Swedish Fish. Cotton candy. Cookie dough. Cake. Marshmallow.
It sounds a bit like the grocery list of a kid who wants to redefine “sugar high,” but the list is a little more adult than that.
They’re all types of vodka.
New flavors of the spirit debut consistently, and they don’t always have staying power, so it might seem to be difficult for bartenders to figure out what on earth to do with, say, Froot Loops-flavored vodka.
Not necessarily so, says Joe Zimmerman, bar manager at Calhoun Street Soup, Salads & Spirits.
“You use your wait staff as guinea pigs,” he says. “We get a new bottle of s’mores (flavored vodka), and it’s like, ‘What the heck do we use this for? A White Russian? Let’s try that.’ ”
Most flavored vodkas work well with a Sprite or Red Bull, but with some flavors Zimmerman will try to integrate the liquor into a martini.
“Grape and bubble gum and Red Bull taste like Big League Chew,” he says, referencing the shredded bubble gum. “We enjoy tinkering with it. It’s not hard for us. It’s a challenge, but it’s not hard.”
When Acme Bar & Grill was closed for a year for renovations, head bartender Sherry Wallace worked at a liquor store. She remembers when a man came in to buy a keg, and she asked, “Are you going to have girls at your party?” She recommended he pick up a bottle of bubble gum vodka, which had just come out.
“He came back in three hours and got another one,” she says.
A flavored vodka Wallace frequently uses at the Acme is whipped cream, which is especially popular over the holidays. A good way to use the flavors is to substitute them into old recipes, she says – a drink that calls for vanilla vodka, for example, can include whipped cream or cake instead.
“It gives it more flavor,” she says. “Use cucumber (vodka) in a bloody mary. It tastes really, really great.”
As does, she says, bacon vodka. It adds a meaty, salty flavor.
Last week, Wallace said she was working on the bar and grill’s holiday cocktail list. Whipped cream vodka will be featured in the drinks; ditto caramel vodka.
“(We need to) change it up from last year because of all the new flavors out,” she says.