.

That said, it’s not the most complex spirit, but it’d make a great addition to a fruity cosmo-class drink, or as a topper to a glass of sparkling wine.

34 proof.

B / $20 / crosbylakespirits.com

Review: AnestasiA Vodka

anestasia vodka 200x300 Review: AnestasiA VodkaMuch has been written about AnestasiA to date, so I won’t belabor obvious points. This weird and wacky spirit is far from the beaten path. I’m sure there are tons of club kids who’ll find this to their liking. I found it strange to the power of 100.

AnestasiA is marketed as a “Sensational Spirit” which pleasantly tingles in your mouth. Initially I thought this meant it was a carbonated/sparkling vodka, but that’s not the case. In fact it is a flavored vodka that “consists of naturally occurring ingredients and flavorings that are commonly used in the food industry.”

That flavoring primarily appears to be a member of the menthol family. Continue reading

Review: Smirnoff Iced Cake and Kissed Caramel Vodkas

The company that brought us Fluffed Marshmallow vodka is back with more flavors that would have Rasputin rolling in his grave. Here’s what will be haunting beach bars in 2013.

For what it’s worth, my wife enthused about the dessert-drink worthiness of both of these concoctions, and in modest proportions, she might be right, although Smirnoff is really pushing the sugar to the point where I expected to see crystals of the stuff to settle out at the bottom of the bottle. Both are 60 proof.

Smirnoff Iced Cake Vodka – Imagine a child’s ultra-sugary birthday cake. Now imagine a child ate that cake and then threw up. The sweetness here is so strong it’s overpowering even to smell. One sip will coat your mouth for 15 minutes or more with the flavor of a white cake that’s been put through a blender and spiked with extra frosting (this is Iced Cake after all). You can’t taste a lick of alcohol. C+

Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Vodka – Caramel is the It Flavor of 2012, and the vodkas are coming out in droves. Equally overpowering on the nose and body, the caramel flavors here are so strong and sweet they will suck the fillings right out of your teeth and leave you quivering in a diabetic coma. As with the Iced Cake version, it’s both uncannily authentic and entirely synthetic. C

$14 each / smirnoff.com

Review: Alchemia Czekoladowa Chocolate Infused Vodka

This new flavored vodka brand hails from Poland, is thrice distilled from 100% rye grain, and is small-batch infused (by macerating raw ingredients instead of using flavor extracts), which leaves natural color in the spirit instead of being filtered to the usual clear. The vodkas are then finished in oak barrels, giving a little twist to the way this product is normally made, and the TransAmerica Pyramid-shaped bottle is quite striking.

The initial three flavors include wild cherry, ginger, and chocolate. We tasted the lattermost.

Chocolate infused? Imagine Hershey’s syrup given an alcoholic kick and you approach the way cola-brown Alchemia Chocolate comes across. Room-filling with its cocoa aromas, there’s a hefty vanilla kick to it, too. Everything from the attack to the finish is dazzlingly sweet, which makes it quite the surprise when you realize this is full 80-proof vodka. How much sugar has to be used to sweeten up that much alcohol I can’t fully fathom.

B+ / $29 / alchemiainfusions.com

Alchemia Chocolate vodka Review: Alchemia Czekoladowa Chocolate Infused Vodka

Recipe for the Mars Landing: Red Planet Curiosity

Our friends at Campari sent us this cocktail recipe in honor of today’s Mars landing. Enjoy with your beanie on!

Red Planet Curiosity
0.75 oz Campari
0.75 oz Skyy Infusions Citrus
0.5 oz Cointreau
0.5 oz Fresh Blood Orange Puree
1 oz Fresh Lemon Sour (2 parts Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice and 1 part Simple Syrup)
1 teaspoon Egg White
Chilled Soda Water

Shake all ingredients, except soda water, until well blended. Strain into a chilled 7 oz. Fizz glass and top with chilled soda water.

Review: Grey Goose Cherry Noir Vodka

Grey Goose‘s newest expression turns to a classic flavoring agent: the cherry.

This flavored vodka , known as Cherry Noir, is a bit boozy, at a stout 80 proof, which keeps many of those cherry notes on the back burner. Flavored vodka makers normally bottle at 70 proof or less, because that 5% lower alcohol level gives the flavoring agent a much bigger chance to shine.

In Cherry Noir the fruit is far stronger on the nose — bright Bing cherry aromas — than on the tongue. Here, rougher alcohol flavors dominate and the actual cherry flavor, as is common in fruit-flavored vodkas, turns bitter on the finish.

Use as a mixer. One potential recipe, courtesy of Grey Goose, follows.

B- / $27 / greygoose.com

Grey Goose Cherry Lane

1.5 Parts Grey Goose Cherry Noir
0.75 part Benedictine Liqueur
0.5 part lemon juice
0.75 part simple syrup
1 dash bitters

Mix all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini cocktail glass and garnish with cherries on a cocktail pick.

