The Frenzy Flourishes
When I first began to dabble in the world of spirits as a teenager (the legal drinking age then was 18 years old), I found myself instantly drawn to vodka. Back then I suppose the appeal of vodka was its lack of real flavor and the fact that it blended easily with any fruit-juice-based beverage (even snowballs and Orangina) to create a sweet, Kool-Aid-like concoction that went down smoothly.
Then, in college I discovered the art (okay, maybe it’s not an art form, but it does take some skill) of successfully spiking a watermelon with vodka, and I was smitten. I loved the way the flesh of the fruit tasted after it had been macerating in the chilled spirit for hours. Sipping the delicately flavored, fruit-infused liquid that lined the melon was pure bliss. A flavored vodka junkie was born. I found a hinge-topped glass jar with a spout at the bottom and started soaking away. Virtually no fruit was safe! Who knew that in my tiny apartment in the middle da Parish, I would become such a libation trendsetter?
Unfortunately, Absolut Vodka beat me to the punch when in the mid-1980’s they introduced their peppered vodka, Absolut Peppar, followed closely by Citron. And thus, the shotgun was fired, and the race to the flavored vodka finish line began. Stolichnaya, Grey Goose, Ketel One, Skyy, Van Gogh, Three Olives, Seagram’s, Smirnoff–they all began searching for the next great vodka flavor.
Today, practically every fruit is represented by some brand of vodka, including currant, black, pineapple, mango, banana, cherry, blueberry, citrus, watermelon, pomegranate, mandarin orange, raspberry, lime, grapefruit, peach, pear, green apple, strawberry, and cranberry. Other flavors include chocolate, espresso, vanilla, coconut, pepper, and cinnamon. And while Americans tend to favor vodkas flavored with more common fruit, other countries opt for distinctly unique blends, including bison grass (which is believed to be an aphrodisiac… personally, I’ll stick with oysters!) in Poland and honey and pepper in the Ukraine and in Russia.
So, the question now is what does one do with these flavored vodkas? While many of these vodkas can be enjoyed simply over ice, others’ delicate flavors are best when blended with fruit juices, sodas, or other mixers. Some creative chefs even use them in the kitchen, especially for marinating. The spicy, pepper laced vodkas are great for Bloody Mary’s and ceviche.
Since an incredible selection of top-quality flavored vodkas are readily available today, few bars and restaurants make their own any more. Vega Tapas Café, the hip tapas restaurant located on Metairie Road, regularly offers two or three different flavored vodkas which they macerate themselves. Featured offerings change periodically, but recent flavors have included orange, pineapple, and olive. Expert mixologists around town have been experimenting with flavored vodkas for years and have created numerous unique and delicious libations, so there is sure to be one out there for each of us, even an old-school infuser from da Parish.
Stoli Blueberi Mojito
4 mint leaves
.5 oz simple syrup
2 oz Stoli Blueberi
2 oz lemon-lime soda
Mint sprig for garnish
Muddle blueberries, mint leaves and simple syrup;
add Stoli, ice and top with lemon-lime soda; garnish
with mint sprig
Stoli Vanil Cosmo
3 parts Stoli Vanil
1 part Hiram Walker Triple Sec
1 parts cranberry
Splash of lime juice
Shake with ice, strain into martini glass, garnish with
Absolut St. Charles
In a Collins glass add:
2 oz Absolut New Orleans
Muddle fresh mango, lemon and mint
1 oz simple syrup
Add fresh 100% mango juice and Iced Tea.
Garnish with mint, mango and black pepper
Absolut S. Peters
Muddle fresh mango, orange and lemon
4 oz Asolut New Orleans
2 oz Triple Sec
1 oz sour mix
Shake and garnish with lemon and orange in all tall glass
Great places to enjoy cocktails featuring flavored vodka
The Bombay Club, 830 Conti St.
The ultimate martini bar in New Orleans, the Bombay Club offers an impressive collection of flavored vodkas and serves up several signature cocktails including the Twister (Absolut Citron with a splash of orange and cranberry juice and a butterfly garnish) and the Cajun King Martini (Absolut Peppar and Citron with dry vermouth and spiced Tabasco olives).
Vega Tapas Café, 2052 Metairie Rd.
Stylish and energetic, this Mediterranean-influenced, small-plate restaurant in Old Metairie infuses its own vodka flavors which change regularly. Current selections include house-made olive vodka, which makes the perfect classic martini. Or try a tasty Cosmopolitan made with Vega’s orange-infused vodka.
Chops Bistro & Martini Bar, 111 Veterans Blvd.
The traditional-style steak house boasts an extensive martini list including several choices made from flavored vodkas including their delicious Loyola Lemon Drop which is Chop’s version of the famous shot served martini style, made with citrus vodka and Cointreau. For those with a sweet tooth, check out the Claiborne Chocolate Raspberrytini, raspberry vodka and Godiva Chocolate Liquor served in a chilled martini glass with a chocolate and raspberry swirl.
Swizzle Stick Bar, 300 Poydras St.
Spacious and comfortable, the Swizzle Stick Bar, which is run by the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants, is located in the chic Lowes Hotel. They offer several unique flavored vodka brands including one used to create a specialty cocktail named BellaDonna, which is made with Charbay Blood Orange Vodka, orange liqueur, sour mix, lime juice, and a splash of cranberry.