From the cellar: Flavored vodkas can be worth it - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

From the cellar: Flavored vodkas can be worth it

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Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 1:28 am | Updated: 9:33 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

I've heard all the scoffs and sneers surrounding flavored vodkas as "kids' stuff." They're "too sweet" and "not real spirits," whine the purists. Well, they're half-right.

I do like the new breed of flavored vodkas, but not the lower-end varieties. Many taste artificial and are made too sweet. However, the higher-end varieties from Hangar One, Charbay, Grey Goose and the like are pure magic, created by adding actual fruit to the distillation process vs. sweetened flavorings to plain vodka. For those willing to pay a few extra bucks, I think the higher-end infused varieties will continue to propel growth in the flavored vodkas category.

It does seem almost ridiculous to see every imaginable flavor available - vanilla, orange, lemon, lime, berry this, berry that - when you walk down the spirits aisle at the store. I remember when Absolut Citron was leading edge. I think it still is for its simplicity and eminent mixability. The cosmo craze was essentially built upon that base ingredient.

Anyhow, the flavored vodka craze marches on, while maturing and honing itself. As wacky flavors like banana, coconut and chocolate cater to 20-something drinkers, the higher-end brands appeal to those seeking quality over quantity. Venerable producer Grey Goose introduced, what at the time seemed odd, pear-flavored vodka. But the more I experiment and play with the elixir, the more I like it. Chill down one part pear with one part amaretto and white cranberry juice and you have what I've dubbed an Italian cosmo. Several interesting flavors come together to make one uncommon experience.

That's the other thing; the more you mix and experiment with flavored vodkas, the better chance you have for stumbling across a new and exciting cocktail. Books, blogs and newsletters have exploded around the martini craze. I spent some time mixing and matching and tasting and came up with a few new great cocktails. How does wasabi-infused vodka muddled ginger and a splash of sake sound? Wonderful for sushi lovers, but a bit intense otherwise. Here are a few flavorful (and more tame) recipes to shake up at home.

MARGATINI

1 ounce lime-flavored vodka

1 ounce orange-flavored vodka

1 ounce silver tequila

2 ounces lime juice

1 ounce orange juice

Lime wedges

Kosher or cooking salt

Preparation: Combine vodkas, tequila and juices into a shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Moisten rim of martini glass with lime wedge and dip into salt. Strain mix into glass and garnish with wedge of lime.

CALIFORNIA COSMO

1 ounce pomegranate vodka

1 ounce raspberry vodka

1/2 ounce orange liqueur such as Cointreau

1 ounce white cranberry juice

Fresh raspberries, skewered

Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with raspberry skewer.

ORANGE MILANO

1 ounce orange- or mandarin orange-flavored vodka

1 ounce dark chocolate liqueur, such as Godiva

1 ounce crème de cacao (white or dark)

2 ounces half and half

Cookie for garnish

Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and stir. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an Orange Milano cookie by Pepperidge Farm.

BLUEBERRY PIE

2 ounces blueberry-flavored vodka

1 ounce vanilla-flavored vodka

1/2 ounce amaretto

2 ounces white cranberry juice

Fresh blueberries, skewered

Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with blueberry skewer.

COFFEE CAKE MARTINI

2 ounces coffee- or espresso-flavored vodka

1/2 ounce cinnamon schnapps

1/2 ounce Irish cream liqueur

Cinnamon sticks for garnish

Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and stir (shaking will cause bubbles). Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Got a wine- and spirits-related question you'd like to see addressed in a column? Contact Mark at mknothaft@cox.net.

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