Deep Eddy Vodka and Absolut unveil tasty new flavors with Texas roots

Deep Eddy Cranberry VodkaNew flavored vodkas from Deep Eddy Vodka and Absolut are hitting Texas shelves this month, just in time for spring break madness. And both are riding the wave of growing demand for flavored vodka with local roots.

While vodka remains at the top of the heap for sales of alcohol — commanding 34 percent of all liquor sales — its sales are relatively flat. There are, however, two bright spots for vodka sales: small brands and flavored vodkas.

Craft is where it’s at. The Distilled Spirits Council says that in 2001 there were 24 craft distilleries in the U.S., but by 2013 the number ballooned to 434 small distilleries in operation. The small producers are growing at a faster rate than the big boys. In fact, Texas favorite, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, was one of the industry’s fastest growing brands according to industry analysts Impact Databank.

Flavored spirits are growing 10 times faster than total spirits according to the Beverage Information Group and make up 26 percent of all vodka sales. There are hundreds of flavors of vodka. Think about it, when you walk into a bar it’s not uncommon to see shelves lined with Cherry, Citrus, Mango, Cranberry, Apple, Coffee, Pineapple, Strawberry, Vanilla and even Marshmallow vodka among countless others.

Deep Eddy Vodka introduces Cranberry

Local vodka maker Deep Eddy knows a good thing when it sees one in the booming trend of flavored vodkas. Almost a year after introducing its wildly popular Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, the folks at Deep Eddy have launched the brand’s third flavored vodka, a cranberry vodka released in February.

“The growth that Deep Eddy Vodka has seen over the last four and a half years has been truly amazing.  We have grown the brand over 200 percent a year since we started in 2010, and we continue to see strong growth on our straight vodka and each of our flavors.  We attribute this growth to offering a truly differentiated product that has created a new category within the space.  Our focus on real ingredients – real tea, honey, fruit – has been the recipe to our success, and we followed the recipe again with the new cranberry flavor that we launched this month,” said Chad Auler, co-founder of Deep Eddy Vodka.

The new cranberry-infused vodka starts off its life the same way as all of Deep Eddy’s vodkas, by being distilled 10 times and charcoal filtered four times. It is then flavored with cane sugar and New England-grown, non-GMO cranberries. It finishes its life the same way as all of its vodkas, too: in my belly.

Sipped straight, it bursts with sweet cranberry with raspberry undertones. It’s just sweet enough to mask the slight warmth of the 70 proof alcohol as it eases back. Deep Eddy suggests that it mixes well with beer or Champagne. It’s delightful served with sparkling water and a twist of lime. Try this recipe:

Deep Eddy Cranberry Breeze  

  • 2 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka

  • 2 oz club soda or sparkling water

  • 1 oz grapefruit juice

Pour ingredients into cocktail glass filled with ice. Stir. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Abolut Texas Limited Edition VodkaAbsolut Texas Limited Edition goes for local appeal 

Similar to Deep Eddy Vodka, Absolut is taking aim at both the flavored and “drink local” markets, with the release of Absolut Texas, the eighth addition to its Limited Editions portfolio.

The Limited Edition series introduces specially designed bottles and flavors to appeal to specific audiences, like Absolut Karnival celebrating the Brazilian party, Absolut Colors with a rainbow pride flag celebrating equality, and a few city specific editions for Brooklyn, Chicago and London to bring local relevance to a global brand. The Texas edition is the first state-specific product.

Absolut Texas is packaged in a boldly attractive bottle, with artwork was created by San Antonio-based contemporary artist Cruz Ortiz. It features a stylized cowboy boot kickin’ it up with a Texas star. Some are skeptical that putting Swedish-made vodka into a Texas-themed bottle is enough to convince savvy Texas consumers to buy it. There is an old Texas saying, “It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.”

Mark Shilling, CEO of Austin-based Revolution Spirits isn’t impressed with the Absolut gambit. “I’m all for cool packaging and marketing, etc., but this just seems overly gimmicky to me. Kind of like the Six Flags version or something,” he said. “If you’re gonna try to sell vodka in Texas with a boot, at least stick it in a pair of Luccheses.”

