Vodka’s initial rise in popularity in the United States occurred with the marketing slogan “no smell, no taste,” but is vodka tasteless and, if not, what does vodka taste like? The short answer is a resounding “no,” but it’s true that the flavor of plain vodka is not as strong, and the smell certainly not as pungent, as that of most other types of hard alcohol.
This is an important question because it will help you decide what alcohol to mix with your drinks for the best flavor, and this article will describe the flavor of several varieties of vodka. Of course, it is difficult to answer directly since everyone’s tastes are different - scientists have even discovered that people can perceive alcohol very differently depending on their genetic makeup.
What Does Plain Vodka Taste Like?
Most vodka is usually made by fermenting grain and then distilling it multiple times. Any grain can be used for this task, although other sources, such as potatoes and grapes, have been equally effective at producing profitable vodkas.
While some people find the taste more satisfactory than others, most people would agree that hard alcohol (80 proof or above), a category which includes vodka, does not taste pleasant and anything more than a shot should be masked with other drinks - chasers.
Professional opinions can range from the simple “vodka tastes like gasoline” to the complex “clean, milky notes with a hint of sugar”, depending on the vocabulary and seriousness of the taster.
Most pundits in the USA will say that its taste is difficult to pinpoint, but that may be because they are unfamiliar with international cuisine. Vodka tastes like something which will be known to you if you’ve ever been to a traditional Korean restaurant - barley tea.
It mainly tastes like water soaked in barley (barley tea) with some spices added. In the background, you will also detect an oily and slightly sweet flavor.
What does High-Proof vodka taste like?
The 100-proof (50% alcohol content) category was previously the haven of rare specialty drinks, such as slivovka, from countries in the so-called “vodka belt” where the populace had become bored with plain old vodka.
These days, though, you will find that vodka producers are offering a range of options for those who have become disenchanted with vanilla (as in plain, not the vanilla-flavored) vodka. There are currently scores of vodkas competing in categories above 80 proof, including offerings from industry giants such as Absolut 100 and Smirnoff 90.
And the taste? Well, the marketers say it is more “intense” or that it has “a stronger kick” than regular vodka.
This is not off the mark, as the best description of it is that it has a similar taste to normal vodka with far, far more intensity. Even just 10% more alcohol content by volume brings the drinking experience closer to that of consuming liquid wasabi.
Needless to say, it requires far more in the way of creativity and ingredients to make a cocktail that masks the taste of 90 or 100 proof vodkas.
What does Strawberry Vodka Taste Like?
Strawberry vodka and related flavors (strawberry lemonade, for example) are considered some of the prime variants of vodka. And the taste is much more pleasant than pure vodka - you might even be able to drink it on its own.
As you might expect, strawberry vodka tastes similar to vodka mixed with strawberry juice.
What you might not know is that rarely, if ever, does flavored vodka have any actual fruit in it. The strawberry taste tends to come from chemical flavoring.
While the flavor is much more manageable than that of solo hard alcohol, especially if you have a sweet tooth for fruits, don’t expect any miracles. Note that part of this achievement is accomplished by lowering the alcoholic content of the drink, as strawberry vodka (or any fruity flavor, for that matter), is usually at or below the 70-proof level.
Even so, you’ll probably still find it preferable to mix this with non-alcoholic or slightly alcoholic options. After all, this isn’t flavored spritzer, which is carbonated and sweet, almost like a spiked soft drink.
How About the Famous Bison Grass?
Bison grass is a type of vodka that is very popular in Eastern Europe, but currently unavailable in USA in its original form (although a similar variant has been introduced recently). The spirit is also known as zubrowka.
This species of the beverage is spiced with a plant called “bison grass,” which gives the vodka a spicier, more herbal taste, somewhat closer to that of mint.
The plant improves the taste of normal vodka significantly, making it almost pleasant to drink on the rocks.
Zubrowka originally comes from Poland, but it is also being produced under many different names in other countries, including the United States where it is referred to as “Bison Grass Vodka.”
And the Other Varieties?
There are probably dozens of varieties of vodka out there. Smirnoff alone sells over twenty flavored vodkas, most of these tasting like fruit.
People can get almost every taste they can desire in the same package without having to buy tons of different juices or rums to mix with plain vodka as they would have had to do before the turn of the century.
As with strawberry vodka, this makes the taste of the drink more pleasant, but with around 70 proof, don’t expect that it will taste as good as say, a chilled coconut rum or peach wine. The alcoholic taste is still strong enough that you may want to at least mix the drink with a soft drink if you intend to drink it for pleasure.
So what does vodka taste like?
Far from being flavorless, vodka has a spicy, grainy taste which most people find overpowering enough to prefer to mix it with other drinks rather than consume it on its own. There is, however, agreement that the taste and smell are relatively subtle compared to other strong alcoholic drinks, so it is popularly considered an ideal spirit for mixing with other things.
Flavored vodka is something of an exception to this, as it tastes similar to juice already mixed in with the vodka. However, in terms of raw taste, it still has a high alcohol content and so, many people will find its flavor unappetizing without help from different types of alcohol, juices, or soft drinks.