Category Archives: Flavored 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 /

Review: Absolut Berri Açai Vodka

Rest assured, açai mania is not yet over. Swedish vodka giant Absolut is just now getting into the game with this antioxidant-loaded flavored vodka, just in time, probably, for açai fever to finally run its course. (The future is yumberry, people!)

Açai is not exactly known for being a delicious berry on its own, and fortunately Absolut aims more for the “Berri” in its name than the “Açai.” With (natural) blueberry and pomegranate the added flavoring agents here, which helpfully balances out the bittersweetness of the açai.

In truth, Absolut Berri Açai has a more vague fruit punch character, which makes it a fine choice for sweet, Cosmo-like cocktails, and even the sweet-toothed on-the-rocks drinker. As a flavored vodka, it doesn’t do much more than your typical citrus infusion, but on the whole it’s pretty harmless. On its own it tastes better, if less complicated, than VeeV. Cheaper, too.

80 proof.

B+ / $20 /

absolut berri acai vodka Review: Absolut Berri Açai Vodka

Review: Hangar One Vodkas

Practically a next-door neighbor to Drinkhacker HQ, California’s own Hangar One has long been a hometown favorite vodka amongst those ’round these parts who can’t handle whiskey. Available in a straight version and three exotic flavors, we’ve been drinking these for years but finally got around to sampling them all “officially” for the site. Created using a  combination of column- and pot-distilling methods from U.S. wheat and viognier grapes (not your everyday combo) — and obviously made with considerable care — these are vodkas that deserve their vaunted reputation.

All four varieties are 80 proof.

Hangar One Straight Vodka has a distinct wintergreen character, and the viognier grape notes are easy to pick out. With a real aromatic wine finish, this vodka is perfectly sippable even at room temperature, and it adds complexity to otherwise boring vodka cocktails. A

Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka takes the straight vodka base and infuses it with this particular Thai fruit. Kaffir lime isn’t easy to come by: Hangar One says that at one point it owned every commercially available Karrif lime leaf in North America. As Hangar One notes, most lime-flavored spirits can taste like Life Savers (at best), but H1’s spirit is an unabashed victory of the fruit, not just deeply citrus in character but also featuring herbs and pepper. The touches of viogier wine shine through in the finish. A masterpiece. A+

Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka uses the oddball Buddha’s Hand fruit for its flavoring agent. A relative of the lemon, it’s definitely in the lemon arena, with a touch of lime-ness to it and a good dose of jasmine incense in the nose. This one has a little more of an artificial tone (though all of these vodkas are naturally flavored), which gives it a harder edge. Still quite drinkable and one of the better lemon vodkas out there. A-

Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka is the orange member of the family. Orange-flavored vodkas are tricky, though, because there are so many orange-flavored liqueurs — in a variety of styles — that invariably taste better than orange vodka. Of course, Hangar One goes apey in using pounds of Mandarin orange blossoms to flavor its vodka, but the effect is not entirely different from the usual orange affair. It’s quite acidic but perfumy and nicely orange flavored. I’d use it in a pinch, but throwing in a splash of triple sec to a standard vodka does the job considerably better if you need a little orange in there. B+

$35 each /

Review: Van Gogh Wild Appel Vodka

There are a lot of ways to get apple character into a cocktail — Calvados, apple juice, even Apple Pucker, God help you — and now Van Gogh adds “wild” apple to its lineup of flavored vodkas.

Truth be told this isn’t my favorite entry into the otherwise top-notch Van Gogh arsenal. The aroma and body are indeed pretty appley — but also pretty “wild,” and not really in a good way. Overly tart and woodsy, it’s more cider-like, with a weird and strong vanilla aftertaste that comes off as artificial. I can’t think of a  better description than “gamey.”

Definitely one for cocktails only and in small quantities.

70 proof.

C+ / $30 /

van gogh wild appel Review: Van Gogh Wild Appel Vodka

Review: Cold River Vodka

This potato-based vodka hails from Maine — who knew they had potatoes in Maine? — from tubers grown on Cold River’s own farm and bottled using water from its own local aquifer.

In fact, everything is done on the premises, and the results show in the finished product: This is a smooth and enchanting vodka that I’m happy to recommend. Both versions are 80 proof.

Cold River Vodka (unflavored) is exceptionally smooth but a bit sweet, with berry notes that made me think I had mistakenly tried the blueberry flavored version of the vodka (see below) first. Hints of honey, lemon, lavender, and gingerbread are at play here, making for a vodka with that rare combination of exquisite smoothness and interesting nuance. Excellent stuff. A+

Cold River Blueberry Vodka sounds like a curious choice for the company’s sole flavored version, but apparently they have blueberries in Maine, too. These are wild, soaked in alcohol for several days, flavored with a bit of sugar, and then blended into the vodka. Cold River claims its Blueberry Vodka has 1% sugar vs. other vodkas, with 12 to 15% sugar — and bottled at a full 80 proof. The result: the aroma of blueberry muffins fills the room when your pour out a glass of this stuff, and the flavor is as promised: Mostly fresh blueberry and minimally sweet. Tastes like a bakery, but again with that lavender hint in the mix. A rare flavored vodka that is a solid experience even on its own… but which would do exceptionally well in cocktails. A

$40 each /

cold river vodka Review: Cold River Vodka

Review: Sobieski Cytron and Vanilia Vodka

Sobieski is making a name (and a bigger advertising splash) for offering reasonably good Polish, rye-based vodka at an extremely low price, and now it is moving into the natural follow-up: Flavored versions.

