Creating a genuinely remarkable vodka requires striking a perfect balance between man—meaning technique, science and passion—and nature—water, grain and fruit. It’s far from a simple proposition. An artisanal flavored vodka is especially unforgiving. Any flaws or missteps are immediately apparent in the glass. Yet when done really well, flavored vodkas are sublime treats for the senses.
The ongoing cocktail boom has sparked the release of increasing numbers of flavored vodkas onto American backbars. In the event you missed the fanfare over their initial releases, here’s a brief recap of the best and the brightest new flavored vodkas.
Absolut Cherrykran — The second bestselling brand of vodka in the U.S. recently launched Cherrykran, a surprisingly complex spirit sporting a cherry-forward palate with the flavors of cranberry and sweet plums on the finish. Its release follows the 2011 debut of Absolut Wild Tea, a singular blend of Chinese oolong tea and Scandinavian elderflowers, and Absolut Orient Apple, an exotic, infusion of fresh ginger and green, red, and yellow apples. 80 proof
Bakon — A carnivore favorite, this crystal clear vodka is quadruple-distilled entirely from Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes. The final step in production involves re-distilling the vodka with a bacon infusion. The result is a silky smooth spirit that smells and tastes like peppered bacon straight off the griddle. 80 proof
Bak’s Bison Grass Flavored Vodka — This cocktail-friendly rye vodka from Eastern Poland is infused with the flavor of bison grass, also known as Zubrowka. Its essential oils imbue the spirit with a greenish tint, an herbaceous aroma and a spicy palate. Every bottle contains a long, slender blade of bison grass. In addition to being delicious, some say the vodka has aphrodisiac properties, while others contend it increases virility, vitality and strength. 80 proof
Belvedere Bloody Mary — Likely the first vodka developed for use in a specific drink, the all-natural rye spirit is produced with a maceration of fresh tomatoes, black pepper, horseradish, bell and chili peppers, fresh lemons and vinegar distillate. It’s a highly aromatic vodka with a lush body and waves of smoky, spicy and palate warming flavors. 80 proof
Cold River Blueberry — Made in Freeport, Maine, the pot-distilled spirit is handcrafted from locally grown potatoes, spring water and Maine blueberries. The vodka has a voluminous bouquet and a finish like the holy chorus of blueberries. It’s an homage to nature. 80 proof
Cupcake Devil’s Food — Distilled at the Cupcake Vineyards in Monterey County, it’s a creamy textured marvel imbued with the aroma and soul-satisfying flavor of bittersweet chocolate. The range also includes Cupcake Frosting Flavored Vodka and Cupcake Chiffon Flavored Vodka. All were created by the head winemaker, Adam Richardson. 80 proof
Fair Trade Certified Quinoa Vodka — The first and only Quinoa-based vodka and the first spirit made with Fair Trade Certified ingredients. Quinoa is a grain grown in South America. The lushly textured spirit has an earthy, fruit and pepper finish. 80 proof
Grey Goose Cherry Noir — Made in the Cognac region of France, Grey Goose’s latest flavor sensation is Cherry Noir, their first new flavor release in 5 years. The small batch vodka is infused with black cherries and contains no added sugar or artificial flavors. It has a lively bouquet, a delicate fruit palate and a warm, zesty finish. 80 proof
Hangar One Fraser River Raspberry — This altogether captivating spirit is produced each June from freshly picked Washington State raspberries. The berries are macerated in vodka, after which the fruit-infused vodka is redistilled in an alembic still. Before bottling, fresh raspberry juice is added for complexity and a touch of natural sweetness and color. The vodka has a curvaceous body and focused aromas of sun-drenched raspberries. 80 proof
High Spirits Prickly Pear — Flagstaff’s High Spirits Distillery sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks at nearly 7,000 feet elevation. Made at the first licensed distillery in Arizona, their small batch flavored vodka is produced in a custom-made pot still from locally harvested prickly pear fruit. It has a warm, engaging personality with a thoroughly delicious, yet completely unfamiliar, fresh fruit flavor. 70 proof
Ketel One Oranje — The vodka is made in Schiedam, Holland using Italian Mandarin oranges and Valencia oranges sourced from Florida and Brazil. Ketel One Oranje—pronounced “Oh-RON-yah” in Dutch—has a zesty citrus bouquet and vibrant orange notes that persist throughout the long finish. 80 proof
SKYY Infusions Coco — New to the highly popular Skyy Infusions franchise is all-natural Skyy Infusion Coco, a velvety textured, coconut-infused vodka tailor-made for use in contemporary cocktails. The vodka has a lightweight body and a long lasting, tropically inspired finish. For those looking for a superfruit experience there’s SKYY Infusions Dragon Fruit, an alluring vodka with an exotic, red berry character. 70 proof
Square One Organic Basil — Square One’s latest flavor sensation is infused with the organic essence of four varieties of garden-fresh basil —Genovese, Thai, Lemon and Sweet. Then small amounts of organic coriander, honeysuckle and lemongrass are added to balance the spirit’s robust herbal character. 80 proof
Stoli Hot — This jalapeño-infused vodka is a remix of one of the company’s original flavored vodkas named Stolichnaya Pertsovka. Reissued for its 50th anniversary, Stoli Hot is just that—a vivacious, spicy warm spirit with a peppery aroma and an unforgettable finish. The brand also released Stoli Sticki, which is a remix of Stolichnaya Okhotnichya, a herb- and honey-flavored vodka originally launched in the 1960’s in the former Soviet Union. 75 proof
Three Olives Dude — Straight from the set of the cinema classic Big Lebowski comes Three Olives instant classic—The Dude. The flavored spirit is a blend of lemon and lime and is a spot-on reminiscent of lemon/lime soda. The range now features over 20 flavored vodkas including breakfast cereal-flavored—Three Olives Loopy Flavored Vodka.
Triple Eight Blueberry — Distilled on Nantucket Island, Triple Eight Blueberry Vodka is a purple-hued gem made from a blend of locally grown varietal blueberries. The fruit is macerated and then fresh juice is slowly blended into the spirit along with a hint of ginger to bring out the fruit flavor. It’s surprisingly light-bodied with a slightly tart, fresh blueberry palate. 80 proof
Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate — Produced at the Royal Dirkzwager Distillery in Schiedam, Holland, the small batch vodka is crafted from imported cocoa beans, premium neutral grain spirits and purified water. Its brilliant character is derived through a proprietary double-infusion process that requires the vodka spend at least eight weeks in underground tanks to allow the flavors to thoroughly integrate. 70 proof