Category Archives: Flavored Vodka

Review: Pucker “Grape Gone Wild” Flavored Vodka

The Pucker brand of liqueurs has been with us for years — you can’t make the infamous appletini without its Sour Apple — and now Pucker is making its way into flavored vodkas, too: Higher proof level, clear spirit instead of day-glo, spiked with natural flavors.

We tasted the “Grape Gone Wild” version — three others are available: apple, citrus and cherry — to see how the company was making the great leap forward into the world of flavored vodkas.

Results: If you like candy, you’ll love Pucker Flavored Vodka. The grape flavor is Jolly Ranchers all the way — Concord grape jelly with an extra teaspoon of sugar on top. The candy store aroma fills the room when the bottle is opened.

Give Pucker some credit though, for all the tooth-aching sweetness, it has managed to make a flavored vodka with no bitter, medicinal finish, always a problem when the “flavored” part makes its exit and the “vodka” (often the rotgut stuff) inevitably takes hold. Pucker Vodka doesn’t have any real bite or funk to it, the finish more like one of your better cough syrups than Robitussin.

That’s a good thing, right?

70 proof.

B / $17 /

pucker grape vodka Review: Pucker Grape Gone Wild Flavored Vodka

Review: American Spirit Organic Spirit

The folks at Sidney Frank — the company that made billions by giving us Grey Goose — is back at it. Its new vodka is a bit of a curiosity: It doesn’t actually say “vodka” on the label, it says “organic spirit.”

What is an “organic spirit?” It’s organic vodka (column distilled from organic winter wheat and cut with water from the Snake River aquifer and bottled in Rigby, Idaho), flavored with “a proprietary blend of organic ingredients.”

Those “organic ingredients” are not disclosed, but it’s pretty clear from sip one of American Spirit that they include sugar and plenty of it. American Spirit is silky and smooth, and that’s because it is incredibly sweet. Sugar up front and lasting — for a long time — on the finish. It’s a really tricky (and pretty intelligent) move, as the sweetness pummels your taste buds and latches on for good. You get some bite in the mid-palate, but it’s fleeting and fades in a flash.

I hate to use the term “panty peeler,” but those not in the know who try American Spirit will be amazed that vodka can be so exceedingly smooth. The rest of you, well, you’ll either appreciate what a little sugar (organic, of course!) can do for vodka… or you’ll lambast the thing as a dirty trick.

80 proof. Available May 2011.

B+ / $24 /

american harvest organic spirit Review: American Spirit Organic Spirit

Review: Effen Cucumber Vodka

Holland’s Effen expands its line of flavored vodkas — the black cherry version is insanely popular — with this unlikely extension: Cucumber Vodka.

Effen isn’t the first cucumber flavored vodka on the market — Square One makes a good one — but this isn’t half bad. Read the fine print and you’ll see that Effen Cucumber is actually “cucumber and vanilla flavored vodka,” a smart move considering how sharply flavored cucumber can be.

That vanilla gives Effen Cucumber a temperament that it may not otherwise achieve: The cucumber nose and flavor — authentic and crisp — is cut with dessert-like sweetness: The vanilla is distinct but really quite mild, and it’s surprisingly complementary with the cucumber notes.

The finish needs work. It is earthy and bark-like, more evocative of the produce section than I’d like. Certainly worth a try as a mixer — maybe in a Bloody Mary? — as there’s on the whole something worthwhile and charming here.

75 proof.

B+ / $25 /

effen cucumber vodka Review: Effen Cucumber Vodka

Review: Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit Vodka

Skyy’s latest infused vodka is really reaching deep into the produce aisle: Dragon fruit is the flavor of the day.

I am unsure if, outside of playing Fruit Ninja, I’ve ever consumed a dragon fruit, so it’s hard to say how authentic this flavored vodka is. Skyy notes it is also known as the “strawberry pear,” and those seem like apt descriptors. The vodka is naturally flavored with actual dragon fruit, according to the company.