Here’s how the first two shake out. Both are 70 proof and flavored naturally.

Sobieski Cytron isn’t bad, a quite smooth vodka laced with very sweet citrus character. Mostly lemon in nature, it doesn’t exactly surprise you with its nuance, but if you need a lemon vodka for a cocktail, punch, or even just because you’re nutty enough to drink it straight, well, this should do the trick just fine. A-

Sobieski Vanilia is, of course, vanilla-flavored. The nose is intriguing — more marshmallow and caramel popcorn than vanilla, but not unpleasant. Same on the body, with a lot of sweetness. I was reminded of Jelly Bellys while sipping it. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one, but again, it works for the express purpose of sweet dessert drinks. B+

$11 each /

sobieski cytron vodka Review: Sobieski Cytron and Vanilia Vodka

Review: Square One Botanical Organic Vodka

Is it vodka or is it gin? Infused with eight ingredients — pear, rose, chamomile, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, coriander, and citrus peel — Square One Botanical certainly looks on paper a lot more like a postmodern gin than the vodka it claims to be on the bottle.

Ultimately, labels are meaningless — all gin is really flavored vodka, in the end — but Square One Botanical is of note regardless of what you want to call it. All of those botanical ingredients sound like they’re going to lend this spirit an overpowering flavor, but Botanical is more delicate than you’d think. Very fragrant and perfumy, with the rosemary and flower ingredients the strongest on the nose, Botanical is actually more mild than you expect, although the same characteristics are also the most notable on the palate. A tricky finish — too much rose petal in the mix, perhaps — is the only false note, but that’s likely to be less of a problem when mixing with this vodka — the way it’s clearly intended to be consumed.

90 proof.

B+ / $30 /

square one botanical vodka Review: Square One Botanical Organic Vodka

Review: Rain Flavored Vodka Lineup

The folks at Rain — which makes vodka from organic white corn and distills it seven times — have recently expanded their lineup to four uniquely flavored vodkas. We got our hands on the complete lineup. All are 70 proof and flavored naturally.

Rain Lavender Lemonade is a comparably mild concoction, but quite sweet (as are all of these vodkas). The lavender is understated, but the lemon is fairly present on the palate. The finish is a little saccharine but not wholly unpleasant. Could see using this in a cocktail with (actual) lemonade. B-

Rain Red Grape Hibiscus Vodka takes two odd flavors and puts them together to create curious spirit. You get both flavoring agents in the mix, but it’s the grape that is considerably more prominent, the flowery hibiscus more present in the finish. Not bad, but the sweet grape is a bit much, leaving things a little too sweet. B

Rain Cucumber Lime Vodka hops on the cucumber bandwagon… but I have no idea why Rain adds lime to this mix when cucumber alone would have been a much more interesting way to go. The lime adds (again) an unnecessary sweetness to the vodka, though on the whole this isn’t unpleasant. B

Rain Honey Mango Melon is a triple threat of flavors, but it’s the melon — primarily cantaloupe-like — that dominates this infusion. Though honey is in the name, this vodka is, surprisingly, less sweet than all the other Rain flavored vodkas. Probably my favorite of the bunch — but where’s the mango? B+

$19 each /

rain flavored vodkas Review: Rain Flavored Vodka Lineup

Review: Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka

Caramel is a tricky flavor to begin with: Basically it’s burnt sugar, and that carries with it all kinds of challenges. Godiva makes a pretty good caramel/chocolate liqueur, but Van Gogh raises the stakes with a naturally-flavored vodka that’s straight up caramel, and 70 proof to boot, leaving much less room for flavoring agents.

This flavored spirit is a winner all around, imbued with lots of authentic caramel character that instantly sends you into a Halloween flashback. That said, Van Gogh Dutch Caramel is not exactly complex. It tastes of sweet caramel, not too sugary but with plenty of sweetness, and the finish is quick and shockingly clean, with no bitter or medicinal vodka notes to interfere with the flavored portion of the drink. What a great option to use as a basis for a dessert cocktail, rather than spiking a bunch of liqueurs with neutral vodka, just start with this flavored version and you’re one step ahead on your recipe.

A / $29 /

van gogh caramel vodka Review: Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka

Tasting Ciroc’s New Flavored Vodkas with Master Distiller Jean-Sebastien Robicquet

Ciroc is one of the big spirits success stories in recent years, and it’s now, according to the company, the #3 ultrapremium vodka brand on the market, after Grey Goose and Belvedere. (Fun fact: The name is made up, a combination of the French words cime (summit) and roche (rock).)

