Category Archives: 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: New Amsterdam Vodka

Our review of New Amsterdam Gin remains one of the most controversial on the site. Now the company is back with its own vodka, of the same brand.

Made in Modesto from grain neutral spirits and distilled five times, I doubt this vodka will be as fiercely debated as the gin. Silky smooth and lightly sweet (likely sweetened a bit), there are precious few characteristics to discover here. No flavor to speak of, just a lingering sweetness and the lightest touch of burn on the finish.

Fans of truly neutral vodkas or folks looking for a flavorless way to spike the punch need look no further. Those who want their vodka to have muscle and character won’t be intrigued.

80 proof.

B / $16 / newamsterdamspirits.com

New Amsterdam Vodka Review: New Amsterdam Vodka

Review: Bully Boy Vodka, White Rum, and White Whiskey

Boston’s first craft distiller was founded in 2010 by two brothers, Will and Dave Willis. Massachusetts natives, this deadly duo got into distilling thanks to the inspiration of their grandfather, who built an informal speakeasy on his farm, serving locally-produced hooch to friends and family.

“Bully,” incidentally, is not meant to evoke violence but rather “superb or wonderful,” an homage to a favorite term of the college roommate of the Willis’s great-grandfather, Teddy Roosevelt.

All spirits reviewed are 80 proof.

Bully Boy Vodka – Distilled from organic winter red wheat. This is a lovely vodka. A brisk sharpness on the nose reveals the lightest touch of sweetness on the palate. Touches of fruit, very light. In the way that a good tequila sets you up for a knockout when you sniff it, then lets you down with a silky-smooth experience as you drink it, Bully Boy Vodka is Beauty and the Beast all rolled up into one innocuous-looking bottle. Reviewed: Batch #31, bottle #292. A

Bully Boy White Rum – Distilled from blackstrap molasses, Bully Boy reminds us that Boston was once a center of rum production in the U.S., as any student of the 1919 Boston Molasses Disastercould tell you. Intense aroma, very much in keeping with unaged rum. Strongly green and vegetal, the nose moves into smooth, sugary sweetness, with a lasting finish that recalls tea and, to some extent, rubber. Reviewed: Batch #16, bottle #117. B

Bully Boy White Whiskey – Distilled entirely from organic American wheat, this unaged whiskey is milder than many entries into this growing category. Rustic and funky on the nose, the body offers more nuance, with a mild sweetness, flavors of fresh bread, and some citrus notes. The finish isn’t bad, but it makes one long for a simple oak barrel to put this in for a few years to see what happens. Reviewed: Batch #24, bottle #259. B-

each $28 / bullyboydistillers.com

Review: Beluga Noble Russian Vodka “Export”

Few words are pre-loaded with luxury the way beluga is. Trump is another, but there was already a vodka with that name on the market (now defunct).

Beluga hails from Russia, but beyond this there’s plenty about its production that remains rather mysterious. It is distilled from grain in Western Siberian distillery founded in 1900, filtered through quartz sand and silver, and cut with water from a Siberian spring. The company says it is distinguished “by using a preciously calibrated distillation ritual, which gives its vodka a pure enrichment of high quality taste.” Also of note: It’s a straight vodka, but it includes a few additives, apparently in small proportions, including honey, oat extract, and Silybum marianum extract (you know it as the milk thistle). More on that later.

Poured fresh, this is a pungent vodka with a hefty, medicinal nose. This fades in short order, though, leaving behind a somewhat sweeter nose. That sweetness carries through directly to the palate, where a creamy, semi-sweet body awaits. Perhaps this is where the honey comes in, imbuing the medicinal aspects of this vodka with a more sugary side.

Beyond this, the vodka is fairly simple, with not a lot of additional characteristics to be discovered. That isn’t altogether a bad thing, as vodka is supposed to be “neutral” — but if your tastes err toward the sweeter side of life, and you have a bit of money to burn, Beluga Noble is worth a shot. (Note: Do not confuse this with Beluga Gold Vodka, an even more upscale bottling, not reviewed here.)

80 proof.

