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May

Extolling the virtues of... or perhaps not

A casual stroll around the many bottles of vodka here reveals a disturbing trend, which frankly I do not understand. What is the point of all of these different flavors? I could make a case for the flavors and blends in other liquors. Bourbons, rums, and the like already have a flavor. Infusing fruit or spice to these liquors adds a layer of complexity and complements or enhances the natural character. Black cherry bourbon, cinnamon whisky, fruit and spiced rums all mix well and stand alone. I would not be surprised to someday see Cuervo Lime, or dare I dream, Patron Chipotle.

Vodka is not like those liquors. It has no flavor; so why suddenly did anyone feel the need to change that?

First off, the flavors started as fruits. Okay, I can get fruit, maybe. I can imagine some people out for cocktails inspired to flavor the vodka rather than use schnapps to the same effect. Even so, I would think that the excess in flavoring stops there. Then they just got odd: whipped cream; marshmallow; cake (even worse: wedding cake, because you know all of those taste the same); and gummy??? To me, this new generation of flavors appears redundant at best, vague at worst.

A friend of mine posed the argument that all of these flavors came about for use in specific drinks (or rather with specific mixers). America likes sweet and bubbly. These vodkas mix well with soda to make something akin to Kool-Aid for grownups—and I can tell you that Seagram’s Black Cherry mixed with Diet Coke is awesome! However, if the aim of these flavors is to a limited audience as far as reasonable mixability is concerned, then I would put forth to the industry: Why stop there? If sweet has a large following, then what about the savory niche?

My local watering hole of choice skirts this severe lack of savory selections by infusing a number of flavors on site. Oh sure, Sweet Sweet makes some ordinary fruit flavors like mango and apple cinnamon. Where she excels though is with the savory: jalapeno; cucumber; dill pickle; and a Tex-Mex blend that includes garlic, poblano, and cilantro—Spectacular! Granted she doesn't have a line of people trampling each other to get shots of these flavors. What she has is a fair number of people each week enjoying already great Bloody Marys made even more delectable. By her minimal effort, she creates drinks with added layers of complexity. That I can understand.

I would go so far as to suggest that some of these vodkas would make great martinis, particularly for those who enjoy them dirty. I actively encourage her to expand the selection. I know, black pepper turns the vodka brown, big deal. It would still add a nice kick. And how about an herb line? Imagine kicking back on the patio on a warm summer’s eve, burgers on the grill and a nicely chilled Simon and Garfunkel in your hand—parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme garnished with a slice of cucumber. Oh the multitude of possibilities … I will keep waiting and hoping for a bacon infusion. L’chaim!

 

by Bradley Austin

 

 

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