Serious Eats: Drinks
I Brought Cinnabon Vodka Home for Thanksgiving
The first thing you should know about this review is that I volunteered to do it. I'm not typically a vodka drinker, let alone a flavored vodka drinker, but last summer, when I spun the 'Wheel of Shots' at a Point Break-themed bar in Midtown Manhattan and landed on whipped cream vodka (also made by Pinnacle), the shot went down surprisingly easily. It's not like you savor this stuff—gimmicky flavored vodka is appropriate only in certain contexts. So when the bottle of Cinnabon vodka showed up at our office, I figured what the hell, and brought it home for Thanksgiving.
Now, let me explain. Thanksgiving at my house is a raucous affair, because everyone who attends is doing so instead of going to his or her family's house. My divorced parents live in separate states, and while I'm close with both of them, I prefer to stay in New York to host a cheekily-named "Orphan's Thanksgiving" for everyone else who can't or won't be spending the holiday from whence they came. As with many Thanksgiving dinners, a lot of alcohol is consumed, though perhaps unlike other celebrations, ours involves a lightning round of shots during the "what I'm thankful for" component of the night. The Cinnabon vodka would be perfect.
Before I brought the bottle home, we had a mini tasting in the Serious Eats office. Things started off poorly, mere moments after we opened the bottle. "I can't get past the smell," said Jen. "If you took the Pillsbury dough boy and shoved him into the East River and then bottled the dead Pillsbury dough boy liquid...that's what it smells like," declared Max.
The scent certainly isn't one found in nature, but it's not as bad as these hyperbolic staffers would have you believe. Mostly it smells like artificial vanilla frosting, which is, not coincidentally, the exact smell of every Cinnabon in America.
I made everyone quit their bellyaching and take a sip. The general consensus was that it tasted better than it smelled, with notes of sickly sweet lip gloss mixed with rubbing alcohol. There is no cinnamon flavor to speak of, but then, there isn't in a Cinnabon bun, either. I detected a slight aftertaste of Robitussin. "It's not the worst thing I've ever had," Niki concluded (that would a Pop Rocks-covered oyster).
But as much as I love my colleagues, I couldn't help but think that they might be missing the point—of course Cinnabon vodka is gross, but in the pantheon of gross flavored vodkas, how does it stack up? To find out, I had to bring it to the people—my non-professional-food-writing pals who come over for Thanksgiving.
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one contributing a Pinnacle selection to the communal bar: someone else brought a bottle of chocolate whipped cream vodka, setting the stage for a good ol' fashioned gimmicky flavored vodka holiday showdown. I noticed a few of my friends voluntarily trying sips of both. "This is definitely my favorite Pinnacle flavor," said my pastry chef pal, gesturing to the Cinnabon bottle. "I could see it being delicious in a hot chocolate." "It smells like the smell they pump into model homes," said her boyfriend. "Not that that's a bad thing."
When the time came to start our annual "what I'm thankful for" read-off, which concludes with a round of shots, I went looking for the bottle of Cinnabon vodka. I had assumed I'd have to goad guests into drinking it, but instead, the bottle was already nearly drained. (The chocolate whipped cream, for what it's worth, remained virtually untouched.) No one individual would cop to drinking it, but I think that empty bottle speaks for itself.