B+ / $30 / vodka-beluga.com

beluga noble export vodka Review: Beluga Noble Russian Vodka Export

 

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: Purus Vodka

Organic vodka from Piedmont, Italy? An oddity, for sure, but this wheat-based vodka is expanding into its eighth state in the U.S. this year, so growth is in the works.

Made in Lagnasco, Italy, Purus (also written in all caps) is quintuple distilled in column stills and bottled in a decanter that “pays tribute to the pristine water flowing from the Italian Alps.”

The nose: smoky, with limited medicinal notes. The palate continues the theme: charcoal character is the primary component, along with muted apple and brown sugar on the finish. The body has a really nice fleshiness to it, and the finish ends up on a savory and sweet combo.

Lots of nice components here, but the smoky nose and hefty charcoal character are a bit much, weighing down the experience. Nifty bottle, though.

80 proof.

B / $25 / purusvodka.com

purus vodka Review: Purus 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.

Review: Twenty 2 Vodka

Hailing from Maine, Twenty 2 Vodka is stilled in small, custom-designed, 50-gallon pot stills (from unspecified grains). Chill filtered through activated charcoal and cut with local water, it is bottled at 80 proof.

Twenty 2 prizes itself on its neutrality, and indeed it is one of the cleanest, least flavorful vodkas I’ve encountered. No sweetness, no spice. This has that raw medicinal character you expect from, say, a Russian or Polish vodka, with plenty of bite but nothing else going on to speak of.

Some will find that refreshing. Some will be disappointed. The trend in modern vodkas, of course, has been toward less neutral spirits, with some vodkas so funky and flavorful they stretch the definition of the word. Here we have a crisp and simple spirit, with some touches of chocolate here and there. The finish is clean and drying.

What are we left with? Really, a quite solid vodka… if neutrality is what you’re looking for.

Reviewed: Batch 12.08, bottle 103.

B+ / $29 / twenty2vodka.com

twenty 2 vodka1 Review: Twenty 2 Vodka

Review: 1512 Spirits Signature Poitin

I’m not sure if it will be the “next big thing,” but if you haven’t heard of poitin already, prepare yourself for it. What’s poitin? It’s an Irish spirit distilled from potatoes and/or barley, heavy on the alcohol, dating back hundreds of years. Not quite a vodka and not quite a white whiskey, it occupies a curious position of serving as Ireland’s answer to American moonshine. (Or, more correctly, moonshine is the answer to poitin.)

Real poitin is no longer made in Ireland or anywhere else (current bottlings are lower proof vodka substitutes), but that’s about to change. First out the gate is 1512 Spirits, whose unaged Barbershop Rye is a cult phenomenon, made in Rohnert Park by the inimitable Sal Cimino.

Made of 95% potato and 5% barley, the spirit is bottled at 104 proof and is available only at two retail outlets (Cask in SF, Bar Keeper in LA). A handful of California bars are pouring it.

The Poitin is intense and powerful. It fills the room when you pour it. If you’re familiar with unaged whiskeys, you’ll find this surprisingly similar, even though it’s mostly potato-based. Describing poitin, one finds they quickly run out of appropriate adjectives to use. It is seriously funky, filled with a raw grain-like character (and presumably lots of potato) that almost tastes like unadulterated, ultra-thick oatmeal. There’s a spicy element that’s hard to quantify, and a lightly sweet finish that offers a merciful respite from this overwhelming oddity.

White whiskey is one thing, but if poitin is going to become a trend, you better get your taste buds in order. Good luck.

104 proof. Batch #1, bottle #85 reviewed.

B / $39 (375ml) / 1512spirits.com

1512 poitin Review: 1512 Spirits Signature Poitin

Review: Voli Lyte Vodka

Listen up: You can make light vodka at home yourself! Take a new bottle of vodka and pour out half of it. Replace what you poured out with water and shake it up. Presto!

Voli Lyte takes the difficulty out of this operation for you, bottling its own low-cal vodka, which promises to cut 25 percent of the calories out of the typical shot, clocking in at 74 calories per 1.5 fluid oz. serving. Naturally, you are getting less alcohol in the process: The Fergie-endorsed Voli Lyte is 60 proof and, as a side effect, isn’t safe to put in the freezer (because it might actually freeze). Distilled from wheat in Cognac, France, its added ingredients also include “natural flavor and electrolytes.”

