Salty watermelon sounds pretty good. And who wouldn’t want to try sugar cookie?
But freshly cut grass?
Chances are you’ve seen a bottle of vodka in the past few months that made you do a double take. Vodka drinkers aren’t just knocking it back plain anymore; they’re trying out the spirit in some weird and wacky flavors
Area bars are getting in on the trend. The Den, 711 N. 114th St., has more than 25 kinds of flavored vodka available, including peach cobbler, mango and blueberry. There’s a drink on tap made from four different kinds of flavored vodka (including a Red Liquorice flavor) and topped off with lemonade and gummy bears.
Owner Brad Darden said flavored vodkas are very versatile. “The different flavors of liquor are fun to play around with.”
Bartenders have to stretch their imaginations to find a way to use flavors such as salted caramel or pumpkin pie; they can’t just throw it in a glass with ice and your standard mixer, he said.
Jesse Hill, owner of Oasis Hookah Bar and Taza Nightclub at 1507 Farnam St., said he started carrying flavored vodka so the bar could mix and match flavors to go along with the flavoring in their hookahs. Now, on Thursdays, the bar has a ladies and military night where customers can make their own drinks with roughly 20 flavors of vodka, including sweet tea and chocolate cake. He says the younger crowd likes drinks that are a little bit different than your standard spirits.
Bars such as The Shark Club, Parliament Pub and Glo Lounge also use quite a bit of flavored vodka. But other area drinkeries won’t touch the stuff.
Clark Ross, bartender at the Boiler Room, 1110 Jones St., rarely uses vodka at all. Most flavored vodkas are artificially flavored, which Ross says goes against the grain of the Boiler Room. If he wants to create a flavor that doesn’t already exist in a spirit, he will make his own liqueurs in-house. He doesn’t like to use flavored vodka because he said it is often low quality and reduced proof. These spirits can often end up tasting artificial if they’re not handled properly.
But for the average bar without all the supplies to make craft cocktails, Darden said, flavored vodka is the spirit of choice to make quality drinks.
These drinks are also useful to the at-home drinker. Dan Crowell, former sales manager for Sterling Distributing, said flavored vodka can be a time-saver; it’s a pre-engineered element of a cocktail. Average drinkers can make more interesting flavored cocktails because some of the homework has been done for them.
“Flavored vodka is kind of like the TV dinner of drinking,” he said.
For drinkers who don’t have the time, tools or knowledge to make craft cocktails, flavored vodka is perfect. And there are plenty of flavors to play with: Wasabi-flavored liquor sits on grocery shelves near whipped cream, green tea and Froot Loop spirits.
Darden said he doesn’t see the trend stopping anytime soon. “I think they’re just going to keep getting crazier with the flavors.”
Crowell said everyone in the liquor world is looking for the next big flavor craze. So, he said, they create every conceivable flavor and introduce them to the market to see which ones will become popular. More and more crazy drinks will be created to try to get drinkers’ attention.
So what’s next in flavors? Crowell said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a Doritos-flavored vodka or other savory flavors hit the market soon.