For good reason, this crisp, clean spirit is the most-consumed spirit in the world. This year, the lineup of new vodkas includes a pair of Pacific Northwest newcomers and a handful of refreshing flavored vodkas with plenty of fruity and citrusy appeal, including one from Sean “Diddy” Combs-owned luxury brand Cîroc.
Vodka remains a blank canvas that welcomes all kinds of innovation. That statement might apply to interesting cocktails built on vodka’s relatively neutral base, but it also applies to vodka itself. The spirit has long been distilled from a wide range of raw materials. Among the bottles outlined below are ones based on corn and other grains as well as local apples.
But how often do you see a vodka made from breadfruit? Take a closer look at Mutiny Island, hailing from St. Croix, one of the places where the starchy “tropical potato” grows. (The fruit is grown in some 90 countries in total throughout South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa.) Or how about a vodka that’s not made from any grain, fruit or other raw material beyond carbon dioxide and water (Air Co)?
Producers are getting more creative with every passing year. And just think, all we as drinkers have to do is open up a bottle and pour.
Air Co ($65)
Brooklyn company Air Co makes what it’s billing as “the world’s first carbon-negative vodka” from only two ingredients, carbon dioxide and water, using a system that runs on renewable electricity. That’s right—no grains, no yeast. Air Co claims not to be a distillery. Rather, it says, it’s a “technology and lifestyle company” that plans to make a wide range of products utilizing carbon dioxide, possibly in the perfume or pharmaceutical categories. Note: The vodka, rolled out in November 2019, is currently available for purchase only at a handful of liquor stores in New York City.
CÎROC White Grape ($34)
The latest addition to the French vodka brand co-owned by Sean “Diddy” Combs and Diageo, this limited-edition flavored vodka, released in October 2019, is packaged in a gift-minded golden canister and offers hints of tropical fruit, citrus and juicy honeydew. The brand suggests mixing it with sparkling wine and crème de cassis for a variation on a Kir Royale.
Clear Creek ($36)
The first addition to the Oregon craft distillery’s portfolio in nearly a decade, this vodka is made from Pacific Northwest apples and cut with glacier-fed spring water from Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. To be specific, the vodka is made from 14 different varietals of non-GMO apples grown in Hood River and Yakima Valley orchards, part of the producer’s efforts to support local agriculture. “Consumers are increasingly concerned about where their drinks come from, not just their food,” says Jeanine Racht, Clear Creek’s development and marketing manager.
EFFEN Rosé and Yuzu Citrus ($22 each)
Two new flavors have been added to Effen’s lineup: Yuzu Citrus nods to Japanese-inspired roots, while Rosé is a spin on the popular blush-colored wine. Both expressions are part of the vodka brand’s “Different by Design” marketing campaign, which the producer says “encourages fans to enjoy cocktails that are as unique as they are.” The Yuzu Citrus bottling has a citrusy-sweet flavor profile that channels lemon and grapefruit; the producer suggests pairing it with grapefruit soda. Meanwhile, the rosé-flavored vodka is fruity and floral, with an appropriately pale pink color; the producer suggests mixing it with soda or sparkling wine.
Another new Oregon vodka, this one is made in Portland and launched in October 2019. The corn-based spirit is filtered six times, with the last filtration through Pacific Northwest timber. Each bottle bears the signature of company founder Jason Dyke, a spirits industry veteran whose career has included tenures at Diageo, Constellation, Bacardi and, most recently, Hood River Distillers.
Mutiny Island ($25)
This vodka is distilled from breadfruit, which grows on several Caribbean islands including St. Croix, where this is the inaugural spirit distilled and bottled at Sion Farm Distillery. It was developed by Todd Manley, who formerly was a chef at multiple Virginia restaurants and is now executive chef and partner at several restaurants on St. Croix. According to the producer, breadfruit can be considered a “tropical potato” thanks to its potato-like texture and is related to exotic fruits including figs and mulberries.
Smugglers’ Notch Moroccan Rose & Grapefruit Flavored ($29)
Released in summer 2019, this exotic flavored vodka from Vermont craft distiller Smugglers’ Notch is made with no artificial flavors, sweeteners or sugar. It’s a refreshing addition to the lineup, laced with plenty of bright citrusy appeal on the nose and palate, and just right for mixing with tonic or soda water on sultry summer days.