Flavored Vodka Companies Continue To Debut New Flavors, But Why?

If a vodka sounds gross, it probably is gross.

Dear Any Liquor Company That Has Produced A Flavored Vodka In The Past Several Years,

It seems as if you are on to something. Last year, we learned that flavored-vodka sales are on the rise, and that in 2011, nearly a quarter of all sales were from flavored vodka.

This surprised us, to say the least. A year ago, we rounded up some of the worst-flavored vodkas of all time, that included non-appetizing flavors like smoked salmon and fluffed marshmallow.

In an effort to understand this craze, we've tasted various flavors, including peanut butter and jelly vodka and salted caramel vodka (the official flavor is spelled "Karamel," for no apparent reason). The caramel was awful. The peanut butter and jelly was barely passable.

Within the past several weeks, even more flavored vodkas have come on the market. Smirnoff introduced a "Sorbet Light" line with three flavors: raspberry pomegranate, mango passionfruit and lemon. The aim of the line is to offer a reduced-calorie version when compared to other dessert-flavored vodkas. We tasted these vodkas on their own and as part of a cocktail, with recipes courtesy of Smirnoff. They were not good. On their own, the flavors were medicinal, Ring Pop-like and reminiscent of bathroom cleaner. When mixed into cocktails, one of them was almost palatable; it reminded us of jungle juice at a frat party.

We're not sure who had the idea of creating rainbow sherbet vodka but yes, it is now available and is as unpalatable as it sounds. And does anyone even want a rainbow sherbet cocktail? We're having trouble understanding where the market for this flavor is. Adults that are nostalgic for childhood but would rather drink vodka than eat ice cream?

After sampling these various flavors over the course of several months, we feel fairly well versed in the flavored vodka arena. And you know what? We just don't get it. How is this category selling well? There is no need for a flavor like lemon vodka when you can use plain vodka and add fresh lemon. And there is definitely no need for a vodka to taste like caramel (or rather, attempt to taste like caramel). Vodka is not a liquor category that needs to have dozens of iterations. Keep it simple and let the other cocktail ingredients elevate its taste.

Novelty vodka flavors do not make cocktails taste better. In fact, in most cases, they make them taste worse. If you want an interesting cocktail, don't rely on artificial flavors to get you there.


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