Skyy Dragon Fruit is quite sweet and strawberry is indeed the overwhelming characteristic. Cherry is pretty hefty here, too, giving the vodka a bit of a medicinal tone, but at least it’s not overwhelming. The finish is surprisingly rough for a 70-proof vodka, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. That doesn’t really balance the sweetness, though: The two are quite at odds with each other as they squabble for dominance.

Probably a great vodka for a punch or a novelty drink (“Dragon martinis all around!”), but not Skyy’s best infusion. (That’d be Passion Fruit.)

B / $13 /

skyy dragon fruit infusion Review: Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit Vodka

Review: Absolut Wild Tea Vodka

Absolut flavored with elderflower and black tea. Hmmm, where have we heard this one before? Ah yes, about a year and a half ago, when it was first released as the limited-edition Absolut Boston.

Absolut must have had a hit on its hands with Boston, and I can back that up: It’s the only one of the “city” Absoluts that has been completely consumed here at Drinkhacker HQ. While not a stellar vodka for sipping straight, it was a peerless mixer, and I regularly turned to it when a party guest would ask to be surprised with a cocktail they’d never tried before. To date, it’s the only one of the city vodkas to be reissued by the Swedish company.

Absolut Wild Tea works because it’s the best of both worlds: Fruity from the elderflower and bitter and earthy from the tea. The elderflower hits you first, but lightly, while the tea finish lingers. I’m not sure if Absolut has tweaked the recipe, but the medicinal notes and harsh bitterness I commented on with Boston is muted here. Now, the black tea is pleasant, refreshing, and authentic, a solid counterpoint to not just the elderflower but also the toughness of straight Absolut.

I’m rating this a touch higher than Boston (whether it’s changed or I’ve changed, who knows), but there’s more to like here, too: The price has dropped considerably, making Absolut Wild Tea a bargain to boot.

80 proof.

A- / $19 (750ml) or $23 (1 liter) /

absolut wild tea Review: Absolut Wild Tea Vodka

Review: Vodgria

Is this sangria-flavored vodka? Or vodka-infused sangria?

The world may well debate it forever, but while you noodle over that one, we turn our attention not to Vodgria’s name but its very essence.

At 30 proof, it’s a touch stronger than most wines (and considerably stronger than most sangria, which is wine cut with fruit juice and spices). The color is dark red, and it’s unmuddled with pulp and herbal bits, the usual hallmark of actual sangria.

In the glass, the semi-syrupy liquor looks more like juice than wine, and the taste follows through on that. Wine character is vague and overpowered by strong cherry and a touch of orange citrus and grape juice flavors. The effect is more like a punch than a sangria, and it while it doesn’t have a lot of nuance, it’s considerably more exciting and palatable than cherry infused vodkas.

I prefer real sangria — or even the bottled stuff — to Vodgria, but I imagine a younger crowd would find this more to their liking. They would also be far less likely to be paralyzed by the name, too.

B- / $13 /

vodgria sangria vodka Review: Vodgria

Review: James River Plantation Sweet Tea Vodka

Tea-flavored vodkas appear to be a category that’s difficult to get wrong. Small Wisconsin distillery James River Plantation (the real James River Plantation is in Virginia, by the by) may not be a household name, but its rendition of tea-infused vodka is about as good as anything else I’ve tried.

The flavor is typical of this category: Intense, sweetened, brewed iced tea flavor, with nary a hint of vodka’s bite. There may be a touch more fruitiness (peach, maybe?) in this spirit than in its competition, and the body feels a bit thick. Those are pretty minor quibbles/comments, however. Most drinkers will find this every bit as good as Firefly and Jeremiah Weed.

70 proof. Naturally flavored.

A- / $20 /

james river plantation tea vodka Review: James River Plantation Sweet Tea Vodka

Review: 42 Below Honey Vodka

The only honey-flavored vodka I’m encountered, 42 Below’s Honey Vodka is flavored with Manuka honey, which uses honey from bees that feed on New Zealand’s native Manuka bush. I don’t know what Manuka honey itself tastes like, but I can at least report on the vodka made using it.

