The St. Petersburg restaurant and vodka bar in Robbinsdale, MN carries more than 200 vodkas.

The Sub Zero Bar in St. Louis, MO carries over 350 different vodkas. Why? The vodka is extensive beyond what the average person realizes. Vodka is number one selling white liquor in America as well as many other countries. Besides there being so many vodka distilleries all over the world, a good many of them offer more than one variety. The infusion of flavor into vodka has appealed to all markets and most all vodka companies are attempting to find their own niche in the vodka world. What is known about Vodka? What does the average vodka drinker know about the spirit that he or she regularly consumes? I would consider myself a vodka drinker. I know what brands I prefer to drink and what I like to mix with my vodka, but I can’t say I know too much about the history or evolution of the drink I enjoy so much. I know that the Russians love the stuff and they like to drink it straight, but from those beginnings how did vodka end up being in a blueberry martini in a trendy uptown lounge? The variety available seems endless when it comes to vodka these days. Not only are there so many brands to choose from, but the flavor varieties that each brand offers could make a visit to the liquor store exhausting. While total vodka sales slowed to 1 percent growth last year, flavored vodkas grew by 16 percent. The challenge of making the next great flavored vodka seems to be more than a mere trend these days and I’m sure the distilleries selling these vodkas would agree. People are stepping outside of the box to come up with something good, maybe strange and different, but good nonetheless. From its birth across seas to it becoming America’s top selling spirit, vodka has a unique history. It all started in Eastern Europe. Whether it was Russia or Poland is still up for debate. What is known, though, is that when the area’s royalty began converting to Christianity, communion wine was sent their way. It was enjoyed, but supplies did not last long because the wine was being imported. They soon began attempts at making their own version of a spirited drink. Vodka came about as grapes were not a common item in that territory. Grain was predominant in the area and it was fermentable. Other items used were corn, rye, wheat, and the potato, of course. Because water freezes at a higher temperature than alcohol, the Eastern Europeans were able to separate the alcohol by freezing fermented liquid during the winter months. This was the application of the distillation process, which was referred to as “burning of wine”. As a result, they were left with a drink with a higher strength than that produced by fermentation alone. This was the earliest method of producing stronger spirit. The final product was an un-aged neutral spirit with no distinctive color, smell, or taste. These characteristics, or really lack of, is where the name vodka comes from as it translates in Slavic languages as meaning “water”. The name was also given in part to the fact that vodka straight out of distillation had very high levels of ethanol and was cut with water before it was deemed finished and ready for consumption. Early vodka was also used for medicinal purposes, though majority was made for drinking. It remained the area’s predominant alcohol choice as vodka did not freeze in the colder winter season of Europe, where beers and wines would.

Lemon-flavored Vodka. cloves. Before the proper means of transportation and communication. The spirit did not become too popular. and stayed alive mainly in the European populated sections of America’s large cities. local spices. were quite common in the Eastern European region. but not perfected. was a part from the beginning. usually with a touch of sugar added. coffee. Americans had not actually known anything of vodka until the turn of the 20th century. straight vodka was the predominant variety. Vodka made its American introduction by way of European immigrants and returning American soldiers from the turmoil of World War I.Vodka flavored with an infusion of dried lemon and orange peels. an aromatic grass favored by the herds of the rare European bison. vodkas that started make their way around Europe. His company had purchased the Smirnoff . In the 16th century when vodka was beginning to be mass produced. His name was John Martin. and flavors were added. Good thing that didn’t take. Vodkas of this kind were made primarily by home distilleries and local taverns. Though there were these special recipes. The idea of mass produced flavored vodkas would remain untapped for many years. • Pertsovka -Pepper-flavored Vodka. lemon peel. The Russian Royalty was known to have pepper vodka it would serve at social events. Eastern European immigrants brought to America the knowledge of know how of making vodka as did the German immigrants with their beer. Also contradictory to vodka becoming one of America’s top spirits was prohibition. it was only the clear. actually. The extent of flavored vodkas didn’t go beyond small scale though. As years turned. • Zubrovka -Vodka flavored with buffalo (or more properly "bison") grass. small towns across America had their own brewery with their own special beer recipes. It is then blended with sugar and a touch of a wine similar to white port. Honey was also a common flavor to find in home-made vodkas. It really wasn’t until after Americans were introduced to the spirit. vodka slowly started spreading east of west of its homeland. anise and other herbs and spices.What I found so interesting in my research was that flavoring of vodka was nothing new. The explosion of vodka on the American market can be credited to a man from South Carolina. The traditional flavor variety: • Kubanskaya . gaining recognition across the rest of the European nations and also into the Middle East region. or unflavored. but quite the contrary. made with both black peppercorns and red chili peppers. These vodkas were for the most part. clear. The process of distilling vodka had been discovered. though. • Okhotnichya -"Hunter’s" Vodka is flavored with a mix of ginger. The history is reminiscent of American beer. To remedy this. Martin was an executive for a food and spirit distribution company on the east coast. but known only in the Russian and Polish markets. Soldiers returning from war were bringing home bottles of this new alcohol unlike any other they had tasted. herbs. • Limonnaya . that the flavored vodka available at your local liquor store came to be. The early vodkas had the alcohol content. There were a number of flavored vodka types. but did not taste all that great.

