Buzz and Marnie have clear views on flavored vodkas

Posted: February 28, 2014

 B  UZZ: Hey, Marnie, I saw this TV ad with Amber Rose drinking whipped-cream vodka. How do you make vodka out of whipped cream?

Marnie: That's easy, Buzz - you don't. What you're thinking of is flavored vodka, where a neutral base spirit gets dolled up with fancy flavors. Advertising can blur the lines of what's an ingredient and what's an added "flavor."

Buzz: And have you seen that "wedding cake" vodka? Is wedding cake even a flavor? Heck, my wedding cake was made out of beef jerky.

Marnie: Strictly speaking it isn't, since cakes come in their own range of flavors. But selling spirits is all about positive associations, so it sounds more decadent to offer cake, marshmallow or whipped cream rather than just vanilla.

Buzz: How did we get this stuff?

Marnie: Flavored vodkas started out with fruit flavors, but they were so successful, the brands began pushing the envelope into new territory, like dessert and candy flavors. There are more savory flavors, too, like pepper or bacon, but the clear preference seems to be for sweet-tooth flavors.

Buzz: So they just mix the potatoes with candy.

Marnie: Not quite, Buzz. Let's back up for a second. Most vodka is not made from potatoes; that's a bit of an urban legend. Most vodka is made from grains, like wheat, barley or corn. Essentially, it starts out as a crude beer that is then refined through distillation.

This process concentrates the alcohol and strips away impurities to leave a very neutral-tasting spirit. Standard vodka was bottled and sold this way for hundreds of years before modern flavored vodkas emerged in the late 20th century.

Some of these are "infused," meaning that the vodka is steeped with fruits or spices to add their flavor, but most are flavored with the addition of extracts or syrups that may contain artificial flavorings.

Buzz: Fake flavors added, huh? Surprise, surprise.

Marnie: Usually, but not always. Some vodkas are actually made from a fruit/wine base instead of a grain/beer base, such as Ciroc, but this often increases the price. Personally, I prefer a solid grain-based spirit and adding my own flavors when I mix a drink.

Buzz: Me, too. Especially when the flavors are an olive and a splash of dry vermouth.


Marnie Old is a local sommelier and

wine author. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.

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