Vodkas infused with a wide variety of you-name-it flavors have been around almost as long as vodka itself. Bur Smirnoff, the world's largest vodka brand is trying with two new flavors to appeal to America's "sweet tooth".
Smirnoff is introducing its "fluffed marshmallow" and "whipped cream" vodkas at a time when it is facing stiff competition from brands that are established as well as upstarts. But these two concoctions join a roster of confectionery flavors in alcoholic drinks. Smaller producers have already unleashed Cupcake Vodka, Burnett's Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka, Pinnacle Cotton Candy Vodka, Three Olives Bubble Gum Vodka and Georgi Candy Cane Vodka.
The Chicago Tribune
reports that Smirnoff is part of a beverage group called Diageo Plc, headquartered in London. It is the world's largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine. The Smirnoff brand keeps company with the world's best-selling scotch, Johnnie Walker, the world's most desired liqueur, Baileys, and Guinness, the world's favorite stout.
The two new Smirnoff flavors have a little less punch in them than the rest of the bunch. They are both 60 proof, while most of the other Smirnoff flavors are 70 proof. Root Beer and Espresso flavored vodkas are 100 proof. The unflavored one is 80 proof, but silver and blue are 90 and 100 proof respectively.
Diageo Plc's newest vodkas got their inspiration from cookie-scented candles and vanilla-scented laundry soap. It then used focus groups, mixologists and food scientists to actually produce the new drinks, which went through some 15 reversals and changes. Peter McDonough is Diageo's chief marketing and innovation officer for North America and says coming up with the new names was a thorny process.
"Tasters preferred a "toasted" marshmallow flavor, but the marketing team decided that "fluffed" marshmallow would be a better name since it would help avoid perceptions that the drink tasted "chalky or burnt.'"
The new advertising campaign is centered around the title,"Fluffed and Whipped". It showcases a bevvy of dancers, dogs, aerialists, women spraying whipped cream into their mouths and model Amber Rose purring that "vodka never felt this good."
Some New York bartenders say the mixture of sugar and spice is magic, particularly with young female drinkers.
Dena Kravitz with Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub in Manhattan's Times Square says,
"In five years of bartending, I have never seen a bottle sell out that fast. It's the martini of the younger generation."
Smirnoff's roots are in Russia 150 years ago. The company says its goal now is to make itself relevant and cool to younger adults, drinkers in their 20s and 30s. But some in the industry say sweet drinks like these are being promoted to lure under-age drinkers, hooked on soft drinks, who will easily make the transition to hard liquor. James Mosher is the president of Alcohol Policy Consultations, a private consultant group.
"I see this move into these sweet drinks as catering to a youthful taste. This is not a drink that a mature adult is going to prefer."
Mosher is the author of an article to be published in the January 2012 issue of The American Journal of Public Health in which he presents the argument that youth-oriented marketing campaigns by Smirnoff and other distilled spirits, which appeal to underage drinkers, have been a key factor in the rise of alcohol consumption over the past decade in the West.
Other critics aren't happy with the sexy images and writhing bodies in the "Fluffed and Whipped" TV ad from Diageo. The industry watchdog group Alcohol Justice, , says the campaign "may have set the bar at a new low" for what it calls "pornahol" ads, or those that "use sexual innuendo and objectification to sell alcohol.
But in response, Diageo points out that its target market for the new varieties is 25-to-35-year-old men and women. And it rejects suggestions that it is marketing to kids and cites four investigations that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has done into alcohol marketing that concluded that the Smirnoff ads were directed at adults
reports that a rise in the "cocktail culture" worldwide has led companies to produce more flavored spirits and premium brands, especially for vodka. But even though the quest for different flavors persists, it turns out that citrus vodkas like lemon and orange, are among the most popular. A partial listing of flavored vodkas currently on the market includes, apple, cherry, citrus, lemon, melon, raspberry, and vanilla.
But mixologists know that vodka can be infused with nearly anything. There are centuries-old recipes that are circulating even today for bacon-flavored vodka,. Russian and Polish vodka makers have added ginger, cloves and other spices to vodka.
reports that the base that Smirnoff uses for both Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow Flavored Vodkas is Smirnoff No 21. Both are for sale in the U.S. at local retailers at a suggested price of $12.99 for a 750mL bottle.