In the premium spirits world, vodka doesn’t get a lot of love. But as we note in our taste test of grain-to-glass vodkas in our May/June 2018 issue, the neutrality of the spirit is precisely what offers a challenge to distillers. That same neutrality also makes vodka an ideal vehicle for flavor infusions. But when flavors like PB&J, Fluffed Marshmallow and “Purple” flood the market, it’s no wonder that the category is sometimes approached with disdain. So we rounded up five flavored vodkas that are well worth adding to your home bar.
Hangar 1 Rosé Vodka
Hangar 1 has long been a go-to flavored vodka for many bartenders thanks to their cleanly infused flavors like Makrut Lime and Buddha’s Hand Citron. Their newest flavor, Rosé Vodka, does more than simply cash in on the pink trend. The California-based distiller sources fruit from neighboring vineyards to make a grape-based distillate, which they then blend with a neutral grain spirit to make their standard vodka. The vodka is then blended with 5 percent California rosé to make the 60-proof infusion. Pale pink with a bright floral aroma, the Rosé Vodka carries familiar flavors of juicy strawberry and crisp apple with a creamy mouthfeel and a hint of sweetness—perfect in a simple spritz or to fortify a sangria. $32, reservebar.com.
Prairie Organic Cucumber Flavored Vodka
Cucumber’s magical ability to make anything seem instantly more refreshing holds true in this vodka from midwest maker Phillips Distilling. The Prairie Organic line of vodka and gin is made with organic corn sourced from a farming co-op in Minnesota, and the cucumber vodka is the only flavor they make. It carries a garden-fresh cucumber aroma, and the flavor is clean and smooth with soft vegetal notes and just a hint of peppery spice. Try it in a summery martini riff, like this Cucumber Saké Martini. $19.99, shopwinedirect.com.
Charbay Green Tea Vodka
With a family history in distilling that goes back 13 generations, Northern California distiller Charbay was also an early pioneer of naturally flavored vodka, with their Meyer Lemon Vodka hitting the market in 1998. Working with fresh fruits only when in season, they have since added flavors like Blood Orange and Ruby Red Grapefruit to the lineup. Released in 2004, their Green Tea Vodka is made with hundreds of pounds of first-growth green tea leaves and infused for 120 days. The aroma is identical to that of freshly brewed tea with grassy and lightly floral notes and just a hint of sweetness, like green tea with honey, making it perfect for summer refreshers like this Green Tea Slushy. $29.99, hitimewine.net.
Wild Roots Huckleberry Vodka
Oregon distiller Wild Roots has been making juicy infusions since 2013 with fresh, regionally grown fruit like raspberries, marionberries, pears and cherries. Using a five-times-distilled corn-based vodka, their newest flavor, rolling out this June, features Northwest-grown huckleberries. The deep crimson infusion smells impossibly fruity like a batch of jam or freshly baked pie, but the flavor is a perfect balance of sweet and tart that lets the taste of the berries shine. A splash of soda is all you need for a summery highball. See wildrootsvodka.com for distribution.
St. George Green Chile Vodka
The infusion experts at St. George Spirits use a full bushel of California-grown hot and sweet peppers in their Green Chile Vodka. Crushed jalapeño peppers and lime peel get added to the still with their vodka base and then distilled through a layer of fresh cilantro. Separately, they make four infusions from habañero, serrano, and sweet yellow and red peppers and blend each distillate into the jalapeño-lime base before filtering. The result is vibrantly fresh and vegetal in both aroma and flavor with a lingering heat that builds on the finish. This one’s a no-brainer for your next Bloody Mary. $28.99, astorwines.com.
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