Richard Ehrlich's beverage report: From Russia with lime

If you think flavoured vodkas are kids' stuff, you should think again

FLAVOURED VODKAS are sitting ducks for ridicule. You only need to hear some of the flavours - Mars Bar, coffee, vanilla - to sniff with disdain. "Kid's stuff", you think. "Fodder for fools seeking instant inebriation." It all sounds rather like alcopops by another name.

There's ample support for that view in a recent article by William Grimes in the New York Times: "Flavoured Vodka: A Revolution the Romanovs Missed." Grimes points out that "while the world was preoccupied with Dolly the sheep, a team of scientists quietly introduced ban-ana flavour into vodka." Their success, he suggests, "poses the same moral question as human cloning: just because scientists can do it, must they?"

It's a good question, but they've done it whether you like it or not. Flavoured vodka has been a growing market for some time now: the New York Times quotes 1996 figures for the USA of 650,000 cases, that's around 5 per cent of total vodka sales and an increase over 1995 of 8 per cent. Much of the impetus seems to have come from Stolichnaya's launch of vodkas flavoured with the likes of raspberry, strawberry, peach, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee. The company hasn't brought them over here yet, though they plan to at some point. In the meantime, you can read about them at the company's breezily enjoyable website: www.stoli.com.

In Manhattan, cocktails made with the stuff seem to be all the rage. The Billy Holiday cocktail served at the Time Cafe in Greenwich Village is five parts Stolichnaya orange, three parts blue Curacao, and one part each of pineapple juice, cranberry juice and lime juice, shaken and strained and served with a twist. And here's the surprise: William Grimes actually says it's good. He doesn't always approve. The ultra-swanky Le Cirque 2000 makes a house martini with peach vodka, blue Curacao, lime juice and Cointreau whose taste he locates somewhere between "a slice of peach pie and a fresh stick of Juicyfruit."

Tempting though it is to condemn flavoured vodkas as a marketeer's hook for novelty-crazed yuppies, some of them are, in fact, pretty good. What's more, the drinks have been with us almost since vodka itself was invented. Nicholas Faith and Ian Wisniewski, in Classic Vodka (Prion, pounds 9.99), point out that there are actually fewer varieties today than were in the 18th and 19th centuries.

They're certainly a part of the UK drinking scene - and a part that appears to be growing. I couldn't get any reliable sales figures for the increase, but anecdotal indicators suggest the growth rate compares with that in the US. Kamy Sheikh, who sells flavoured vodkas to wholesalers, restaurants, bars and off-licenses, says that he's selling 1,000 times more than he sold five years ago. At the popular Dogstar bar in Brixton, according to manager Matthew West, they sell twice as many flavoured vodkas as they sold a year ago - though that may have something to do with the bargain- basement price of pounds 2.80 for a double.

Flavoured vodkas are best known here in their Absolut incarnation: the Swedish troika of Peppar, Kurrant and Citron. I have tried hard to love these incredibly successful drinks, but without success. I've made Bloody Marys from the Peppar, as the company would have us do, and have always found raw pepper and raw vodka burning my throat. I've drunk cocktails made with Kurrant by great barmen and not got much further. Only the Citron variety has the ability to make me want to proceed past a second sip.

Not all London bartenders like flavoured vodkas. Grant Collinson, of Bank (London WC2), says that their selection of flavoured vodkas stops at Absolut Citron and Kurrant - "and there isn't that much demand for those." The even cooler Alphabet Bar sells nothing at all beyond the Absolut range. There's no demand, no freezer space, and no interest.

But there is more to flavoured vodkas than the Absolut range, and better uses for them than wild and wacky cocktails.

Next week: I survey some of the alternatives. And I hold on to lunch while doing so.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss