Review New Amsterdam Raspberry and Lemon Vodkas

In the last few years, we’ve reviewed (and recommended) a number of New Amsterdam products due to their wide availability, low price point, and general quality (you can find those reviews here, here, here, here, and here). The addition of Raspberry and Lemon flavors to New Amsterdam’s range of flavored vodkas makes sense, and the new products follow recent precedent in both their strengths and weaknesses.

Tasting notes follow. Both are at 70 proof.

New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka – Sampled straight, New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka tastes like a hard Jolly Rancher candy. It is exceedingly sweet and sour, with virtually no alcoholic bite at all. With a few sips, the amount of sugar in the product becomes virtually overwhelming, and I wouldn’t recommend mixing it with tonic or anything that is also sweet. Perhaps seltzer is the best mixer since the bubbles and water would dilute the cloying candy flavor. Anyone looking for genuine raspberry flavor will be disappointed, but taken for what it is (candy-flavored vodka), New Amsterdam’s Raspberry Vodka is enjoyable enough and will probably fill a niche.  B- / $13

New Amsterdam Lemon Vodka – It seems a bit odd for New Amsterdam to offer a Lemon vodka after previously releasing a Citron variety, but the two are different enough that it makes sense. The primary distinction is the level of sweetness, with the Lemon showing even more sugar. The Lemon Vodka does not hide its alcohol as well as the Raspberry and even at 70 proof, it is hot on the nose and the palate. Sampling this vodka blind, I would probably guess I was drinking a full-on Kamikaze. It is sweet and lemony, like a lemon drop, leaving behind a citric acid burn. Like the Raspberry, the Lemon would also go well with an unsweetened mixer, like seltzer, but New Amsterdam suggests mixing it with iced tea, and I think they are on to something with that idea. Unsweetened iced tea takes some of the alcoholic bite out of the vodka while the sweetness of the vodka seems appropriate to my expectations of sweetened lemon tea. B- / $13

newamsterdamspirits.com

Review: Seagram’s Juicy Watermelon Vodka

As summer wanes here in the Northeast, and local watermelon is long gone, a watermelon vodka represents a little bit of summer year round.  One sip of watermelon vodka and you are transported to sun, surf, and summer in a single sip.

Introduced earlier this year, Seagram’s watermelon vodka certainly fits the bill as a vessel for transporting you from the chilly winter to warm thoughts of summer. Upon opening the bottle, the watermelon aroma is not overpowering but is just right. A neat shot of the Seagram’s starts sweet and is quite fiery, but a bit bitter in the finish, which diminishes the watermelon flavor slightly. A nice fruity aftertaste emerges once the burn fades away.

The real joy of this vodka is as a mixer.  Add this vodka to lemonade or iced tea and you have a refreshing summer cocktail. It can also be added to a nice fruity beer like a summer shandy to make an excellent beer cocktail.  Basil pairs nicely with watermelon, so a little basil muddled in the bottom of the glass with lemonade makes a great cocktail that can’t be beaten on a hot summer day (see recipe below). All in all, this vodka is an excellent addition to anyone’s liquor cabinet whether it’s winter or summer.

70 proof.

A- / $11 / seagramsvodka.com

And a recipe…

Pesto Punch
5 oz lemonade
2 oz watermelon vodka
2 basil leaves

Muddle the basil into the bottom of the glass.  Fill glass with ice.  Shake the lemonade and the vodka together and pour over ice and enjoy.

Review: Stoli Crushed Ruby Red Grapefruit and Pineapple

It’s finally summer, and the temperature is rising. Luckily, Stoli came prepared for the sun and heat, offering a new flavored vodka beverage that boasts of “Real Fruit Juice” (along with “Natural Flavors and Certified Colors”). Stoli Crushed (at launch) comes in two flavors that are well suited to summertime: Ruby Red Grapefruit and Pineapple. Both recommend that they be enjoyed over ice or with a splash of club soda. Because they are already cocktails of a sort (a mix of vodka, juice, and flavoring), it makes sense to simply add bubbles or water.

Note that small print on the back of the bottles reads “Shake well before drinking.” This is good advice. Shake the bottle before serving or you will pour mostly vodka at the beginning of the bottle and mostly juice at the end.

Both are 60 proof. Thoughts follow.

Stoli Crushed Ruby Red Grapefruit – I was pleasantly surprised to find that the citrus flavor of real red grapefruit comes through in this beverage. I feared it would be overly sweet, but it isn’t. Rather, it is refreshing and dangerously easy to drink on a hot day. It isn’t as good as mixing Stoli vodka with freshly squeezed fruit juice, but Stoli Crushed is an ideal summer beverage for those who seek convenience and enjoy the flavor of red grapefruit juice mixed with a quality grain vodka. B / $18

Stoli Crushed Pineapple – Stoli Crushed Pineapple is also not too sweet and presents the fruit flavor of pineapple, but it lacks the acidic zing and some of the fruity sweetness of real pineapple. For this reason, it isn’t quite as good as the Ruby Red Grapefruit. On the other hand, the fact that it isn’t cloyingly sweet makes Stoli Crushed Pineapple easy to drink. Over ice with a straw, I found it to be refreshing on a hot summer day, and my glass disappeared very, very quickly. B- / $18

stoli.com

Review: Ciroc Mango Vodka

Ciroc, the P. Diddy-endorsed vodka distilled in France from brandy, is out with its latest flavor: Mango, which is “infused with mango and other natural flavors.”

