Ketel One has taken a bold step forward into the calorie count-friendly landscape with a new line of diet vodka. A 1.5 oz. shot of Ketel One Botanicals clocks in at 73 calories, which is 25 percent less than the brand’s standard line. That figure is also roughly 40 percent less than a glass of white wine, and about 56 percent less than a can of Old Style. That means we must begrudgingly admit that, should you choose to count calories the next time you’re having a cocktail, Ketel One Botanicals aren’t a bad choice. The reason for that is, in part, because it’s not technically vodka.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth drinking. As Forbes notes, the reason behind Botanicals classification as “made with vodka,” rather than just, you know, vodka, is the percentage of alcohol-by-volume. After all the shouting, the almost-vodka arrives with a lower ABV. A higher ABV usually means a higher calorie count, so that lower ABV is likely responsible for most of that calorie dip, but it also means that this vodka is not vodka.
According the U.S.’s official distilled spirits categorizations, vodka has to be “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color” and “bottled at not less than 40 percent alcohol by volume.” Flavored vodkas, according the U.S., are defined as “vodka flavored with natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, bottled at not less than 30 percent alcohol by volume (60 proof).” The European Union has similar language, but states that both vodka and flavored counterparts must have a minimum ABV of 37.5 percent.
To put Botanical’s 30 percent ABV into context, its sister brands Ketel One Vodka and Nolet’s Gin have a 40 percent and 47.6 percent ABV, respectively.
The spirit is actually distilled like a gin—but without the juniper, which is required for gin classification—with an infusion process different from other vodkas, so that’s another factor. Whatever it’s called, a 30 percent ABV will absolutely still get you drunk. However, to make sure we’re all going in with our eyes fully open, you should know that making a classic martini with Ketel One Botanicals is a fool’s errand. The brand comes only in three flavors. You can try Grapefruit & Rose, Peach & Orange Blossom, or Cucumber & Mint, but “plain,” sadly, isn’t an option.