Although vodka is primarily known for its pure, neutral taste, the spirit also acts as a great carrier for flavour. In the early days of vodka production, flavourings were primarily added to disguise the harsh taste of these roughly distilled spirits or for medicinal purposes.
Eastern European countries share a centuries-long tradition of flavouring vodkas with spices and honey, while Nordic countries favoured herbs and fruit.
Fast-forward to modern times and the first mass-market flavoured vodka was Absolut Peppar, launched in 1986. Other distillers were quick to produce their own flavoured variants – in a seemingly endless array. Smirnoff alone produces over 30 different flavours.
Many of these flavoured vodkas are consumed as shots, but they’re also a great option for mixing up easy, thirst-quenching long drinks: just pair 50ml of your favourite flavour with lemonade or tonic.
Flavoured vodkas can also be used to enhance a range of cocktails. The original Absolut Peppar works brilliantly in a Bloody Mary for example. While vanilla vodkas, such as Grey Goose La Vanille, make a creamier twist on an Espresso Martini.
However you choose to enjoy them, the selection of bottles below will give you plenty of drinking inspiration…
Flavoured vodka: 8 to try
Launched in 1988, Citron was the second flavoured vodka from iconic Swedish label Absolut and has since become its biggest seller. Its fame was assured when it became the vodka of choice for the Cosmopolitan cocktail, which flew off bars in London and New York in the 1990s thanks to TV show Sex and the City. With a base of Swedish winter wheat, the palate is smooth and creamy with ripe Amalfi lemon and lemon zest flavours and a spicy, lemon tart finish. Clean and crisp, it obviously tastes great in a Cosmo, but fans of citrus drinks should try it in a Lemon Drop Martini too, shaken with lemon juice and triple sec. Alcohol 40%
Aval Dor Cornish Seaberry Vodka
Made at Colwith Farm Distillery in Lanlivery in Cornwall, this British potato vodka is infused with seaberries (also called sea buckthorn) harvested a few kilometres from the distillery. Warm amber-orange in colour, it has fruity aromas: tropical with bitter orange notes. There’s a distinctive tangy palate of tropical and citrus fruit – dried mango, Seville orange – with a touch of honeyed sweetness that lingers on the finish alongside a crisp citrus-and-spice kick. Sip or serve it over ice with tonic. Alc 40%
Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear & Ginger
Premium Polish label Belvedere has launched its Organic Infusions range of flavoured vodkas in time for summer. Ideal to pair with tonic for a seasonal refresher, the range includes Blackberry & Lemongrass, Lemon & Basil and this lightly spiced Pear & Ginger. It has a really refreshing zesty nose, with lemon citrus, leafy hints and ginger leading to a fresh, clean and crisp palate with notes of fresh pear, spiced pears, lemon citrus and sliced root ginger tea. Alc 42%
Bare Vodka No3 Cherry
The Bare range of Polish grain vodkas is made with entirely natural flavourings. No2 is lightly honeyed, but our pick is No3, with attractive aromas and flavours of fresh red cherry and Maraschino cherry, plus an almond, marzipan note – like sipping a cherry Bakewell. Smooth-textured, it finishes fruity, with a kick of warm spice. Bare is intended for sipping neat, but you can also try pairing it with Fentimans Rose Lemonade for a summery serve. Alc 40%
A distinctive vodka that will appeal to gin lovers, Broken Clock is a smooth English wheat spirit flavoured with botanicals inspired by historic Georgian gardens, botanical texts and recipes, including three types of native apples. The perfumed nose has fruity and floral hints, while the sweetly herbal palate has a rich and rounded texture, with subtle russet apple notes that linger across the long finish, ending with a crisp bite. Makes an interesting Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Manly Spirits Marine Botanical Vodka
A vodka for gin lovers, this is distilled in Sydney using foraged marine botanicals including sea parsley and kelp. Savoury aromas with underlying spice make your mouth water. The creamy palate with its seaweed umami depth is balanced by breezy ozone freshness and a clean mineral edge. A great alternative to gin with tonic, or try it neat with oysters. Alc 41.6%
The latest addition to Stoli’s range of Russian grain vodkas, this has fresh, citrus aromas: freshly squeezed lime juice and lime Opal fruits. There’s a super-fruity lime zing on the palate, which doesn’t taste confected; just plenty of juicy, bold, lip-smacking lime. Perfect for a Moscow Mule cocktail with ginger beer and fresh lime. Alc 37.5%
Vestal Black Cherry Vodka
Better known for its creamy potato vodka and innovative vintage vodkas, Polish label Vestal also produces a Raspberry & Blackberry flavour and this moreish Black Cherry. It’s packed with ripe black cherry aromas and flavours, alongside plenty of spice on the velvety palate. Mix it with cola for a thoroughly grown-up take on Cherry Coke, which is sure to become one of your guilty pleasures… Alc 40%