One Texas-based craft distiller who chose to remain anonymous sees the Absolut marketing ploy as the company’s attempt to capitalize on the success of small, local distillers. He confided, “This is Pernod Ricard’s [parent company of Absolut] attack on craft distilling in Texas. It is reminiscent of Anheuser-Busch coming out with Ziegenbock to try to take a piece of Shiner Bock. It likely won’t be the last attack by corporate raiders against the craft industry. The product is so-so. Not terrible.  [It tastes like they used a] decent quality chemical additive pumped into Absolut.”

Marketing approach and packaging aside, Absolut Texas features a unique cucumber and Serrano chili pepper flavor recipe is “inspired by Southwestern cuisine.” Yes, Serrano is a Southwestern flavor, but cucumber? Regardless of its authenticity, it tastes pretty damn good.

Sipped straight, it tastes like a spring drink lush with cucumber, with an ever-so-slight tingle coming from the chili pepper. It’s delightful with nothing but a chill, yet it begs to be mixed in a cocktail. Absolut Texas would be a fantastic base for a Bloody Mary, however it mixes well with several other ingredients like cranberry, pineapple and citrus. Absolut recommends this recipe:

Absolut Tejano

  • 2 parts Absolut Texas

  • 3 parts grapefruit soda

Build over ice in a highball glass, garnish with a lime wedge and a chili-salt rim.

Whether you want to really drink local or drink a locally themed drink, these are two tasty flavored vodkas worth a try. Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka sells for $19 and Absolut Texas goes for $20. Both are available at Urban Wine + Liquor in downtown Austin.

An abbreviated version of this story first ran on CultureMap.

Disclosure: Samples were provided by both Deep Eddy Vodka and Absolut.

What are you drinking? 

Dress Up, Dress Down: Savvy Vodka and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka

Austin, Texas knows how to live graciously with refined, yet unpretentious style. It also knows how to live easy in shorts and flip flops poolside or by the lakes. Austinites feel right at home lounging on a rough-hewn dock and mingling in cocktail attire at an art opening in the same day. Fortunately we have home-grown vodkas that suite both of those moods: Savvy Vodka and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka.

For those nights when you feel sophisticated and want a drink to match, Savvy Vodka fits the bill. When you’re feeling down home, Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka is as comfortable as a worn pair of cut-offs.

To learn a little bit more about both of these spirits I visited an unassuming building in North Austin which houses the distillery of both vodkas. Chad Auler, founder and CEO, gave me the low-down on the operations. Like Auler, a sixth-generation Texan, both vodkas are Texan through-and-through.

Savvy Vodka

The Savvy Vodka recipe calls for local ingredients, including high quality corn from south Texas and water from central Texas. In developing the recipe, the Savvy team tested multiple ingredients. You might think that the son of the founders of one of Texas’ oldest wineries, Fall Creek Vineyards, would go with grapes. Nope. Auler finds grape vodka to be a little more astringent and potato a little thicker than he prefers. He chose corn because it imparts a hint of sweetness on the nose. The Savvy team was shooting for a flavor profile that was balanced, smooth, slightly sweet and creamy.

According to Auler, there are three things that make great vodka:

  1. The distillation process
  2. Proper filtration
  3. Quality water

There are two types of distillation – column and pot. Vodka goes through multiple rounds of distillation and each round removes more impurities. Pot distillation is the original method, used for hundreds of years and is still used by boutique distilleries and large operations alike. With pot distillation, the distillate has to go in and out for one distillation and then repeated. In a column, the distillate is circulated continually. The column holds an exact temperature to keep it right at boiling point of ethyl alcohol which allows the bad alcohols to cook off while preserving the good stuff.

Auler found a renowned still maker out of Kentucky who steered him toward a custom designed column still to get the best quality. The continuous distillation allows for the vodka to be distilled the equivalent of 20 times or more in a single run. It’s not only efficient in distillation, but it’s also environmentally efficient. To cool the vodka as it vaporizes, keeping the cycle going, Savvy continually cycles 2,000 gallons of cold water. The recirculating water is used for up to a year, saving thousands and thousands of gallons. Not only that, but the still itself uses a fraction of the energy of a pot still. Savvy and conscientious.