The nose on this clear vodka is leathery, earthy, and not really honey-like at all — it’s only there in hints. The honey does however come through when you take a sip. First you get a traditional, medicinal vodka bite, then comes a rich and warmly sweet honey character. It gets earthy and a bit muddy again in the end. The ultimate effect is nothing like the sugar bombs of the legion of whiskey+honey liqueurs out there. The effect here is ultimately more muted, a more restrained — and authentic — expression of honey than any liqueur offers. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly refreshing, coming across more like a rustic, “frontier vodka” of sorts, rather than a playful, modern infusion.

84 proof.

B- / $25 /

42 below Honey vodka Review: 42 Below Honey Vodka

Review: Stolichnaya Stoli Wild Cherri Vodka

It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: Cherry is the toughest flavor in the universe to pull off in a spirit.

People keep trying, though, and the latest out of the gate is Stoli, with a “Wild Cherri” vodka.

This naturally-flavored concoction (actually from Latvia, not Russia) starts off OK. It smells pretty good, like fresh, dark cherries. And on first sip, it even seems like it’s going to taste pleasant. Then you swallow and all hell breaks loose. Your instinct is to cough — because cherry is inextricably sewn up in the mind with cough syrup — but while that can be suppressed, the grimace cannot. The bite is moderately harsh, and the promise of sweet cherries fades away as a medicinal character overwhelms the fruit. That’s a combination of earthy, herbal Old World vodka and the sad reality of nearly all cherry-flavored spirits; the flavors just don’t come together in the right way, through no fault of their own.

Think of it as shrimp and peanut butter. I love ‘em both, just not at the same time.

75 proof.

C / $26 /

stoli wild cherri Review: Stolichnaya Stoli Wild Cherri Vodka

Review: Jeremiah Weed Country Peach Sweet Tea Vodka and Sweet Tea Bourbon

We’ve discussed at length the obliviatory powers of Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, and now the company is back with a couple of extensions to the line. Get ready to rock, tea-sip style.

Both are 70 proof.

The first is unsurprising: Jeremiah Weed Country Peach Sweet Tea Vodka. I’ve never much understood the connection, but peaches and tea have gone hand in hand for decades, so it makes sense they’d be conjoined here in a flavored vodka. Like standard Jeremiah Weed, the Country Peach version looks like tea and smells a lot like it too. The difference: It’s considerably fruitier on the nose, though the peach is hard to peg, and on first taste it doesn’t scream tea leaves but very sweet fruit. I found the original Jeremiah Weed considerably more satisfying — its tea character is powerful and quite delicious — as the peach isn’t 100% convincing and leaves a lingering aftertaste that coats the mouth. B+ / $18

And now for something completely different… If you can flavor vodka, why not flavor Bourbon? Jeremiah Weed figured it would take two great southern tastes and put them together with Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka & Bourbon Whiskey. The result: A winner. The nose is muted, giving few clues to the experience ahead, but the body offers the best of both worlds: Big sweet tea character, and a touch of bourbon’s sweetness and wood. To be honest, the overall effect is not dramatically different from Jeremiah Weed’s standard vodka, as the tea component is by far the strongest part of the blend and it still has vodka in the mix. For something just a little bit different, though, it’s a hit. A / $18

Review: Rokk Vodka

The noble country of Sweden brings us this new vodka, Rökk — a name meant to invoke “on the rocks,” the way it might best be consumed, but which doesn’t really mean anything in Swedish.

Distilled from unspecified grains, it is available straight and in a variety of flavors. Its claim to fame: A “freeze filtering” process that takes the vodka to sub-zero temperatures before charcoal filtering the near-frozen vodka.

We tried all five expressions. The flavored versions are each 70 proof.

UPDATE: This just in from Rokk: The name is derived from Rok, the largest rune-stone and earliest known documentation of Swedish literature; Rokk is also crafted with European wheat.

