Close your eyes. I want you to think about the worst shot you’ve ever taken. The kind that you had to try very hard to swallow while it sat inside the tube of your throat, burning it, threatening to shoot straight back out from the depths of your esophagus. The shot that took all your strength to get down and not bring back up. The one that you needed a minute afterwards to suck the life out of a lemon, then to exhale slowly, to focus. Just keep it down. You can do it.
That shot. What was it? For me, it’s Raspberry Smirnoff or Absolut Peach. For you, maybe it’s Cherry Burnett’s or Pinnacle Whipped Cream. I always come crawling back to tequila shots, no matter how bad they get, and whiskey is meant to be sipped on its own. But flavored vodka? I shudder to think of drinking the stuff. Always warm somehow, even if refrigerated, syrupy, and cheap, even when it’s expensive. Flavored vodka gives off distinctly underage vibes—mirrored booths in flashy, trashy clubs vibes. It’s vodka for people who can’t handle real vodka.
That’s what I thought, at least, until I tried it again recently, and learned that flavored vodka has grown up, too, in the years since I drank it out of a plastic water bottle. The flavors have evolved beyond Peach and Cotton Candy, and many newer brands are infusing their spirits with real ingredients rather than flavoring them artificially. Flavored vodka has seriously matured into the perfect summer drink, and even the Smirnoffs and Absoluts of the beverage world are putting out sugar-free, all-natural editions of their signature flavored offerings.
If you’re intrigued, here are some of the most delicious, uniquely flavored vodkas on the market—great on the rocks, with some soda water, or in fancy cocktails. Or hell, even as shots.
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Frankly Organic Vodka
Drinking Frankly Organic is like taking a trip to the farmer’s market in vodka form. The flavors include Apple and Ginger, Pomegranate and Lemon, Grapefruit and Cinnamon, and Strawberry and Lemon, and are all made with organic ingredients, no refined sugars, and no artificial colors. They truly taste like someone mixed a little freshly squeezed fruit juice into your vodka, which they kind of did! It’s an easy summer sipper all on its own, with nothing fake or syrupy about it—a totally different drinking experience from the flavored vodka of old.
Infuse Spirits Vodka
Same deal with Infuse, which lives up to its name (see: the ingredients sitting in every bottle it produces). The brand, born in 2012, infuses its vodka with real fruit and spice, creating flavors for every season, including Grapefruit, Cinnamon Apple, Lemon, Peach, and my personal favorite, Mango Habanero. This is not the vodka you drank in college, folks. Infuse also has an interesting line of infused bitters, if you want to take your cocktail game to the next level.
Wild Roots Vodka
Wild Roots Spirits produces really fantastic vodkas with no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. You get the gist by now—real fruit infusions or bust. The Oregon brand boasts delightfully unique flavors like the sweet Marionberry, Huckleberry, Dark Sweet Cherry, Pear, and more, which are delicious and fruity enough that you’ll wish you could spread them on some toast along with your peanut butter.
Hanson of Sonoma Vodka
Fact: You aren’t making the best Bloody Mary possible unless you’re using Hanson of Sonoma’s habanero-infused vodka, which is spicy and smooth. But the brand’s infused organic vodka line also includes Espresso, Cucumber, Mandarin, Meyer Lemon, and seasonal Ginger and Boysenberry flavors for the summer, none of which should be missed either, quite frankly. There’s really something for everyone in this expansive line.
Belvedere Organic Infusions
If you’re looking for slightly more subtlety, Belvedere’s Organic Infusions lineup should do the trick. The three flavors available—Blackberry and Lemongrass, Lemon and Basil, and Pear and Ginger—are spirits infused with more rich, complex tasting notes, and pair beautifully, like wine, with both dinner and dessert.
Fine, Tanteo is not vodka. But its delicious tequila flavors—Jalapeño, Habanero, and Chipotle—are so expertly crafted and perfect for spicy summertime margaritas that they deserve an honorable mention. Each flavor, infused and bottled by hand in Jalisco, Mexico, packs a punch of real pepper flavor, bringing an almost surprising amount of smoke.
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