Taste Test: Tomato, Root Beer, and Espresso Vodkas

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Three Olives Tomato, Root Beer, and Triple Shot Espresso Vodkas

Back when men were men, women were subservient, and godless homosexuals hid in the closet, vodka tasted like vodka—i.e., like nothing. Those were the salad days, before any combination of fruit juice or goopy liqueur and the suffix "-tini" transformed what was once a stiff drink to take the edge off into a night out with the girls. Time was when a man could wake up bleary-eyed in the morning and take solace in knowing that, even though we've lost our way as Americans, there at least wasn't root-beer-flavored vodka out there.

That time has passed. Listen attentively, and you can hear Boris Yeltsin rolling over in his soused grave.

You'd think that if any country were on our side in this war, it'd be England. What with their strong beer and football hooligans, surely they'd sooner break that bottle of pomegranate vodka over your head than drink it. You'd be wrong: Inside every hooligan beats the heart of a metrosexual who only wants to sip Flirtinis and make bitchy comments during What Not To Wear. It's an English company, Three Olives, that has released three new flavors—Tomato, Root Beer, and Triple Shot Espresso—in its ongoing campaign to besmirch vodka's good name. They join Three Olive's 13 other fruity flavors (we mean that figuratively, if you get our drift): passionfruit, mango, pomegranate, cherry, berry, grape, watermelon, chocolate, orange, vanilla, green apple, raspberry, and citrus.


That's quite an array. What would John Wayne think? Cue Denis Leary's novelty song "Asshole": "John Wayne's not dead. He's frozen, and as soon as we find a cure for cancer, we're gonna thaw out The Duke, and he's gonna be pretty pissed off."

We kid, of course. The A.V. Club staff has virtually no power drinkers in Chicago, with one notable exception (guess who!), and at least one fan of What Not To Wear (guess who!). So wussied-up vodkas are just the ticket for the fairies flitting around our office.


Taste: We tried each flavor two ways: straight and mixed with something else. We looked at the Three Olives website for recipe suggestions, but they were a little hoity-toity for what we had access to in or near our office. (One quarter cup of "basil infused simple syrup"? Huh?) We did try one recipe, which called for the root-beer vodka to be mixed with a lemon-lime soda. Why? We asked ourselves the same question after we tried it. Other than that, we kept it relatively simple: tomato vodka with Bloody Mary mix; root-beer vodka with root beer and ice cream; espresso vodka with a bottled Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino.

On their own, the vodkas were surprisingly strong across the board. I think we mostly expected them to be "infused" with the "essence" of their respective sources, not overwhelmed by them. A quick whiff warned us, as each vodka practically knocked us over with its aroma. On the tongue, each hit first (and hard) with the source flavor, followed by a vodka exit flavor. (Plus, of course, that gentle, comforting warmth in the throat that says "Relax, man. Everything's going to be just fine so long as you keep drinking me.")


If there was a flavor for "abomination," it'd be Three Olives' tomato variety, which tasted less like vodka and more like a clear, burning variety of disgusting tomato juice. (Get on this, PepsiCo!) Root beer inspired mostly ambivalence, not outright revulsion, with everyone's sentiments mostly summarized by, "Not bad, but unnecessary." The syrupy Triple Espresso got the best response, especially when mixed with the Frappuccino—The Onion's Chicago staff has discovered a new, delicious way to start its morning.

Office reactions:

Three Olives Root Beer Vodka straight:

— "I think it'll be better as a root-beer float."

— "It's a little minty."

— "It really tastes like root beer at first, then vodka as the exit flavor."

— "It tastes like licorice. I don't like licorice."

— "Smells good. Tastes decent… reminiscent of Jäger & Dr. McGillicutty's."

— "It smells like root beer, but doesn't really taste like it. It tastes like a few molecules of A&W; floating in vodka. Kind of pointless."


— "Tastes like my childhood, only slightly drunker. Would drink again, possibly mixed with other things, and would call it a root-beer bloat."

— "I'd rather do a shot of this than the other two, but I'd still rather just shoot regular vodka."


Root Beer vodka + 7UP:

— "I think it's better straight than with the 7UP."

— "Because it almost tastes bitter."

— "This is too fruity; I wouldn't be able to drink a whole glass of this."