That’s their story anyway.S. Gold vodka was vodka aged ten years in oak casks. Sales did not soar at first as American found vodka to be too strong. The new beverage. had its own copper mug for it to be served in. The pot-still method produces vodka with more residual flavor left over from the base ingredients. but pot stills can create intense. ginger beer. but flavored vodka was still something of an eastern European custom. The Phillips distilling company sold a line of cherry and lime vodkas in the late 1950’s. rye. vodka became the new platform for many of the most popular cocktails known including the bloody mary. but did not promote it well perhaps. The Absolut Company is a Swiss company that first started importing into the U. Vodka got a big break though. The company had to think of a way to top its competitors with a product that seemed undifferentiated for the most part. but Absolut strived continued to pursue being the best. He positioned Smirnoff as “white whiskey”. sugarcane or anything else that yields starch. or flavors extracted from fresh ingredients. Absolut introduced the world’s first flavored vodka on a commercial scale. their reach was more confined to the Midwest states region. besides the great name (sarcasm). From that time on. martini.a mixture of vodka. The base alcohol can be made from wheat. in 1979. but it apparently was. Over the next fifty years or so. and white Russian. Distillers add either purchased flavorings. Three Olives. The differences among flavored vodkas go deeper flavor though. the imagination and creativity in flavors made cocktails the newest drink sensation. The column still produces cleaner. It became one the country’s leading brands in vodka in a short time due to a heavy marketing campaign. corn. saturated fruit flavor. cosmopolitan. distilled in an old-fashioned pot still or a column still. Absolut Peppar. It attempted to break new ground and new markets by introducing an old. The list goes on. It was actually the Absolut vodka company that first introduced the concept of commercially produced flavored vodka. Absolut Limon shortly followed and sales of Absolut products soared. It's harder to maintain consistency among batches with this process. and lime. every liquor store and bar stocked up on vodka. The first vodka drink was called the Moscow mule. They had the right idea.Company in 1939 as the great depression did not boast well for the former owners. where as Absolut was internationally known and now carries over a dozen flavor varieties of its vodka sold worldwide. . made with real fruit oils. potatoes. essences or synthetic blends. served over ice. Pepper vodka was their choice because the most popular drink in America at the time was the bloody mary. Smirnoff came back with gold vodka that was received a little bit better. I would not have thought pepper to be the flavor deemed worthy of being first of its kind. after marketing the spirit as the newest cocktail base. Popularity grew greatly in a short time. In 1986. Each distiller has a slightly different production method. but new type of vodka to American drinkers. Almost all of the top vodka companies in the world have a diverse product line that includes a number of different flavors including Smirnoff. Stolichnaya. but it did not have a reach and impact that Absolut had. and Grey Goose. more neutral-tasting vodka with less flavor variation from bottle to bottle. At one point it was the most popular drink in the country. From there.

