His Elevated Long Island Iced Tea
includes Three Olives Cherry alongside
housemade sour mix and maraschino li-
queur. “The guest is not necessarily going
to buy more of that drink if I make my
own cherry vodka, and the same thing
is true of drinks with Captain Morgan
Spiced Rum. In some applications, a well-
loved flavored spirit will get the drink
sold,” he says.
While the rise of flavor has the makings
of a long-term, category-shifting trend
in vodka, and possibly other spirits,
on a more micro level, it comes with a
catch. Steve Malloy, vice president, of
Malloy’s Finest Wine & Spirits, a fam-
ily-owned retailer with three stores in
the Chicago area says the proliferation
of flavored spirits can seem so great, he
often jokes, “Does that come with shelf
space?” For many smaller stores, taking
on yet another flavor is a challenge.
While quality is paramount for Mal-
loy, and he makes it a point to taste
every new product, he notes that the
success or failure of flavors is difficult
for anyone to predict. “I don’t think 10
years ago anyone could have guessed
whipped cream would be a dominant
vodka flavor. But with everyone add-
ing it to their arsenal, especially with
the big conglomerates now jumping on
board with advertising, I believe it’s a
flavor that is here to stay,” he says.
According to Malloy, many of the 40
flavors of Pinnacle vodka remain niche
players, but Whipped is widely successful
because it walks the line of innovation
and mixability. “With the crowd buying
entry-level vodka, you find them mixing
it with Coke, keeping it simple. They are
happy there is so much flavor already in
the bottle,” he says.
Malloy feels that flavors of honey
and maple will show good staying power
among the American and Canadian
whiskies they complement so well. “The
appeal for consumers in their twenties
and thirties is: this is whiskey they can
call their own. It’s not their grandfa-
ther’s whiskey,” he says.
That’s not to say that seemingly off-
the-wall flavors aren’t worth a gamble.
Malloy’s has been doing brisk sales in
both Three Olives Loopy, unofficially
based on Kellogg’s Fruit Loops cereal,
and RumChata, based on the Mexican
creamy rice refresher
. (Inter-
estingly, older consumers will say Rum-
Chata reminds them of rice pudding; for
those under 40, it is reminiscent of Cin-
namon Toast Crunch cereal.)
Sunny Patel, owner of Northwest
Wine and Spirits with four locations in
the Columbus, OH, area, says people
are always attracted to the new and
offbeat, but only time will tell whether
a flavor joins the shelf indefinitely.
“Whipped cream was a big thing when
it came out and now is a regular item.
People expect to see it. Now custom-
ers are coming in and they want Naked
Jay Dill Pickle and OYO Stone Fruit
Vodka. They are really popular and do-
ing well here in Ohio,” says Patel.
Patel says the newest flavor boom is
neither vodka nor whiskey, but lies some-
where in between, combining the Moon-
shine and flavor trends. “I think it came
as a huge surprise, but Old Smokey Moon-
shine is one of our biggest sellers overall.
Flavors of apple pie, cherry and blackber-
ry. They all sell out,” says Patel.
There may be little chance of
predicting the next breakout flavor,
or even in which category it will oc-
cur, but as long as producers keep the
quality high and the creativity com-
ing, it appears younger consumers, and
imaginative bartenders alike, are open-
minded enough to give any flavor its
fair shot.
While many mixologists create
flavor infusions of their own,
Rob Floyd (left) and Cory Cuff
of Cielo in St. Louis (right)
also see the advantages of
featuring branded favorites on
the back bar and on specialty
cocktail menus.
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