Serious Eats: Drinks
Eyewitness Booze Investigation: Absolut Miami
I don't know much about you beautiful beasts, but I do know you read certain parts of the Internet because that's how we became friends in the first place. So I trust you've heard that "This American Life" had to apologize for faking parts of a story about how awful working conditions are at Apple-affiliated factories in China.
That sucks two ways. First, even though I am a man of privilege and taste and therefore own a lot of Apple crap, I never mind seeing that company taken down a peg. And second, even though 90 percent of my own stories are artificially enhanced to include more heroics and ballerinas than they naturally contain, I get really pissed off when other people lie, especially when those people are my fellow quasi-journalists.
So I've called this meeting in order to sprinkle a little righteousness atop my indignation by admitting that I have led Bottom Shelf readers astray on at least two recent occasions. A couple weeks back, in the context of praising Malibu Red, I said that Malibu Black was black. This is incorrect. It is clear, which I perhaps should have noticed when I drank a shot of it in January. Anyhow, this clarity was pointed out to me on Sunday afternoon when Bottom Shelf Uncle-in-Law Teddy the liquor distributor stopped me on the street to point out that you don't make things black if you intend for them to be mixed with fruit juice. That makes sense. Nobody wants a brown pineapple drink. And nobody wants to piss off the liquor distributor who hosts Thanksgiving, either, so please help me make it up to Uncle Teddy by doubling your daily Malibu Red intake.
My second mistake was an inadvertent swipe at Sweden, whence hails the other side of Bottom Shelf research director Emily's family. In my international porter mish-mash, I blamed the Swedes for Carlsberg, which is of course Danish (though the Swedish division is responsible for Carnegie Porter, the disappointing beer in question). By way of apology to the great nation of Sweden I will now review the newest version of their most widely known contribution to the drinking life, Absolut vodka, which is now available Miami-flavored.
The Absolut city series features vodkas doctored up with theoretically regional flavors: Absolut New Orleans is mango and black pepper; Boston is black tea and elderflower (rebranded since its 2009 launch as Wild Tea); Brooklyn is red apple and ginger (rebranded as Orient Apple); San Francisco is grape, dragon fruit, and papaya (now called Grapevine); Los Angeles is acai, acerola, pomegranate, and blueberry (now called Berri Acai); and Rio is orange, mango, and passion fruit.
So what does Miami taste like? Cocaine and fish and an outsized impact on national elections? Perhaps pork and lime and sunshine? Or maybe good museums, bad football, and ugly architecture? None of the above: These fine Swedes went with passion fruit and orange blossom. Also reasonable.
Most of my flavored vodka experiences are undertaken as stunts for this column, so I have a slight bias against the category. I've been overexposed to the tackier end of the spectrum, and all the whipped, fluffed, and punched stuff has left me more skittish than I'd naturally be. But isn't the primary knock against vodka that it has no flavor? So what's wrong with jamming some in the bottle and saving the home drinker the trouble of mixing or thinking? The concept seems sound, even if the execution rarely is.
Absolut Boston/Wild Tea is probably the best flavored vodka I've had. We got a sample case at the bar I worked for a few years ago, and we went through it quite happily with nothing more than soda water, so I went into the Miami tasting with a fairly open mind. I've had a decent experience with a flavored Absolut, and I guess I like passion fruit and orange blossoms as much as the next guy (I mean, unless the next guy's some kind of weirdo).
Hey, not bad! The smell is more reminiscent of real flowers than of the fake fruit and candy I'm used to in such spirits, which makes the sweet perfuminess seem appropriate rather than contrived. The scent isn't overwhelming, either: You get a clear sense of all the vodka underneath the flowers and blossoms and whatnot. It doesn't taste as soft as it smells, with a little more herbal character mixing in with the sweet stuff and the booze, but there's no real burn, either. This is very clean and useful for an 80 proof flavored vodka, so I expect you'll see it mixing amiably with all the usual juices, but I think it does just fine with seltzer and a straw.