— "Horrible, horrible idea."

— "Okay, what exactly is the point of this? These are two great tastes that taste lousy together."


Root Beer vodka + root beer & vanilla ice cream:

— "It's good. It's the best way to enjoy root-beer vodka, I think."

— "You cut it with real root beer, and it's good."

— "I don't wanna share!" "It's okay."

— "Oh, delicious vanilla ice cream! No wait, booze. That's not what I want."

— "This is better than the 'virgin' version."

— I can barely taste the vodka—and root beer floats are always delicious, so this is a winner!"


— "Kinda delicious, though I think there's very few things that aren't improved by the presence of ice cream. It may be because we were just eyeballing it rather than measuring, but I think the vodka may have impaired the yummy, bubbly foam that makes root-beer floats so good. It tastes good, but the texture is different."


Three Olives Tomato Vodka straight:

— "It smells like a fermented pizza." "Ew, I can smell it over here."

— "It's definitely not good."

— "It tastes kinda sweet. It's like a really sweet tomato paste."

— "I'd do a shot of the root-beer vodka, but I wouldn't do a shot of this."

— "It's like a vodka tomato."

— "How little can I put into this cup?"

— "That is almost impossibly foul. There's a whole bouquet of incredibly awful flavors they've managed to pack in there."


— "Wow, they let salsa go rancid, then blendered it into vodka. Bad call."

— "It isn't just tomato vodka, it's like tomato, basil, oregano, and garlic vodka. It's like the pizza beer, only way stronger."


— "Satan's puke tastes like this."


— "According to the surgeon general, this drink is disgusting."

— "Horrible, disgusting smell and an even worse taste. It reminds me of V8, which I hate."


— "It tastes like a drunken farmer fertilized his tomato crops with vodka. I approve."

— "Good for feeding to enemies, bad for anything else. Smells like a rotten pizza, tastes like evil."


Tomato vodka + Bloody Mary mix:

— "It makes the Bloody Mary sweeter—more tomato-y. I will finish this."

— "It's like an alcohol Hot Pocket."

— "Do they have bacon-flavored vodka yet?"

— "I think it makes a somewhat superior Bloody Mary."

— "It's surprisingly delicious after tasting the straight tomato vodka. More of a tomato taste than your average Bloody Mary—I like it."


— "It's not as flavorful as a Bloody Mary ought to be."

— "I imagine this is the only context in which tomato vodka is a good idea. And it is a good idea, It made it much more, um, tomato-y. I'm taking the rest home for Sunday brunch drinks."


Three Olives Triple Espresso Vodka straight:

— "Wait, it's black?"

— "It's definitely the most syrupy." "Yeah it's almost like a liqueur."

— "Ohhh, that's good."

— "That is really strong."

— "I'd totally drink this; it's really good."

— "It tastes like coffee grinds without the grit."

— "It's like a less-creamy Baileys. Not bad at all."

— "Tastes a lot like a Black Russian. I'd love to try it on ice with a little cream, but it's good as-is."


— "It's a bit too sweet—Starbucks should adopt this and market it to drunks to for hangover cures."

— "I'm not huge on coffee flavor, so I would never drink this as a shot, but I can see how other people would. It's pretty pleasant, but a little syrupy. Much more like a liqueur than a vodka."


Espresso vodka + bottled Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino:

— "That's somewhat delicious."

— "It doesn't even taste like alcohol."

— "It's way better with a Frappuccino."

— "Okay, I should probably stop drinking."

— "If I was a Starbucks barista, this would be my daily recommendation!"

— "Yum… this seems like a great way to start your day, perfect for Monday mornings."


— "A great way to begin the day, provided you're able to take a nap a couple hours later."

— "It's deliciously strong. I see why they call it triple espresso instead of just single espresso. But it tastes like coffee instead of booze. Can we sneak the rest of this into the office coffeepot and watch people fall over drunk tomorrow morning?"


Suicide: Tomato + Root Beer + Espresso vodka:

— "I've never had anything kick in my gag reflex like that before. That's for the suicide, but could also apply to the tomato."


Where to find it: Liquor stores, booze emporia, packaged-goods retailers. Recipes are available at threeolives.com/newflavors.