Can I Call It Vodka?

Dispatches from the new frontier in flavored alcohol.
December 14, 2012

It started innocently enough, like so many well-meaning experiments do, with slight fruit flavoring. You were going to add a lime or lemon to your vodka anyway, so why not just put it right into the spirit and make it oh-so-more enjoyable? But about two years ago, something went horribly awry. Today, many of the city’s gay bars are packed with the kind of outrageously flavored vodka that would make Tolstoy roll over in his grave. When nurture trumps nature, can it still be classified as vodka? A closer look at the new breed of Franken-booze.


Absolut Peppar

What is it: Vodka with chili pepper flavoring
BEST ENJOYED: In a Bloody Mary
CAN YOU CALL IT VODKA: Yes. Rather than drowning the vodka in sweetness, the pepper helps bring out its flavor.

Cupcake Devil’s Food Vodka

What is it: Vodka with chocolate flavoring
BEST ENJOYED: In a chocolate martini
CAN YOU CALL IT VODKA: Yes. The latest brand to jump on the flavor train—they also have Ginger Snap—it’s still more vodka than flavoring.

Smirnoff Kissed Caramel

What is it: Vodka with caramel flavoring
BEST ENJOYED: In hot chocolate
CAN YOU CALL IT VODKA: Yes, but you could easily convince someone it’s not. Despite a slight consistency issue, the mouth sensation is so spot-on you’ll want to just spread it on a sundae.

Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie

What is it: Vodka with pie-like flavoring
BEST ENJOYED: Shots. Goes down surprisingly easy.
CAN YOU CALL IT VODKA: Yes, but you wouldn’t know it. Ever since Whipped, Pinnacle branded themselves as the place for “dessert-flavored vodkas,” like Cotton Candy and Cookie Dough.

Van Gogh PB&J Vodka

What is it: Exactly what it sounds like, vodka made to taste like a childhood sandwich.
BEST ENJOYED: In a cocktail like the PB&J Milkshake, which contains milk, ice cream and bananas.
CAN YOU CALL IT VODKA: Yes, if you’re a five-year-old.

LeSutra

What is it: Sparkling flavored liqueurs—like blueberry and peach—infused with vodka.
BEST ENJOYED: Straight up, with owner-spokesman Timbaland.
CAN YOU CALL IT VODKA: No—it’s mostly sparkling wine. Think the reverse of putting a strawberry in your champagne.

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