Next comes the filtration. Savvy Vodka is filtered six times over activated charcoal to remove any remaining impurities. The aim is to produce the smoothest vodka possible.

Water is essential to vodka, because the multiple distillations give it higher alcohol content than desired. In fact, the Savvy Vodka comes off the still at an eye watering 190 proof. They diluted that hooch to a palatable 80 proof using, what Auler describes, the best water in Texas. The water comes from aquifer on the Fall Creek property owned by his family. They have run independent tests conducted by the Lower Colorado River Authority and the University of Texas to validate its purity.

Here is Chad describing the water’s source.  

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9o3KWY9Phs[/youtube]

Auler is typically a martini drinker, but on hot summer days when friends invade his back yard he makes what he calls a Daryl Royal.  He mixes Savvy Vodka with Topo Chico and a splash of grape juice and a squeeze of fresh lime. It’s a refreshing outdoor drink with a touch of sweetness without being over bearing. His drink recipes and job in the beverage business obviously make him a magnet for visitors. He claims he hasn’t run out of vodka at home yet, despite his friends’ consumption. That’s because he hasn’t invited me over yet. Yet.

I gave it a try, and I would make a run on his stock. I tasted this straight, slightly chilled in a chilled martini glass to release the aromas. 

Look Crystal clear like fresh water melting from a million year-old iceberg, flowing at its own pace, viscous and silky.
Smell Delicate floral scent, light and clean. 
Taste Silky smooth hint of sweet almond, dough and pepper. It has a smooth lingering finish with a mild bitterness on the end. 
Price $21

 

I gave Beautiful Wife a blind taste of Savvy next to another premium vodka. She winced at the strong taste and heat of the first vodka, describing it as harsh and overly peppery. She smiled slightly at the second one and described it as smooth, thicker, less peppery and even kinda sweet. She preferred the second glass, the Savvy vodka. There’s more to her than beauty.

Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka

Sweet iced tea is ridiculously popular in Texas. It’s not a stretch for it to be mixed with alcohol to make a fun libation. Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka was born a bit more than a year ago when Auler decided to formalize a joint marketing relationship Savvy had with Sweat Leaf Tea, mixing a fun cocktail known as the Sweet and Savvy. Auler met with Clayton Christopher, the founder of Sweat Leaf Tea, realized they have the same strict outlook on making a quality product. The two decided to partner and launch a new product named for a favorite spring-fed swimming pool.

Like Savvy, Deep Eddy uses local corn, water and local honey from Good Flow Honey. It’s not completely local, but it’s all natural 100% pure cane sugar. The black tea is brewed from whole Indonesian tea leaves. Chad and Clayton tested hundreds of tea leaves and made a selection of a very classic tea that had exactly the taste profile they were looking for. 

I think they hit the mark. I tasted this over a few cubes of ice in a rocks glass. Just the way I’d drink it on a hot summer day.

Look Deep caramel brown with a weighty viscosity forming long tears on the side of the glass.
Smell It smells exactly like Grandma’s fresh brewed tea with a hint of honey. Perfect for sipping pool side on a hot summer day.
Taste The approach is all black tea and honey. The mineral backbone of the vodka sneaks in with a hint of heat that lingers with the sweet honey finish. It’s as bracing as the first dive into the cold spring fed waters of Deep Eddy pool in Austin. 
Price $16

 

Between Savvy and Deep Eddy, the still is cranking out around 35,000 to 40,000 cases this year. Right now the two brands are available only in Texas, but that could change in the future. You can find both at your favorite bars, restaurants and shops throughout the state.

My friends who live outside of Texas, keep your eyes peeled for these vodkas to creep over the border. Friends in Texas, you know what I’m talkin about. Whether you are ready to dress up or dress down, you’re covered. Go get ya some.

What are you drinking?