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Keeping an eye toward the future of flavors, P&Fnow presents Mintel’s occasional US restaurant menu surveys (Menu Insights), seeking out which taste trends might move from the dining table to the store shelf.
According to the recent Mintel Report, “White and Dark Spirits: The Consumer, U.S. 2007,” vodka is currently the dominant white spirit consumed in the US market, mainly due to its neutral flavor profile and mixable nature. In fact, consumer research shows that 23% of US adults drank vodka last year equating to an estimated 49 million Americans.
Originating in Eastern Europe, vodka is believed to stem from the Russian word “voda,” meaning water. Although it is still traditionally drunk neat (straight, no mixer) throughout its homeland, it has become an extremely popular addition to many cocktails and malt beverages in the United States and has established itself as an innovator with regard to flavor.
Flavored vodka is nothing new; it has been around since vodka’s introduction hundreds of years ago. Back then distillers used flavors and additives to mask impurities and to make the liquor more palatable. As better techniques were developed over the centuries, the craft of flavoring vodka became illustrative of the distiller’s skill.
Today, a few of these original flavor enhancers are seeing a comeback within the market, including vodka infused with dried lemon and orange peels or combinations of ginger, honey, cloves, coffee, anise and other herbs and spices, even pepper. Now flavoring is as much a mark of quality as it is an art, with fun and fresh new flavors constantly popping up in order to keep pace with today’s capricious consumer.