Despite its lyteness, Voli cuts a very traditional outline on the palate. Intensely medicinal on the nose, it is at first sweet on the tongue then quickly turns astringent. There’s some caramel in the finish, but otherwise it is simply lacking in much real flavor (never mind the electrolytes!) … not unlike another “light” beverage you’re probably familiar with.

B- / $24 / volispirits.com

voli lyte vodka Review: Voli Lyte Vodka

Review: Stolichnaya Stoli Hot and Stoli Sticki Vodkas

Stoli says it created the flavored vodka category 50 years ago, and I’ve got no way to argue with that. Stoli Pertsovka (Pepper) and Okhotnichya (Honey and Herb) came out in 1962, and to celebrate 50 years of flavored vodkas, the company is reintroducing these two flavors under new names. We tried them both.

It is unclear where the flavorings are derived from; neither indicates it is natural or otherwise on the label. Both are 75 proof.

Stoli Hot Jalapeno Flavored Vodka – Stoli Pertsovka is being reintroduced with a more Western-friendly name, “Hot.” As pepper vodkas go, it is distinctly different than, say, Absolut Peppar, with which I put it head to head. Initially light on the palate, the pepper notes grow along with the kind of bitterness you get from an Amaro, almost like a root beer character along with some heavy vegetal notes, like a Thai Basil. Not too spicy, I think it is more subtle with the pepper than the 80-proof Absolute Peppar (B+), which offers more sweetness up front and a longer burn, plus some flavors of onions and tomato salsa. Absolut is less exotic, but arguably hotter. You be the judge as to which you prefer. B+

Stoli Sticki Honey Flavored Vodka – After sipping pepper vodkas, this is a great antidote, a straightforward honey vodka that’s smoothly sweet. What then to make of the intense rose petal nose, a character that’s downright perfumy. And not good perfumy, old-lady perfumy. Get past that and the honey character isn’t bad: Lightly earthy, dusty, and more mildly sweet than many honey whiskeys come across as. The finish is clean and clear, almost refreshing. But I have immense trouble with that rose petal nose. C+

each $24 / stoli.com

Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Coconut Vodka

The race to out-Malibu Malibu continues with Skyy’s latest Infusions installment: Natural Coconut.

A clear spirit, this vodka smells only moderately of its namesake fruit (it’s not really a nut, folks!), with a distinct alcoholic vaporousness behind as a kicker. On the tongue, quite sweet, and considerably more coconut-like, but with a vodka-fueled finish that’s a little harder-edged than I expect most drinkers are looking for in a flavored spirit like this.

On the whole it’s not at all bad, and of course it’s 70 proof instead of the much lower alcohol level typical of coconut rums, so some burn is expected — as is a bigger wallop in the punch department. Whether that’s something that appeals to you is left as an exercise for the reader.

B+ / $16 / skyy.com

skyy coconut infusions vodka Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Coconut Vodka

Review: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered 80 Vodka

Is “intense” something people normally want from their vodka? Made from single-estate Dankowskie Diamond rye in Poland, Belvedere distills this vodka four times then bottles it unfiltered for your happy consumption. (Note: There is also a Belvedere Intense that is filtered; but this version typically goes by the nickname of “Belvedere Unfiltered,” even though the word “Intense” appears much larger on the label.)

As vodkas go, it’s a real hit: A combination of the best characteristics a vodka connoisseur could want. First, there’s that slug of medicinal character, spicy on the nose and Old World in inspiration. Touches of pine needles and tree sap on the nose, too.

The body reveals all manner of nuance beyond that introduction: Salted nuts, nougat, and very light dessert character. It is sweet without being overly so, just enough to balance out the medicinal astringency on the top notes. The body is creamy and mouth-filling; this is easy-drinking stuff, even at room temperature.

The finish is lovely — a touch short for a vodka this rich — but inviting and refreshing. All in all: It’s an irresistible winner.

A / $40 / belvederevodka.com

belvedere unfiltered Review: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered 80 Vodka

Review: Karlsson’s Gold Gammel Svensk Rod 2008 Single Vintage, Single Potato Vodka

I say Celina, Solist, and Sankta Thora. What comes to mind?

