With hundreds of flavored vodka to choose from, it can be hard to figure out if the taste is worthwhile. The Gentleman gives you the lowdown on the best and the not so great flavored vodkas.
It seems like flavored vodkas are the aphid of the liquor world today. They propagate at an alarming rate and they leave every brand coated with their resinous ichor—Google “Austin aphids” after you finish reading this article. But this is not to say that they are all bad. There are actually some winners out there.
UV Blue Raspberry Vodka
UV seems to be the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to flavored vodkas. This is probably due in large part that they come in a wide array of artificial colors and the stuff is freaking cheap. These two factors scream party liquor to me, and party liquor is not usually the best. But let’s give UV a fair shake.
As a Shot: This is one of the few low-end vodkas that I can shoot without a chaser. To be fair though, I did chill it in the freezer, which does help keep the vapors away. This is definitely made to be able to shoot and not have to take a break after.
Mixed with Sprite: I chose to use a soda for this mix since UV is more of a party liquor and sodas are usually pretty prevalent at parties. Some of the raspberry flavor is diluted in the sprite and it definitely tastes like a party mix drink where there are not many other mixers that you could work with. I could see this being a good choice if there is nothing else.
Skyy Infusions Dragon fruit
This one really caught my eye at the liquor store for two reasons: First, it was one of the more unique flavors for vodka, and two, I love dragon fruit. So let’s see if dragon fruit can make vodka more palatable to me.
As a Shot: I have to say that I’m not too impressed with the initial taste. I kind of found the dragon fruit flavor to be a bit underwhelming and for some reason I feel like Skyy vodka has a weird sort of texture…maybe texture is the wrong word. The feeling falls somewhere between a gritty feeling and tingling. This “texture” really draws away from the flavor, which is already subdued.
Mixed with Cranberry Juice with Lime: I guess in my excitement of dragon fruit vodka, I did not have the forethought to look up what to mix it with, but when in doubt with vodka…cranberry. This actually didn’t turn out too bad. The cranberry and dragon fruit compliment pretty well. I still wish the dragon fruit flavor was a little more pronounced. That would have made this a magnificent drink. I think next time I will try this vodka with the dragon fruit vitamin water, and as a side benefit to that mix-- decrease the probability of a hangover.
Van Gogh Espresso Flavored Vodka
Coming off the underwhelming dragon fruit, I was happy to try something with a little more oomph to the flavor. When I first got this bottle, I have expected to just taste a clear Kahlua, but this is much better than expected.
As a Shot: YES! Another vodka that I do not need a chaser for. This is far from Kahlua, just like coffee is far from espresso. This has just the right amount of espresso bitterness to create that distinct espresso flavor and help subdue the usual vodka alcohol burn. The after taste lingers long enough that it reminds you of sipping on an espresso. This vodka is definitely dangerous if you don’t watch how many shots you take. I could see this one getting out of hand.
Mixed with Cocoa: I thought this would make the perfect vodka to mix with something sweet. Initially the taste was a bit too bitter and felt a bit thin on the tongue. I should have expected so, but after adding just a little bit of cream, it turned out pretty nice. Coffee and chocolate usually mix well. This would probably be better on a cold night instead of 100-degree Texas afternoon.
Belvedere Bloody Mary Flavored Vodka
I’m usually a little skeptical when on a bottle of liquor says, “Just add tomato juice.” This usually means that they intended this to be a single use liquor and I am one for flexibility. To be fair though, this is a Bloody Mary flavored vodka, so I guess I cannot say that they weren’t up front about the use, but I still cannot shake the feeling that trying to flavor a liquor with the numerous ingredients needed to make a Bloody Mary, sans the tomato juice, is a recipe for disaster. But Belvedere is a top name brand, so let’s see what they’re made of.
As a Shot: Yeah, I’m not going to take a shot of this. Obviously from the label, it is meant to be mixed, and I can’t imagine the taste of horseradish, celery, black pepper, etc. will be very good in a shot. Please be my guest to try it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
As a Bloody Mary: So, this vodka’s raison d’etre is for mixing with a Bloody Mary. Well, let me tell you with just the vodka and tomato juice, it is a miserable failure. It just tastes like poorly spiced, watered down tomato juice. I had to search my fridge for Bloody Mary fixings to really get this to taste anything like a Bloody Mary. Now after I spruced it up, it wasn’t so bad, but do not think for a second that you are going to get the full Bloody Mary experience by following Belvedere’s one step to a Bloody Mary printed on the bottle. Now, if you are one that really likes a borderline alcoholic’s amount of vodka in your Bloody Mary, I could see this helping to get a little more flavor in your Bloody Mary to balance out the amount of vodka in it.
Ivanabitch Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka
Vanilla vodkas have made their presence known to the public, and I think it's time for whipped cream to take the spotlight for a few. And with a brand name like that, I couldn't refuse.
As a Shot: Not bad. Definite whipped cream flavor. There is a bit of alcohol fume feeling in the nostrils, but it's not too bad. The only problem I have with this as a shot is that the whipped cream flavor lingers in the mouth and only gets more artificial tasting as time goes on. But if I had already been drinking or was going to continue to drink heavily this would not be as much of a problem.
Mixed with Orange Soda: Ooooh Man. This is great. Take the taste of an orange creamsicle and add the fun of getting drunk and you have this mix. Be sure to make this drink nice and cold so you get that frozen tingle on your tongue. This is a much better drink on a hot day than the Van Gogh and cocoa. Though I will say that the whipped cream flavor still kind of comes off as artificial. I think if I had gotten this flavor in a higher quality vodka it wouldn't have been as much of a problem.
Flavored vodkas are like nights of drinking--they can't all be winners. But for someone that is not a fan of vodka they can make the liquor much more palatable. Now if only they will come out with a whiskey-flavored vodka, I'd be set.