From the Print Edition:
Jay-Z, May/June 2009
Whoever defined vodka as tasteless, odorless and colorless apparently forgot a widening mélange of the flavored kind. We've picked a selection of unusual tastes that take you beyond the usual limes and oranges you're likely to have on hand in your kitchen already.
Perhaps most remarkable is Belvedere IX. The bottle (midnight blue with bold pink lettering) sets the iconoclastic tone, and then you get into a spicy drink that melds nine very unusual flavors, including guarana, ginger, ginseng, açai, eucalyptus, cinnamon and black cherry. It mixes particularly well with grapefruit and a recipe called Vice (mixed with hard snuff candy) that is inspired by a cigar. Belvedere also debuts Black Raspberry, which blends macerated black currants and raspberry. belvedere.com
Grey Goose La Poire (pear) has become a favorite of ours as its flavor is so familiar yet not something you're likely to have around as an extract. The light meaty fruit is natural, neither cloying nor overpowering. Mixed as a Peartini it's a winner, but it also adds a subtle fruit boost to a range of drinks. greygoose.com
Stolichnaya was one of the early proponents of flavored vodkas and is still going strong, especially with its Razberi, which manages to be creamy and light, but with some spicy, citrus notes. The company's suggested Tisana cocktail is a mind scrambler with peach and ginger as well as white wine. stoli.com
Absolut's new Mango vodka gets this tropic flavor right by refusing to go the sweet-candy route, instead achieving a structured fruit flavor with exotic charms. It sips well and brings interesting complexity to a Mojito, although we liked it less sweet than the suggested recipe. absolut.com
Smirnoff has become the leader in the number of flavors it supports with a spectrum that now includes 15 in its signature swirled bottles. The company has recently added pomegranate, melon, passion fruit and white grape vodkas. Twist of Blueberry is a natural for summertime, especially when the fruit is in season and you use it as a garnish. smirnoff.com
If summertime drinking means tropical flavors to you, Skyy Vodka with its Infusions line has a winner with its Passion Fruit that instantly bespeaks a coastal sunset. Also included in the Skyy portfolio are a pineapple flavor and a cherry smack that bring it all back home. skyy.com
Crop Harvest Earth touts itself as organic, but we drink it for its greatflavored expressions: cucumber and tomato. The first is a natural for a Pimm's Cup cocktail and the second makes for a tangy Martini. Both, of course, are friendly in a Bloody Mary. cropvodka.com
The artist Vincent van Gogh may have been fueled by absinthe, but the vodka of the same name has chosen to add coffee flavor, not anise, to its Espresso and Double Espresso spirits. Because this spirit doesn't have caffeine, you can use it to add the flavor without the accompanying boost. vincentvangoghvodka.com
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