Another example is the Firefly Vodka Company. raspberry. overtaken clear vodka for dominance. obviously • Three Olives. for now. there were 115 different flavored vodkas on the market. With the variety of flavors now available. a drinker wants something a little more different and unique. so it must cross over to spirits as well.Whipped Cream and Cotton Candy Vodka • Desiree Co. orange. Consumers these days are looking for a drink that is not known and available to all. Today. Root Beer. Not only that. there are over 200.. Whether it is simply a trend or a now major market in spirits. Female consumers in particular tend to like martinis and cocktails with exciting flavors and garnishes.S.or wont it. The French company Pinnacle has quietly surpassed them though with 26 variants of their vodka. Some vodka companies only sell flavored vodkas and some produce only one specialty vodka product. pineapple. They claimed on their website to have the largest line of flavored vodka available with 21 varieties. Their flavors include banana. especially in recent years. but how long will it hold up? At some point. their flavored vodkas sell more than their clear vodka.bacon infused vodka. though the bulk of flavor variety in vodka is not the only platform for flavor. but even those flavors seems outdated with all the new products continuously coming out.Butterscotch vodka • Rain Organic Vodka Co.Lavender Lemonade Vodka • Sputnik Vodka Co.. and vanilla. according to an Adams Beverage Group research report. • Bakon Vodka Co. Some examples of imaginative vodka trends that go even further outside of the box. These consumers are more open-minded in drink decisions and more likely to be adventuresome in trying something different and new. a consumer may feel better in some way by ordering or making drinks that are more original. how do you choose one? What do most people enjoy? The best-selling flavors in the U.. but females are becoming a much larger demographic in recent years. The average bar frequenter and consumer is under 35. Founded in South Carolina. so many options and varieties for almost everything in life.Cupcake Flavored Vodka . Just like craft beer. The company started in 2001 with a mission of making the most and best flavored vodkas on the market. It is a continuously growing market. the flavor spectrum would just be exhausted…. Fruit.. flavored vodka has.Pumpkin Pie Vodka • Pinnacle Co. Not until 2009 did they add clear vodka to their product line. The Van Gogh Vodka Company is a prime example of the new culture of vodka. With so many flavors. and Dutch chocolate. Dutch caramel. So how is it that flavored vodka has become such a staple for cocktails in recent years? Just look at who the consumers are buying these products. As of 2005.Rose flavored vodka • Modern Spirits Co. It would be safe to assume that every American drinker has experienced a cocktail of some kind with one of those type vodkas. Triple Shot Espresso flavors • Pinnacle and Iganoff Vodka Co. Recent generations have grown up with an abundance of choice.Bubble Gum.. they were the first to produce vodka using muscadine grapes and later released the now so well-known sweet tea vodka.For some companies. market are lemon.

. but they are out there to try. and vodkas in general.Cola Vodka Alaska Distillery. Makes sense though: a company has 20 different vodkas and can’t decide where to go next…. extra ingredients were enhancing the enjoyment of vodka for consumers. So what will be the next big vodka trends: newer. but also whether you might try one of its many flavored infused varieties. “paint with flavor”. but rather a new norm for the vodka culture. there is a cocktail you have not yet tasted or even been aware of. What keeps these flavored vodkas. Vodka has become a blank canvas in which distillers. Today there is just an abundance of variety and choice. in a way. bolder flavors or higher end flavored vodkas? One of the newer trends seems to be the mixing or combination of flavors. The vodka cocktail recipe catalog is thickening by the day as more and more flavor infused vodkas are being created and sold.Smoked Salmon Vodka These varieties won’t necessarily be the next thing for vodka. The ingredient combinations are seemingly endless at this point and provides opportunities to try new drink concoctions consistently and experiment with making cocktails more unique and personal to bar customers and vodka drinkers……just mix some of them together.• • 360 Vodka. Even from its start. not only to choose which brand you might like to drink. fresh is that everywhere you go. It is not a short lived trend.

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