If you said Nordic maritime vessels, you are unfortunately incorrect. The answer: They are all white potato varieties grown in Sweden – and used in the production of Karlsson’s Gold vodka.

I reviewed Karlsson’s Gold early in my Drinkhacking career, and found it a bit overwhelming to what was, at the time, a relatively novice palate. Recently I sat down with the vodka’s brand manager, Mia Ekelund, daughter of founder Peter Ekelund, to discuss the young brand and its new release: A single vintage, single-potato varietal, very limited release of its vodka.

Founded just a few years ago by Ekelund and master blender Borje Karlsson, both founding members of the Absolut Vodka team, Karlsson’s Gold is an extremely unique vodka in a field of relatively sweet, flavorless spirits: Distilled just from a blend of seven potatoes a single time in a column still and bottled unfiltered, it leaves behind an awful lot of flavor that other vodkas would have washed away.

At this tasting I had the chance to delve into the past with Ms. Ekelund, considering four single vintage, single potato spirits the company created in years past, leading up to the 2008 single vintage that is being released.

We started with a 2004 vodka made from Solist potatoes, comparing it with a 2006 Solist vodka and a 2004 vodka made from Minerva potatoes. Shockingly, these vodkas were amazingly different. The Solist 2004 earthy and dark in flavor, the Solist 2006 (a rainy year) sharp and lightly sweet, and the Minerva 2004 somewhere between the two. This led to another vodka made from Gammel Svensk Rod potatoes in 2006. This slightly red-skinned potato was a clear favorite, hugely earthy, lightly sweet, and possessing a lovely, rich body that the other varieties were lacking.

It was easy to see why Karlsson’s chose this variety for its 2008 Gammel Svensk Rod vodka, which is being formally released in April in New York and California. Just 1980 bottles are being made available, and if you’re a vodka fan you need to track one down: This was a vast improvement over the 2006 version, full of mushroom and roasted greens character, but balanced with honey and nougat on the finish. Great balance altogether, it’s one of the richest vodkas I’ve experienced in recent years. A / $80

Compared to the original Karlsson’s Gold – a blend of Solist, Marine, Princess, Hamlet, Celine, Sankta Thora, and Gammel Svensk Rod potatoes – I was still impressed. Similarities abounded, but the standard release has less nuance, with more of a nutty character and some citrus – both lemon and orange – on the tongue. Today, I’m finding this quite an enjoyable vodka, beefy but loaded with drinkable elements. Updated rating: A- / $40

karlssonsvodka.com

karlssons gold 2008 single vintage vodka Review: Karlsson’s Gold Gammel Svensk Rod 2008 Single Vintage, Single Potato Vodka

Review: Breckenridge Vodka and Bourbon

You don’t have to be in Kentucky to make Bourbon. Breckenridge Distillery is found high in the mountains of Colorado, where it creates whiskey and vodka at 9600 feet (it claims to be the world’s highest), using Rocky Mountain meltwater to craft its spirits. We tasted both. Thoughts follow.

Breckenridge Vodka – Distilled from grain and bottled at 80 proof, this is a nicely clean and traditional vodka, with a nose of medicinal spirit and a touch of cedar needles. The body is quite a bit more easygoing than you’d think — a medicinal (but quite pleasant) core, almost burnt sugar/creme brulee sweetness, and hints of evergreen on the finish. Great balance, with a lovely, creamy body. This is a fantastic vodka, and I’m not just saying that because of the clever, lift ticket-inspired bottle hanger. A / $27

Breckenridge Bourbon – From a mash bill of 56% yellow corn, 38% green rye, and 6% malted barley, this Bourbon is aged for at least two years and bottled at 86 proof. Though there’s plenty of color in the whiskey, the body is very light, an indicator of this spirit’s young age. Despite the slightly elevated (get it?) proof level, the overall impression in the mouth is a little watery and thin. It’s biggish on woody and caramel notes, with rye-heavy grain following close behind. Not a whole lot showing beyond that. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was drinking a perfectly capable but young, workaday whiskey from any old distillery in Kentucky, not artisanal business from the Rocky Mountain High… B+ / $55

