Food & Drink

Flavored Vodkas You Should Include For Your Next Happy Hour

Trying a new flavored vodka is always risky. While there’s a chance it will deliver on the flavor it promises, more often than not it disappoints -- dramatically. Often excessively sweet and artificial tasting, flavored vodka has lost some of its driving appeal thanks to the increase of health-focused beverages like spiked seltzer and low ABV beers (though Tito's plain Vodka remains a top player in the U.S.).

The vodka brands that go for shock value when creating new vodka flavors, tapping into the most unexpected foods and things they possibly can -- from smoked salmon to PB&J to fresh cut grass -- may inspire chatter and garner attention, but that certainly doesn't guarantee a quality product.

Other distillers, however, are going full craft; sourcing the freshest ingredients they can find and infusing them into a thoughtful spirit. From the hot and spicy to the fruity and herbal, we tracked down brands producing truly impressive flavored vodkas. You don't have to worry about a cloyingly sweet marshmallow-flavored vodka here (though, okay, there is one chocolate one and we promise it's divine).

Here are 13 of our favorite flavored vodkas:

St. George California Citrus Vodka ($29)

Combining Valencia oranges, Seville oranges, and bergamot -- all grown in California -- this citrusy vodka is somewhat reminiscent of earl grey tea. Instead of leaning on the fruits’ sweeter flavors, it comes out with a slightly bitter touch of citrus rind, as well as twinges of tart and herbaceous notes -- all while remaining plenty juicy.

Grey Goose Le Poire ($30)

There’s nothing quite like biting into a ripe and plump pear. And while this vodka may not be a perfect recreation of the scrumptious fruit, it’s certainly not a bad substitute. In keeping with Grey Goose’s French heritage, the leading flavoring in the vodka is D’Anjou pear. Try it in a mild take on an Apple Martini (topped with a sprinkling of fresh-cracked pepper), or simply pair it with some soda and a slice of lemon.

Crop Organic Meyer Lemon ($25)

While many citrus vodkas have an astringent quality and can come off smelling like cleaning products, this Meyer lemon-infused elixir manages to avoid that unfortunate fate. Crop Organic doesn’t filter its vodkas, so none of the sweet and tart flavors of the lemon are stripped away. It has a slightly oily mouthfeel, and would make a great addition to any vodka cocktail that could use a touch of bright lemon.

Northern Latitudes Horseradish Vodka ($30)

Don’t be taken aback by this vodka’s opaque color; it’s really just an indication of how much funky horseradish flavor is packed into the bottle. Made by Northern Latitudes Distillery in Michigan, it starts out with a smack of spice and then dissipates into a slightly sweeter flavor more akin to a salad radish. This horseradish vodka lends itself almost too well to a Bloody Mary, but we'd also try it in an extra spicy ginger-laced Moscow Mule.

360 Double Chocolate Vodka ($14)

If this ultra-chocolaty vodka is wrong, we don’t want to be right. The least expensive bottle on our list, this decadent sipper from 360 Vodka might seem like just another way to lure in an unsuspecting drinker with a sweet tooth -- but it’s so much more. Upon first sip, you’ll have the sensation of biting into a fudgy brownie -- one that’s not too sickly sweet. It may not be an every day flavored vodka, but it will add a velvety touch to a White Russian or give your cup of Joe a mocha twist.

Durham Cold Distilled Cucumber Vodka ($28)

Simple and crisp: those are the hallmarks of a good cucumber vodka, and the bottling from North Carolina’s Durham Distillery has them spades. There is a freshness in Durham’s work, which, if you could somehow forget for a moment that you’re drinking an 80 proof alcohol for a moment, would transport you to a high end spa. We think it makes a Vodka Gimlet that much better.

 

Dr. Stoner’s Fresh Herb Vodka ($30)

Yes, we admit that this vodka does look and sound a little bit like something they sell in nips at the checkout aisle of one of the West Coast’s many new legal weed dispensaries. But this psychedelic little bottle might be one of the most welcome surprises to hit the flavored vodka market in quite some time. It tastes sweet, but still woodsy, with flavors of pine, basil, and coriander. It makes a simple Vodka Soda explode with flavor. (And, no, there’s no actual marijuana in it.)

Boardroom Spirits Fresh Ginger ($27)

If Moscow Mules are your jam, you’ll want to add a bottle of this vodka to your collection. Infused with fresh ginger root without any artificial sweeteners, it tastes remarkably like candied ginger. It also leaves a nice bit of heat on the palate, thanks to a touch of ginger spice and a hefty 50-percent ABV.

Hanson of Sonoma Habanero ($40)

Ever tried infusing your own liquor with hot peppers? You know how quickly the experiment can turn deadly for your taste buds. Thankfully, this limited-edition habanero vodka -- which is infused with organic habanero peppers --doesn’t overdo it on the spice. Habanero's signature tangy, spicy, and sweet flavor shines through. While it would naturally be delicious in a Bloody Mary, it would also give your Gimlet or Vodka Tonic a bit of excitement.

St. George Green Chile Vodka ($29)

The first thing you might notice about this peppery vodka is its color is a little... different. And -- we promise -- that’s how it’s supposed to look. The green tint is thanks to all of the spicy goodness that goes into it, including jalapeño, serrano, and habanero peppers, as well as sweeter red and yellow bell peppers. St. George also infuses the vodka with cilantro and lime to round out the flavor; the spicy aroma tickles the inside of your nose without being uncomfortably hot. The same is true of the flavor, which is piquant but has plenty of acidity and freshness from the cilantro. Some may call it blasphemy, but we suspect this would be a welcome addition to a Margarita or Paloma.

Square One Basil ($35)

There aren’t many herb-flavored vodkas on the market, and that may be because the plants -- and their flavors -- are so delicate. But if Square One Basil is any indication of how darn good herbal vodka can be, we can only hope this turns into a trend. It’s infused with Genovese, Thai, lemon, and sweet basils, as well as coriander, honeysuckle, and lemongrass. The result tastes just like a fresh basil leaf smells, with a mild licorice tang. We’re ready for a summer full of Basil Martinis.

Square One Bergamot ($35)

Like we’ve mentioned before, citrus is not an easy flavor to master in vodka. But if you’re going to have a citrus vodka on your bar cart, this vodka -- another selection from Square One -- is the one to buy. Though $35 might seem like a hefty price tag for a flavored vodka, this bergamot orange-infused spirit delivers on flavor and also includes complementary infusions of ginger, coriander, and earthy juniper. It not only tastes like there’s fresh juice in this organic vodka, but it also retains some of the tannic and slightly bitter flavors you’d get while eating a fresh orange.

Heritage D’s Seasoned Vodka ($28)

This pungent and potent vodka puts the might sound a bit off the beaten path -- thanks to the infusion of rosemary, thyme, and roasted garlic -- but trust us when we say you're going to want a taste. Upon initial sip, you'll get the brightness of a sun-dried tomato, followed by smoky, salty, and herbaceous notes. It’s not the most versatile bottle on this list, but an incredible base for a Bloody Mary.

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Anna Archibald is a Thrillist contributor.