Brager suggests the diversity of vodka
flavors acts as a fertile testing ground for
flavors that may come to other spirits,
and is typical of a more mature and ac-
cepted flavor market—one he compares
to ice cream. “In those categories where
flavors have taken hold, I believe there
will continue to be new extensions and
established flavors moving across spir-
its segments,” says Brager. “I think what
drives flavors is initially the single flavors,
as those are usually quickest to market,
but then exotics and combinations are
almost always soon to follow.”
Right now we’re watching as estab-
lished flavors of cherry and honey begin
the boom in flavored whiskey. With these
on solid footing, there is certainly a po-
tential to widen the flavors of whiskey as
well. While flavored whiskey still repre-
sents only 5% of category sales, the ascent
of this slice of flavor has been astounding,
up 90% in value for the year ending 2012
according to Brager.
While many top mixologists prefer to
concoct their own flavors, Rob Floyd,
who helms the cutting-edge cocktail
program at The Bazaar by José Andrés
at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, says com-
mercial flavors are too big for any seri-
ous bartender to ignore. Floyd is genu-
inely excited about what flavored spirits
portend for cocktail creators like him-
for previously underserved
consumers. “It’s often a
younger drinker looking for fla-
vored spirits,” says Floyd, “and they
have really reached out to the female de-
mographic. There is nothing more sexy
than that young female professional who
comes in and wants to expand her taste
and take a chance on a flavored whiskey
like Jack Daniels Honey.”
Floyd sees a female consumer who
orders a Beam Red Stag and Coke or a
Jack Daniels Honey and ginger ale as a
“golden opportunity” to grow a savvy
spirits consumer. “You are introducing
bourbon or whiskey to a person who
did not consider it before. This is the
opportunity to create a whole new fol-
lowing for spirits and cocktails. In a few
years I think it will be amazing, just
amazing,” he adds.
While men who already enjoy tradi-
tional whiskey are less likely to trade it in
for the flavored variety, Floyd says he sees
them adopting high-end flavored vodka
on the rocks as their drink of choice,
drawn by the diversity and purity
of these flavors. “In the past six
months, businessmen are sipping
more flavored vodkas on the
rocks, especially Grey Goose,
Hangar One and Belvedere fla-
vors,” says Floyd.
At Bond at The Cosmopoli-
tan in Las Vegas, Jerry Vargas, gen-
eral manager and mixologist, finds that
spicy flavored spirits are the perfect fit
for Bond’s steamy nightlife. While the
kitchen creates a bevy of custom culi-
nary infusions, Vargas also turns up the
heat with cocktails that include branded
spirits like Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila and
Hangar One Chipotle Vodka. “This is a
high energy lounge. I tend to gravitate
toward spicier, like the chipotle vodka,
where the aromas and bouquet really
come through in the Nikita cocktail,”
says Vargas, noting the drink includes
lime ice cubes, cilantro simple syrup and
Perfect Purée of Napa Valley caramelized
pineapple concentrate.
While Vargas agrees that women are
the first to reach for Jack Daniel’s Honey,
they are often evangelizing to male drink-
ers. “Men see their wives and girlfriends
stepping outside of the box and they tend
to follow and enjoy it, too,” he says.
At the Cielo Bar at the Four Sea-
sons Hotel St. Louis, Cory Cuff shakes
up lots of creative flavors as the assistant
manager of food and beverage, includ-
ing Duck Fat–Infused Pinch Scotch and
Jalapeño and Thyme–Infused Avión
Reposado. However, commercial flavors
appear as part of his long-term strategy
to educate the existing bar crowd. “If I
see a product that has established itself
in the market, and it has a foothold, I’ll
use that in the best application I see fit,”
says Cuff.
mint, peach-flavored vodka,
Sprite, lime
The Bazaar at SLS Hotel
in Beverly Hills,
The explosion of vodka flavors is especially
apparent at larger stores. Ever since Pinnacle
Whipped took off, generating a sub-category
of confection flavors, the trade has realized
that no one can predict the next “It” flavor.
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