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Discovering Flavored Vodka

Mar 12, 2007 | By Jack Bettridge
I’ve recently had an epiphany about a whole class of spirits.

I used to think that flavored vodkas were a scam. At best they were a crutch for people too lazy to squeeze a lemon or an orange into their drink. At worst they were a way to get you to fill your liquor cabinet with a lot of different bottles of essentially the same thing, just different flavors added. Why not just have a big bottle of one of vodka and then add pepper or vanilla or whatever from your cupboard if a cocktail called for it.

Then I tried the Grey Goose La Poire, a pear-flavored vodka. Aside from the fact that I found it delicious, it occurred to me that if I suddenly needed pear flavor for a cocktail I’d be out of luck. Who has essence of pear sitting around his kitchen? I’d be forced buy some pears, and peel, dice and crush them. I’ve have a lot of classic literature i haven't even gotten around to reading, so I’m not very likely to do that. But then here comes Grey Goose with this pear vodka that has this rich essence that you can almost feel on your tongue.

Now I’m thinking, what other great flavored vodkas am I missing out on out of pure prejudice? So I went to visit Claire Smith, who, in from the U.K. recently, is the head mixologist for Moet Hennessy, which owns Belvedere and Chopin Polish vodkas. She poured me a number of cocktails made with the Belvedere flavored vodkas, Pomarancza (mandarin orange) and Cytrus (lemon and lime). One was a Bloody Mary made with fresh cherry tomatoes, a sprig of basil and the Belvedere Cytrus. It blew my mind.

Claire went on to explain to me that the vodkas are so pungent and flavorful because of the care they take in macerating real fruit peels with spirits in a proprietary process, overseen by a flavor artist. I'll buy that. I left her bar converted.

When I got back to the office, what should be awaiting me but a package from Skyy vodka, including their melon, orange and berry vodkas. Coincidence? No, I think kismet.

Bourbon Boy is off on a new mission!

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