Ketel One Vodka launched a new line, Botanical, in May. Made with non-GMO grains and no sugar or artificial sweeteners, the series features varieties like Cucumber & Mint, Peach & Orange Blossom, and Grapefruit & Rose. The line is not technically classified as a “flavored vodka” by the TTB, due to its slightly lower ABV, but it is distilled from Ketel One vodka.
One month prior, Belvedere tapped wellness guru Candice Kumai to host the NYC launch party for its new Ginger Zest vodka. The new bottle proudly announces its contents are “100% natural” and warns drinkers not to be alarmed by the occasional cloudiness that comes from using real ginger.
Flavored vodkas, once a punchline, are getting a post-millennial makeover. The first wave of flavored spirits featured wildly artificial notes of green apple, pecan, or glazed doughnuts (no, seriously). Now a number of big-name brands and burgeoning craft distillers are attempting to reclaim the category, infusing their vodkas with botanicals, spices, and fresh fruit in efforts to align themselves with modern, farm-to-glass ethos.
“Flavored vodka is not just about a flavor we want to match,” Jay Sethi, vice president of Smirnoff, said in an interview last November. “It’s about matching a flavor the consumer wants.”
We tasted spirits made with everything from ruby red grapefruit to sweet tea in pursuit of the best. Here are the top five next-generation flavored vodkas, ranked.
All average prices are via Wine-Searcher.com.
5. Litchfield Spirits Batchers’ Blueberry Vodka
Lack of nationwide distribution is the only reason why this smartly made vodka appears at the tail end of our list. Made with Connecticut blueberries, it has a bright, tart tang devoid of chemical or artificial notes. “It really tastes like fruit,” one taster said. Average price: $30
This smartly packaged, strangely spelled spirit has all the sweet heat of a stick of Big Red gum. “This is Fireball’s grown-up brother,” suggested one taster. “Fireball does this a disservice,” said another. While the site proudly advertises its “all-natural” ingredients, our tasters struggled to find any listed online or on the bottle. Regardless, all agreed it was a spicy-sweet crowd-pleaser. Average: $20
3. Ketel One Botanical Cucumber & Mint
“This is extremely refreshing!” exclaimed one taster. It “smells like a garden,” said another, appreciatively. Its crisp, vegetal taste is far less saccharine than other flavored vodkas. It contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners. Drink this with soda water, in a cocktail (a vodka-cucumber Gimlet sounds pretty great to us), or on the rocks with a twist of lime. Average price: $24
2. Prairie Pure Cucumber
This vegetable-infused vodka from a proudly sustainable Minnesota distiller tastes strongly of its eponymous ingredient. Akin to “cucumber agua fresca,” this USDA certified organic option has a fresh-seeming, natural quality that eludes some flavored spirits. Average price: $19
1. Deep Eddy Real Lemon
The bright yellow color of this naturally flavored Austin spirit hints at its bold lemon flavor, as does a slightly sour nose. “I would like to drink this all summer,” one taster cooed. A far cry from the citrons of the 1990s, Deep Eddy Lemon has a bright, refreshing pucker and was the only spirit we went back to sip. Average price: $15