Rokk Swedish Vodka is a standard 80-proof neutral spirit with a quality that belies its budget price. The aroma evokes pine needles and feels almost Christmasy — and I mean that in a good way. On the body you’ll find a honey-like character, more evergreen notes, and a pleasant, smooth finish. Very surprising to get such balance and smoothness — yet some interesting character — from a vodka this affordable. A-

Rokk Citrus Vodka has notes of lemon, tangerine, and grapefruit on the nose, and the palate is quite pleasant. Follows through on the palate, with a bit of lemon peel bite on the back-end. B+

Rokk Orange Vodka is not to be confused with Rokk Citrus. The nose again has tangerine in it — more so than straight Tropicana orange — but lacks that lemon kick. The body is more candy-like, with pleasant sweetness that the Citrus version lacks. A-

Rokk Apple Vodka has huge green apple notes on the nose and the body. I was skeptical at first that this could be any good, but it’s an impressive and authentic flavor. A bit of bite on the back end is my only complaint. B+

Rokk Raspberry Vodka is, as one might expect, the fruit bomb of the bunch. But the flavor is genuine and, while it’s very sweet, the overall effect is actually pretty pleasant. Definitely a Cosmo vodka. A-

each $13 /

Review: Ketel One Oranje Vodka

Take Ketel One‘s standard wheat-based, pot-distilled vodka from Holland and add some orange distillate. You now have Ketel One Oranje, a clear spirit at 80 proof with the Cosmo croud distinctly in mind.

Ketel One Oranje is old-school orange-flavored vodka, meaning it’s more bitter than sweet. Oranje is orange peel all the way, and it’s definitely a mixer. Anyone drinking this on the rocks will find it closer to an after-dinner tonic than a fruity libation fit for the beach.

That said, I enjoy Oranje’s pedigree and its authenticity. This is an honest orange-flavored infusion, in the end. It’s just not a very versatile one.

B / $22 /

Ketel One Oranje vodka Review: Ketel One Oranje Vodka

Review: Bakon Bacon-Flavored Vodka

There are two schools of thought on Bakon — an honest-to-God bacon-flavored vodka — and never the twain shall meet.

One school says this is awesome, at a way to get that highly-prized bacon flavor into an alcoholic spirit.

The other school says it is disgusting.

I won’t be able to sway you either way, but I can give you some impressions at least.

First, do not try to drink Bakon straight. Distilled from potatoes in the U.S. and naturally flavored, the bacon essence here is much too powerful to be consumed this way. Intensely smoky and charcoal-like, it’s bitter and rough, ensuring that you have no hope of completing a single shot without substantial financial compensation.

Bakon realizes this, surely, and offers two standby recipes for the spirit. I tried them both. The first is a chocolate bacon martini, which I couldn’t get down despite loads of whipped cream and chocolate liqueur. The other is considerably better: Using Bakon in a Bloody Mary. Here, the bacon flavor doesn’t become so overpowering, and it manages to complement the tomato juice and spices fairly well. It’s more subtle, but comes across pretty clearly in the aftertaste — if you really love bacon, I have to say this is a winner.

That said, hanging on to Bakon just for the occasional Bloody Mary may not be worth the expense and shelf space. But, like I said, it’s a decision that I’ll never be able to make for you.

B / $30 /

bakon vodka Review: Bakon Bacon Flavored Vodka

Review: Ursus Vodka

Everyone needs a gimmick, but the vodka industry, where product is legion, needs it more than anyone.

Ursus Vodka, which hails from the Netherlands and is distilled “from grain,” is a budget brand with a trick: Like Coors Light’s newer bottles, the bears on the label turn from white to blue when it’s chilled. (It does take a bit of chilling: The label turns blue in the freezer, but not in the refrigerator.)

In addition to a standard vodka, there are three flavored versions, two of which I sampled for review.