This week I had the opportunity to taste not just Ciroc’s upcoming flavored vodkas, but also the two eaux de vie that comprise the base of Ciroc. Proto-Ciroc, if you will. Ciroc is (famously) made from grape neutral spirits instead of being distilled from grain, and master distiller Jean-Sebastien Robicquet offered samples of the two specific eaux de vie that comprise the base spirit.

Ciroc is made from two grapes, uni blanc and mauzac, neither which you’ve likely heard of. If you think what exactly a vodka is made from is irrelevant, you’ve never tried this experience. Robicquet offered a watered-down grain neutral spirit (tastes like vodka and water, with a harsh bite), and we compared that to the two grape neutral spirits at the same proof. The ugni blanc might make a good vodka on its own — very smooth, with the lightest touch of wine character and a rich mouthfeel. Then there’s the mauzac, night and day vs. ugni blanc, with a powerfully herbal and floral aroma, huge almost like a dessert wine. Ciroc blends about 5 to 7 percent mauzac into the uni blanc base, then distills the blend one last time to create the finished product.

And yes, this history lesson gave me a newfound appreciation for Ciroc, which at full strength can be a bit harsh, but which works far better when cut down a bit or as part of a fruit- or herb-heavy cocktail.

Of course, that’s just part of the story, as in early 2010 Ciroc will release its first line extensions with two new flavored vodkas.

I got to try them both (both are 70 proof) and found them exceptional.

Ciroc Red Berry is flavored with natural raspberry and strawberry, and it has none of that harshness that you get in most flavored vodkas. Strawberry is more prominent in the mix, with a nice level of sweetness and a hint of that herbal, floral character that unflavored Ciroc has. Lovely. A

Ciroc Coconut should be self-explanatory but also comes with other tropical flavors in the mix. Why coconut? According to the company it’s the most-requested flavor from customers, so don’t argue! Very sweet, it’s got rich, chewy coconut flavor and again, some sweetness in the pineapple and possibly butterscotch arena. Like a high-end version of Malibu, with a more natural character. Also beautiful, something I can’t wait to try in dessert drinks. A

Review: Absolut Boston Vodka

absolut boston Review: Absolut Boston VodkaAbsolut Boston is the third city-themed vodka from the massive spirits company, but the first of that bunch I’ve had the chance to sample. Some thoughts — before the bottle vanishes altogether.

Absolut Boston is flavored with black tea and elderflower, an interesting and overall quite successful combination. Everyone loves elderflower — you can’t turn around in a bar without getting hit by a bottle of St. Germain — but the addition of tea is what makes this vodka so intriguing. Yes, elderflower is strong at first sip, but the tea component comes along quickly after, and in fact starts to dominate the vodka within a few seconds. The finish offers a lightly bitter black tea character, which makes you rush back for another sip to get that sweet elderflower back onto your tongue.

As with most Absolut versions, Absolut Boston has a hard edge to it, a medicinal character that the company’s flavoring agents never manage to cover up. It’s textbook Absolut with a twist. And quite an interesting one. Try it in any number of cocktails (try this one) where elderflower liqueur is caled for.

B+ / $29 (one liter bottle) /

Original Recipe: The Lemonparty Cocktail

Whatever you do, don’t Google “lemonparty.” This drink is not inspired by what you’d find (and likely be horrified by) if you did that. Rather, it’s the name of the group several friends of mine and I have in the video game Rock Band. Of course, the band name is inspired by the aforementioned website, but that’s another story. Band names are supposed to be rude.

In honor of the new Beatles Rock Band coming out September 9 and the reunion of the band last night, I created a Lemonparty cocktail just for the bandmates and its groupies. All around it was a huge hit (nearly an entire bottle of vodka was consumed), taking advantage of the new, limited edition Absolut Boston vodka (review here), which is flavored with black tea and elderflower. Delish!

The Lemonparty Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. Absolut Boston
1/4 oz. Limoncello
sparkling wine (I used cava)

Add Absolut and Limoncello to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine and serve promptly.

 Original Recipe: The Lemonparty Cocktail

Boston Gets Its Own Absolut

Following New Orleans and Los Angeles, Boston now gets its own signature flavored version of Absolut vodka. Frankly this one sounds like the best version yet. (What, you were expecting chowder flavor?)

This month, the world’s most iconic vodka celebrates the pride and spirit of Boston with the debut of its newest city-inspired flavor – ABSOLUT BOSTON. Made with black tea and elderflower, the limited-edition vodka offers bartenders and bar patrons a distinct blend of on-trend flavors that will shake up the cocktail scene from coast-to-coast. With a unique bottle design that serves as an homage to one of the city’s most iconic monuments and local sports fanaticism, ABSOLUT BOSTON is now available at bars, restaurants, nightclubs and retailers nationwide.

More here.