The well-known truth of vodka paying the bills for bars and clubs should be enough to convince spirits drinkers to take the category seriously. Still, that can be hard to do when vodka producers historically have had no qualms about flooding the market with flavored releases resembling PB&J and glazed donuts.
If it’s been a while since you strolled down the flavored aisle, however, you may be unaware of some welcome changes. Although the sweet, neon blue vodkas still line the shelves, they’re joined by modern additions bearing botanical words like “infusion” and “essence.” And in many cases, tasting what’s inside confirms the truth: There’s no need to fear flavored vodka.
Ideal for highballs and even reimagining some of the classics, here are seven of the best flavored vodkas, tasted and ranked.
7. Grey Goose Essences Strawberry & Lemongrass
The scent of strawberry hard candy that escapes from this expression recalls the sweet vodkas of yore. However, the similarities only partially continue on the palate, which is fruity but dry. An aromatic wave of citrus and floral notes pays tribute to lemongrass. Enjoy this in a highball with fresh fruit. Average price: $28.
6. Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear & Ginger
Pear unquestionably leads the nose in this infusion, but it’s the gentle suggestion of ginger that adds intrigue and makes you want to take a sip. The two flavors come together seamlessly on the palate, with the pear once again rising to prominence and a kick of fiery ginger closing things out. Average price: $35.
5. Cîroc Summer Citrus
While this vodka’s aromas share more in common with natural flavorings than real fruit, there’s a clear and surprising distinction between layers of different citrus essences. Each sip is noticeably sweet, and almost overly so, but the spirit soon settles down and finds a comfortable place of balance. Mix with sparkling water (or your favorite mixer) and a ton of ice on a balmy summer’s day. Average price: $31.
4. Deep Eddy Lime
The vibrancy and authenticity of this bottle’s flavors and aromas cause a double take, and raise the question: Is it vodka inside the glass or pure lime juice? A splash of booze on the finish reveals that it’s the former, but it’s only a brief distraction from the liquid’s enjoyable zesty profile. There’s enough sweetness to balance the bracing acidity, while not going so far as to feel artificial. Lime lovers: Prepare for a world of cocktail opportunities. Average price: $14.
3. Ketel One Oranje
Aromas of peel, pith, and concentrated juice align this bottle closer to triple sec than standard orange-flavored vodka. Just as those scents would have you reaching for Marg ingredients, the liquid arrives bone dry on the palate and crescendos with a burst of refreshing fruit. Put down the tequila and lime and enjoy this instead with soda or in a beefed-up Screwdriver. Average price: $20.
2. Wild Roots Peach Infused Vodka
Wild Roots offers an extensive line of infused vodkas, each serving concentrated fruit flavors. For our palate, peach proved to be the cream of the crop, with nuanced stone-fruit notes accented by light floral shades. There’s no questioning this vodka’s suitability for highballs but the real game changer arrives in mixing it in a Vesper, a move that’s guaranteed to win over even die-hard shaken-Martini skeptics. Average price: $21.
1. Hanson of Sonoma Meyer Lemon
This California vodka conjures gin without the juniper — which for us is a big selling point. The citrus aromas arrive with convincing complexity and depth. Prickly black pepper spice adds another layer of flavor, and elevates the palate to so much more than vodka with lemon flavor added. Enjoy in a dry Martini with a twist or in an upgraded Cosmopolitan. Average price: $28.