Ursus Vodka (unflavored) is a standard 80 proof, basically unremarkable in any way. Strongly medicinal on the nose and moderately harsh on the palate, it’s lightly sweet but with a lot of bite and a rough finish. Probably suited only for mixing bulk drinks. C-

Ursus Blue Raspberry Vodka is the color of that stuff they disinfect combs in at the cleaners, which is probably how it will be used: To add blueness to a cocktail when no blue curacao is available. Sweet but not horribly so, it’s a cross between real raspberry and cough syrup that may be satisfying to ultra sweet tooths. The finish coats the mouth in a slightly disturbing way. 60 proof. C-

Ursus Green Apple Vodka is the Scope to Blue Raspberry’s comb disinfecting liquid, color-wise anyway. Scope flavor would be an improvement, actually. The nose has no apple character at all; it’s more akin to some kind of industrial cleaning fluid. A touch of Apple-flavored Kool-Aid in the body does very little for this spirit, which is almost unbearable to actually drink, harsh and offensive. I hate to be quite  blunt, but it’s one of the worst products I’ve sampled in the history of this blog. 60 proof. F

each $11 / no website

Review: Smirnoff Peach and Mango Vodka

Smirnoff keeps cranking out the flavored vodkas, its two latest being the exotic mango and the humble peach. Both are 70 proof bottlings and are naturally flavored.

Smirnoff Peach Vodka – Peach is a common fruit, but it’s not often used in spirits (perhaps due to its legacy with SoCo?). As a vodka flavoring, it works fairly well, exuding strong, fresh peach aromas, lots of sweetness, and no bite at all. I can’t see this being used in anything other than ultra-fruity cocktails, but if you’ve got the right recipe, it’s probably on target. B+

Smirnoff Mango Vodka – Mango spirits are relatively common nowadays, and Smirnoff’s rendition is not the best of the bunch. Yes, mango comes through on the palate, but it’s got a medicinal edge and a harsh finish that belies its proof level. Passable, but little more. B-

$17 each /

moz screenshot Review: Smirnoff Peach and Mango Vodka

Review: UV Coconut Vodka

You aren’t imagining things: UV Coconut is white. Not clear in a white bottle. It’s white. Like milk.

It’s actually the first white vodka, a naturally-flavored spirit sweetened (considerably) with sugar cane, distilled four times, and left in a murky/milky color for you to figure out how exactly to present it.

The utility is obvious: Blend with pineapple juice and ice and you have a quicky faux pina colada, sans Coco Lopez, that is at least correct in color without having to fake it with that jug of 2% milk that expired last week.

The taste, as mentioned, is overwhelmingly sweet, but the coconut does at least come through a bit. No one will be drinking this straight, of course, and as a super-sugary tropical mixer, it gets the job done well enough. At 60 proof it’s not overly watered down to the point where you’ll have to resort to kicking it up with something else in your drink.

B / $13 /

UV Coconut vodka Review: UV Coconut Vodka

Review: Smirnoff Dark Roasted Espresso and Spiced Root Beer Vodkas

A new flavored vodka is not normally cause for celebration or alarm, but kudos to Smirnoff for doing something a bit different. These flavors may have been done before but the alcohol level has not. With its new espresso and root beer renditions, Smirnoff is releasing overproof flavored vodkas that hit a full 100 proof.

But… is there more here than just extra booze in the bottle? Let’s investigate.

Both are clear spirits and, obviously, 100 proof.

Smirnoff Dark Roasted Espresso may be a bit overdone with the name (“dark roasted,” really?), but the flavor is full-on coffee. I wouldn’t go anywhere near bitter, dark espresso — this is a sweetened and fairly light coffee infusion that will be familiar to anyone who’s had a coffee-flavored vodka or even a standard Kahlua before. The alcohol level is noticeable. This is a vodka with some burn, though it’s pleasant, not the kind of gasping-for-air finish that a lot of cheap, higher-proof spirits leave you with. Versus other coffee-flavored spirits, Smirnoff Dark Roasted Espresso doesn’t add much new to the equation, but if you’re dying for a little extra booze in your bottle, it’s a solid spirit. B+ / $17

