Herb Flavored Vodka

Those who know me may be a little surprised to see me actually saying something favorable about a vodka. To clarify, it’s not so much that vodka is evil incarnate or anything, but that the general publics over-facination with such a totally non-descript product doesn’t do my culinary sensibilities any good. The masses are attracted to vodka for two very specific reasons.

1) Their "young" palates haven’t yet acquired a taste for the other spirits (brandy, rum, gin, tequila, whiskey). The distince lack of significant flavor of vodka allows it to add alcoholic effects to any drink, without actually forcing them to encounter unexpected flavors.

2) They fall prey to marketing hype and/or peer pressure. Smirnoff Vodka made great inroads by getting James Bond to always order a vodka Martini and have that bottle of Smirnoff strategically located on-screen. Smirnoff has given way to Grey Goose, Belvedere, Chopin, Stoli Elite, or one of the various other brands out there, but in truth, when mixed as a cocktail, it really is hard to tell one from the other once you get into the premium brands.

Flavored vodka on the other hand starts moving things into slightly more interesting territory. And I’m not talking about the "citrus", "vanilla", "raspberry", or "green apple" flavors either. I’m instead refering to the flavored vodkas that might be introducing you to slightly unexpected flavors.

First there was Charbay and Hangar One which introduced people to not only distinctively fresh flavors, but sometimes slightly unique flavors as well, as in Hanar One’s "Mandarin Blossom", or Charbay’s "Green Tea". Gradually, the general public is getting the idea that their spirit can actually have flavor in it.

I was recently sent a sample of a new vodka coming to the market, "Herb’s Aromatic Vodka". This series of four different vodka relies on the flavors of Fennel, Dill Leaf, Rosemary, and Cilantro to provide both unique and subtle flavors to their vodkas. While any one of these can be used to simply make a vodka martini, and result in a more unique flavor experience than plain vodka ever could, I think the real value of these flavors is in tasking culinary bartenders/mixologists into coming up with drinks that specifically incorporate their flavors into new drinks as opposed to simply switching them in to already established cocktails.

On the Herb’s website they provide a few example cocktails:

  • Rosemary vodka, with cranberry juice and grapefruit juice.
  • Cilantro vodka, with lime juice.
  • Dill Leaf vodka, with creme de cassis and soda.
  • Fennel vodka with triple sec.

Which, while perhaps good "training wheels" to introduce folks to their new flavors, while retaining some semblence of other vodka drinks they might be familiar with, such attempts fall short of being representative of the potential.

As a personal challenge I took it on myself to attempt to build up a few simple cocktails which I felt played upon some of the specific flavor qualities presentd in these different vodkas, and perhaps also represent slightly new overall cocktail flavors for many.

Here they are, and as of yet unnamed:

Dill Leaf Cocktail

  • 2 oz. Herb’s Dill Leaf Vodka
  • 1 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

 

Rosemary Cocktail

  • 1 oz. Herb’s Rosemary Vodka
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 ounce brandy

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

 

Fennel Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 oz. Herb’s Fennel Vodka
  • 1 oz. Dubonnet
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

 

Cilantro Cocktail

  • 2 oz. Herb’s Cilantro Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. lemoncello
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

 

My sincere hope with these new vodkas, is that they allow people to take the next step in cocktail appreciation, which revolves around truly undestanding and appreciating the culinary potential of the cocktail, and to discover how a drink which is artfully designed to draw together several different flavors can be far better then "yet another" Lemon Drop.

To me, vodka is till just vodka. It is the "entry level" spirit that can provide new drinkers with the introduction to what cocktails are all about. Vodka does represent craftsmanship and art in it’s distillation, and plain vodka does have a place in the cocktail landscape, just not a very big one. Flavored vodkas can raise the steaks a little further, by providing the mixologist (and the customer) with an ingredient that has more value then just the cleanliness of the alcohol. Herb’s Aromatic Vodka represents what I think is the next step in this flavor journey, and is worth spending some time with. After all, gin is really nothing more than a flavored vodka anyway.

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2 Responses to “Herb Flavored Vodka”

  1. Jeannine Says:

    Wow, they really did use herbs!  I think Dill is by far my least favorite herb, and sadly, that is one that they used :-(
     
    I am sure that you have great knowlege on other flavored vodkas, so I will ask you this:  Have you been able to find/use floral flavored vodkas such as lavendar or rose?  I have seen recipes using them, but have yet to find them in the stores.  I am interested if they are really worth the hype! :-)

  2. Robert Says:

    No vodka is worth the hype in my mind. :->
     
    If you are wanting a lavendar or rose flavor in a drink, instead of using a flavored vodka, I\’d prefer using either a flavored syrup, a tincture (a herb or spice which is soaked in small amount of vodka/alcohol to create a concentrated flavor), or in the case of something like rose, just "rosewater". I have some rosewater in a atomizer at home that I sometimes will spray a glass with before pouring a drink in. This will add a wonderful hint of rose to the drink. Or you can even mist the drink after it is poured, will will add more of an aroma of mist, and just a slight flavor, since it is sitting on the top of the drink instead of being incorporated into it.

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