Grey Goose Cherry Noir  Review: Grey Goose Cherry Noir Vodka

Review: Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Grogs and Vodka

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery (aka Ye Ole Grog Distillery) is a St. Helens, Oregon-based outfit specializing in, well, grog. Many enamored with the lives of pirates have probably invoked he word grog in some fashion or another… but don’t really know what it is. So, what is it?

In the old days, grog mainly meant rum watered down either with regular water or some form of beer. Served aboard ships, it was intended to make the rum last longer during those lengthy voyages… and keep the crew from getting completely sloshed. The term has of course evolved since then. There are grogs that are basically spiced rums, grogs that are mixes of juice and booze, and grogs that mean pretty much anything in the alcoholic spirits category. And now there is this “grog.”

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery’s product begins with grain neutral spirit feed stock that is “treated with a weathered, time-proven, natural process” that comes out of Russia. This is distilled in a pot still and used as a base for the three products below. What are they? For purposes of classification, one is a vodka (and is called such), and the two grogs fly closest to flavored vodka by virtue of their process of creation. I don’t know if names really matter, though. Feel free to just call ‘em “grog!”

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Dog Watch Vodka – This is essentially a re-distilled version of the above described base spirit, unfiltered, unflavored, and bottled at 80 proof. Put simply, this is unlike any vodka you’ve ever had. Everything about it screams unaged rum or even pisco: Hard-edged with a bitter body, gasoline notes, and a tough finish. A thinner version of a rhum agricole in flavor, this didn’t thrill me on its own, but I could see it working as a substitute for white rum in a handful of coctails. C / $25

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Good Morning Glory Grog – This spirit is sweetened with blue agave nectar, flavored with four (unlisted) natural flavors, and bottled at 70 proof. Wow, this is a different experience than the above. The nose: cinnamon and buttered popcorn. On the palate, overwhelming sweetness, which makes that cinnamon and popcorn taste more like Hot Tamales and popcorn Jelly Belly candies. Ultra-sweet, it’s difficult to handle much of this straight. C- / $25

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Dutch Harbor Breeze – This spirit is flavored with six flavors, sweetened with agave nectar, aged in charred oak barrels and with cinnamon (sticks in the barrel, I presume) for an unspecified length of time, then bottled at 100 proof. There’s so much going on with this that one barely knows where to start. Intense cinnamon and licorice notes on the nose are just the start. On the tongue those flavors are ramped up massively, turning into a burn-heavy root beer with a smoky, woody kick to it. This intense fruitcake-in-a-glass has more charm than its compadres, but the body is so powerful that it puts everything else to shame, even something as intense as Fernet Branca. As a dash of flavor in a cocktail this could offer a splash of something exotic. On its own, however, it’s just too wild to be overly dangerous. C+ / $30

Review: Van Gogh PB&J Vodka

First off, let’s be clear: This is not a joke, and yes, “PB&J” means what you think it does. Van Gogh’s latest creation is flavored to taste like peanut butter and raspberry jelly (some naturally, some artificially), bottled in vodka format.

And let’s be frank: This really does smell and taste like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Somewhere, some flavor scientist is getting a big pat on the back from his employer. It’s really peanutty on the nose — more that kind of thick peanut butter paste you get with a Reese’s cup than a spoonful of Skippy. The jelly is in the body. Raspberry or strawberry isn’t specifically determinable here; the burn from the vodka tends to make those kind of flavors tough to tell apart from one another. At 70 proof (like all of Van Gogh’s flavored vodkas), it isn’t a heavy alcoholic character, but it’s enough to add an edge to an otherwise quite fruity body.

Of course, a vodka this wildly contrived can’t help but taste a bit artificial, and nowhere is this more evident than on the lengthy finish, which starts to turn saccharine as it lingers on the palate. It’s quite hard to shake, and even a glass of water doesn’t get rid of that feeling. But hey, PB&J sandwiches can come across that way, too.

So what could you possibly do with a vodka like this? Well, you tell me.

B / $27 / vangoghvodka.com

 Review: Van Gogh PB&J Vodka

Cocktail Recipes for National Donut Day

Who knew? Apparently Americans need an extra reason to consume donuts, thanks to a 1938 proclamation by the Salvation Army that declared the first Friday in June to be National Donut Day.

A trip to Krispy Kreme is not required, though, to get your fix. Thanks to 360 Vodka, you can drink your donuts and get a buzz at the same time with its 360 Glazed Donut Vodka.

We’ve yet to try this concoction, but while we’re waiting for our sample, check out these cocktail ideas to celebrate this “holey” breakfast classic.

Boston Cream Donut
1 1/2 oz. 360 Glazed Donut Vodka
2 scoops vanilla ice cream

Blend with ice in a blender until smooth. Serve in a rocks glass, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Apple Fritter Martini
1 1/2 oz. 360 Glazed Donut Vodka
3 oz. apple juice
1 tsp. maple syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass rimmed with sugar and cinnamon. Garnish with an apple slice.