Smirnoff Spiced Root Beer again has at least one word too many in its name, but again it’s an authentic root beer infusion that offers few surprises. The flavor is mild for something that goes out of its way to indicate “spice,” and the vodka is more obvious here than it is in the espresso spirit. Perhaps root beer essence just can’t measure up to 100 proof? Whatever the cause, the root beer that is there is perfectly pleasant, though hardly much of a challenge. B / $17

smirnoff root beer Review: Smirnoff Dark Roasted Espresso and Spiced Root Beer Vodkas

Review: Three Olives Rangtang Vodka

Orange and tangerine, that’s what “rangtang” is meant to mean. If you don’t believe me, Google it. Or don’t. You’ll never look at this citrus vodka the same way if you do. (Ad Age explains what I’m talking about here.)

Putting aside the unfortunate denotation, Three Olives’ Rangtang vodka — an orange-tinted vodka ostensibly flavored with oranges and tangerines (though the bottle just says “outrageously juicy oranges”) — is pretty tasty. It’s not the first tangerine-focused vodka ever, but it’s better than Finlandia’s version and more authentic. The aroma really does say tangerine over vague citrus scent, and the flavor is generally on target too. The finish is a little off, vaguely medicinal and rough-hewn, but in a cocktail it’ll do.

70 proof.

A- / $20 /

three olives rangtang vodka Review: Three Olives Rangtang Vodka

Review: Grey Goose La Poire Vodka

Pears are a tricky beast. Who eats pears on their own? Or even in a recipe?

And yet here we have pear flavored vodka from the mammoth success that is Grey Goose. What exactly does one do with it?

I’ve been toying with Grey Goose La Poire for a few weeks now and I’m still trying to figure that one out.

First, on its own, Grey Goose La Poire isn’t something you’re likely to drink on its own. In fact, if you drink it blind, you’re likely to think you’re consuming a banana-flavored spirit, not pear. The pungent fruitiness of banana, chewing gum, and vanilla are heavy in the spirit, and backed by a relatively medicinal-tasting vodka. Standard Grey Goose is, in my opinion, considerably smoother and has a fuller body.

As a cocktail ingredient, La Poire tends to be overwhelming. I used it in the recipe below, and that banana character was heavy again, even with all the extras. Tread lightly with it.

B / $30 /

grey goose staycation Review: Grey Goose La Poire VodkaGrey Goose Staycation
1 ½ parts Grey Goose La Poire
½ part Licor 43
1 part mango puree
1 part lime juice
½ part simple syrup
1 mango slice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a glass, garnish with mango slice and savor the view from your window.

grey goose La Poire vodka Review: Grey Goose La Poire Vodka

Review: 360 Cola and Double Chocolate Vodkas

It’s flavored vodka night here at Drinkhacker, as we continue with a lesser-known brand: 360, an eco-obsessed brand that donates money from each bottle sold to enviro causes and includes an envelope to let drinkers recycle the bottle closures.

Two years after our original review, 360 is launching two flavored vodkas (which is what vodka companies do, y’all): double chocolate and an unusual oddity: cola.

Both are 70 proof and naturally flavored.

360 Cola Flavored Vodka is brown like Coke (caramel color is added), with a distinct cola smell. The taste is oddly more in the vein of the sweet tea vodkas — distinctly sugary, and with some peach and apple character. In the end it has a cola kick, with cinnamon taking you to a slightly bitter finish. Try it on the rocks with water or with lemonade. Or, yeah, with Coke. B+

360 Double Chocolate Flavored Vodka – I’m not sure what makes it “double” chocolate, except that 360 claims it is infused with a “double dose of rich and creamy chocolate flavor.” How many doses can a vodka take, I mean? Not sure if this is “more” chocolaty than other chocolate vodkas I’ve tried, but it’s very sweet, has a pleasant vanilla character to it, and — unlike many chocolate vodkas — is clear, which gives it added versatility to cocktail recipes which you don’t want to turn brown. Hate to sound like a broken record tonight, but: B+

$20 each /