This vodka is well-sweetened but not unpleasant, with aromas the run more toward peach than mango, but which, on the palate, offers a melange of mixed tropical flavor that would go well in just about anything one might sip on in Hawaii. The finish is where you at least get a hint of the actual vodka, a very minor medicinal character that endures briefly as it attempts to muscle out the sweet and fruity notes, with only middling success.

Mix away with this one!

70 proof.

B+ / $28 / ciroc.com

Review: American Harvest Vodka Specialty (2017)

It’s common for vodka to be sweetened up one way or another, but never will you find that this is actually mentioned on the label.

American Harvest takes a different approach: This spirit mixes agave nectar into the vodka — and they actually tell you about it, right on the label. That’s some refreshing honesty, and I can respect that, even if they do have to call it “vodka specialty” on the bottle because of the disclosed additive.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because American Harvest was launched back in 2011 — we reviewed it at the time — by Sidney Frank. Back then it was called an “organic spirit” and not a “vodka specialty,” but the idea was the same — it was a sweeter spin on vodka. Now the product has changed hands to the Beach Whiskey Company, has changed names and packaging, and has opened the kimono regarding what’s inside.

It’s unclear if the formulation has changed at all, but as of 2017, American Harvest is vodka made from organic winter wheat, organic agave nectar, and Snake River water. Production and bottling takes place in Rigby, Idaho (the same facility as before).

The nose is indistinct, with just a hint of herbal character atop what is mostly medicinal notes and some notes of brown sugar. The body kicks up the sweetness quite a bit, offering a bit of lemon, creme brulee, buttered pecan, and a marshmallow-dusted finish. It’s funny, because when you’re expecting the sweetness, it’s not as off-putting as it can be in vodkas where the sugar isn’t so openly disclosed, swept in under the table when the regulators aren’t paying attention.

While ultimately I don’t have a ton of use for American Harvest in my own bar, I know that sweeter vodkas have their fans and their place in the broader mixology universe. Kudos too to American Harvest for keeping it all organic and making full disclosure on the front label of everything, right down to where the bottle is made.

80 proof.

B / $25 / facebook.com/pg/americanharvestvodka

Review: Three Meadows Spirits Peony Vodka

Based in the Hudson Valley of New York, Three Meadows Spirits is the producer of, to date, a single product: Peony Vodka, a 5x distilled, wheat-based vodka flavored with nine botanicals. Those include geranium, jasmine, white pepper, gardenia, green tea, vanilla, and the namesake of the spirit, tincture of peony. (Yes, that’s seven; the remaining two aren’t disclosed.)

Peony Vodka isn’t a gin, though it’s somewhere in that wheelhouse, landing on the palate between gin and a floral liqueur. The nose is somewhat floral, but primarily it is very sweet, with fresh marshmallow overpowering notes of honeysuckle, vanilla, and modest fruit character. On the palate the sweeter elements dominate, a vanilla custard character segueing to healthy notes of banana, almond, and cinnamon rolls, all of which hang on until the lengthy, lingering finish, where the sweetness endures.

Despite the hefty, sugary profile, it’s not a bad product, clearly made with love and attention to crafting a unique product. That said, the more I sip on it, the less I can figure out how I’d use it in the real world. Most of Peony’s suggested cocktails simply sub it in for straight vodka. Tonic, anyone?

70 proof.

B / $30 / peonyvodka.com

Review: New Amsterdam Vodka (2017) and Apple Vodka

New Amsterdam’s latest flavor joins seven existing flavored vodkas, plus of course the straight original expression. We covered the original, Modesto-based New Amsterdam Vodka back in 2012, and given that five years have passed since then, we thought it was time to look at it with fresh eyes (and mouths). As well, we’ve giving New Amsterdam Apple Vodka a go.

Thoughts follow.

New Amsterdam Vodka (2017) – Quite sweet on the nose, with heavy marshmallow notes atop notes of vanilla syrup. The palate fortunately plays the sweetness down, at least at first, with a brisk and acidic attack that brings out a strong, old world, medicinal character, before it becomes awash with candylike sweetness again, lingering on the sticky finish. Ultimately this is mixer material at best. 80 proof. C+

New Amsterdam Apple Vodka – A nose of candied apple is countered by a curious almond and marzipan character, which is enchanting enough from an aromatic perspective. The palate is a different story, though, with notes of cheap applejack and bulk white wine making for a rough-hewn and mouth-puckering experience. Medicinal on the back end, and rather harsh, though some appletini fans may not mind such flavors. 70 proof. C-

both $12 / newamsterdamspirits.com

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