Breckenridge Bourbon 2013 Update – Recipes change. Aging regimens change. Companies evolve. I’m not sure if Breckenridge has been tinkering, but tasting a fresh batch of Breckenridge in March 2013 I’m getting different notes. Still strongly woody on the nose, it offers hints of gunpowder and light vanilla notes. On the body, lots of sherry character, a big orange bomb backed up by wood notes, caramel, and hints of molasses. I’m getting a bigger body this time out, nothing I’d describe as thin or simple. Definitely a worthwhile Bourbon — whether it’s the whiskey that’s changed or my palate. A

breckenridgedistillery.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS!]

Review: Glacier Potato Vodka

If you’re making booze in Idaho, chances are it’s vodka made from potatoes. Who can blame you?

Glacier is a brand that has recently relaunched, using Idaho Russet potatoes and Rocky Mountain water to produce a very traditional vodka that is nonetheless distinctly American. The packaging is updated, but inside the spirit is the same, quadruple-distilled and both charcoal and crystal filtered.

This vodka has a very distinct character to it, one that takes considerable time to really analyze. On the nose, unique yet light tones of charcoal, wood, and a touch of smoke. Almost like an unaged whiskey. The body brings on more of vodka’s traditional medicinal character, but not in an overpowering way. It’s tempered with sweetness — like nougat — and a finish reminiscent of burning embers. That sweetness lingers, too, along with a refreshing but far from overpowering level of burn. It’s clean but also complex, which is what a good vodka really should be.

Glacier doesn’t offer hipster-friendly packaging or the street cred of imported liquor, but it’s certainly worth checking out as a solid “house vodka” even if you aren’t going to call it by name at your local watering hole.

80 proof.

A- / $25 / glaciervodka.com

glacier potato vodka Review: Glacier Potato Vodka

Review: Absolut Miami Limited Edition Vodka

Absolut’s sixth city-inspired flavor takes us to the sunny shores of Miami, where no doubt plenty of vodka is consumed alongside all the rum that goes down there.

Absolut flavors this one with passion fruit and orange blossoms, two great tastes that go great together… and that go great together with vodka. The nose is heady with citrus, but it’s the distinct passion fruit character that cuts through the most succinctly. The orange is there in the body, but it’s an afterthought next to that really ripe and fruity passion fruit flavor. The body is solid, with a minimal medicinal aftertaste. Altogether it’s got a great balance of fruit and punchiness.

I’m a fan of Skyy Passion Fruit Vodka and this flavored version is about on par with it. All measure of tropical- or citrus-flavored recipes would benefit from using Absolut Miami in the recipe. Absolut suggests trying it in a Mojito or, one that sounds even more enticing, a “South Beach Breeze” with pineapple and orange juices.

80 proof.

A- / $24 per 1-liter bottle / absolut.com

ABSOLUT MIAMI vodka Review: Absolut Miami Limited Edition Vodka

Review: Iceberg Vodka

A name like Iceberg comes loaded with connotation: The sea, salt air, the Titanic. Lots of maritime ideas in that word.

Funny then that Iceberg Vodka tastes nothing like the ocean from whence it literally came. No, seriously: Iceberg Vodka is called that because the water it’s made with comes from icebergs. (The company says the water, trapped in icebergs for 12,000 years, is ultra pure, 7,000 times more pure than tap water.) That’s the advantage of being made in Canada, I suppose.

It’s actually unclear what the distillate is created from — one presumes mixed, bulk grains — but the end result is a surprisingly clean and — inside the bottle — gimmick-free spirit. [Update - I stand corrected, it's distilled from Ontario corn.] The nose is mild and indistinct, but that changes on the tongue. Here, strong vanilla notes carry the day, offering caramelized sugar character and a long, semi-sweet finish. There’s little sense of vodka’s traditional medicinal or herbal character here at all; this is a modern spirit with the funk wholly washed out of it. Take that as you’d care to… and go lick an iceberg.

80 proof. New packaging (shown below) as of 2012.

B+ / $18 / iceberg.ca

Iceberg Vodka Review: Iceberg Vodka