Serious Eats: Drinks
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka
I hate listening to people complain about how busy they are, so I've come to you not to whine about my increased busyness but merely to acknowledge it. After a decade of barely fettered leisure I've recently found myself with a full day's worth of chores to do every day, even on the days when there is a "Law and Order" marathon or unseasonable warmth and including one ghastly day in September when my ankle hurt and we were out of Advil and cyanide capsules.
I'm referring mainly to weekdays, and more specifically to the middle weekdays (Will Gordon Industries is a sweaty shop but a union one), but I would need both hands to count the number of times in 2012 when I've found myself returning an email or buying a sweet potato on a Sunday, too. Just last week I had to run an errand during halftime of the Patriots game! Your personal finances get very complicated when you charge yourself double-time-and-a-half for a beer run, too, which compounded matters into an accounting hassle.
But like I said, I don't mean to complain, and I know everyone works hard. It's just that sometimes I feel like no one recognizes how hectic my days are, between the working and the shirking and the lunching and what have you. Whenever I find myself rubbing elbows with my fellow swells on the celebrity schnapps-blogging circuit, some trophy husband, Ferrari salesman, or talk show host invariably says, "Man, you must be drunk by noon every day!" Yeah, right. MORE LIKE 4:00 IF I'M LUCKY.
And I'm not even that lucky very often these days, which is probably just as well. I need to get way ahead of myself for the next couple of weeks, because I've taken on the extra burden of preparing all holiday meals for Bottom Shelf research director Emily and myself this upcoming overeating season. We don't make much of a show of Halloween, because that's what happens when you're an adult without children or an exhibitionist streak, but once the gluttonal equinox rolls around on election night, it's going to be nothing but high times and pie times until Presidents' Day. No day-drinking until I get all my recipes settled and menus planned.
Come sundown, though, once I've done the day's wage-slaving and fiddled around with my technique for keeping the spaghetti and meatball stuffing from getting all gummy inside the Thanksgiving quail, I do allow myself a small sip or two of something to ease the nerves. These days I'm trying to drink things that have a seasonal angle and also things that publicists send in the mail, and Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka is both of those things.
I appreciate that they call it Pumpkin Pie rather than trying to insinuate this tastes like a gourd. I'm not one to decry the seasonal pumpkinization of the drinks industry—I don't care for a lot of the pumpkin juices, but I don't lose sleep over their very existence the way some people do—but I am tired of pretending that pumpkins pop out of the ground tasting like cinnamon.
But upon first whiff, Pinnacle gave back that truth-in-naming credit: It smells like carrot cake with a deep cover of vanilla cream cheese frosting. There's some of the promised cinnamon and nutmeg, but it's mostly slightly burnt sugar. If I had to take a blind guess what this was called, I'd go with Naughty Crème Brulee (the carrot cake thing being too wordy for the marketing department). So just when I'm ready to praise Pinnacle for telling it like it is, pie-wise, they pull the old "Well, we've got this leftover flavor that we have to move to make room for the winter seasonals—Decadent Snowflake and Sexy Elfberry—let's call it Pumpkin Pie" move.
Sneaky, but I have to admit that, bandwagon-crash naming aside, this tastes all right. The flavor is just as the smell indicates, and it goes down more smoothly than a lot of cheap 70-proofers. The alcohol doesn't burn the throat and the sugar doesn't hurt the teeth.
A lot of people are fundamentally opposed to flavored vodkas, and thought I deplore kneejerk booze snobbery, I empathize with those people. A lot of this stuff is dreadful, and none of it is great. But I am the sort of happy, lucky soul perfectly capable of enjoying a sugartini when the time is right, and it is within that context that I recommend this liquor. If you're not at all drawn to the idea of a $12 bottle of Pumpkin Pie Vodka, then this Pinnacle product is not going to turn you around. But if you're the kind of drinker prone to spinning the candy liqueur wheel, then I suspect this will suit your needs.