Review: Cîroc Vodka
Cîroc Vodka, in addition to causing the fastidious blogger to use their copy-paste keys at a higher rate than normal, is something of an outlier in the vodka category. The bottle claims that it is distilled from snap-frost grapes, which, if the Bartender’s knowledge gained working at a winery serves her well, are the same grapes from which they make ice wine. Which is to say, they’re grapes left on the vine until the first frost hits, at which point they go crazy making as much sugar as possible. Shortly thereafter, they’re picked and fermented into high-proof, very sweet wines. Or, in this case, vodka.
There’s not a lot in the nose to betray its unusual character. A touch of fruitiness in the back of the throat, maybe, but that might just as well be one’s brain responding to the expectations created by seeing “Distilled From Fine French Grapes” on the bottle. The rest is just a small amount of what the Bartender is starting to think of as “vodka smell” – that slightly-medicinal alcohol odor overlaid with a touch of vanilla extract.
Taste it, though, and suddenly a whole separate, frankly schizophrenic plane of flavors opens up. On the one hand, there’s the familiar vodka burn (pleasingly so, not overly harsh or strong), but overlaid on that framework is a medley of sweet and fruity notes, almost like you might find in a Gewürztraminer. It’s not an unpleasant flavor, by any means – the Rebel Spouse even liked it, unusual for him and straight spirits – but it’s not at all what one tends to think of when they imagine “vodka”. Really, it’s quite appropriate that they’ve got Sean “Diddy” Combs advertising the stuff: it tastes like a remix of two disparate flavors, one that (like many hip-hop remixes) has no right to work as well as it does.
Shaken up in a martini, Cîroc continues to confound expectations. In every other vodka martini the Bartender has tried, there’s been the vodka flavor and the vermouth flavor, and in particularly good ones, the two flavors blend slightly while still maintaining their distinctiveness. Cîroc, on the other hand, almost completely disappears – as does the vermouth – combining to form something that’s not bad, but not quite equivalent to the sum of its parts. Given how palatable the Cîroc is alone, however, the Bartender will declare this the exception to her “dry martinis are pointless” rule.
Ultimately, whether this is worth the $30-$35 price point is going to be a matter of taste – if you’re looking for a good, plain, traditional vodka, this isn’t the right choice for you. If you’d like to try something a bit different, however, this is well worth your time. And if you want something to impress your jaded-drinker friends, shake it up bone-dry and garnish with a big fat red grape. Then sit back and enjoy the expressions on their faces. A-