Infusion Confusion

That night I got to thinking about infusions, and I couldn’t help but wonder … are infused vodkas fresh-tasting, drinkable couture, or merely off-the-rack, flavored vodkas in new outfits?

To answer the Sex and the City-inspired question above, no, Skyy Infusions are not just Skyy Flavors in a fancy new getup. As a Skyy rep explained it, “flavored” simply means plain vodka with artificial or natural flavors added—much like one might add vanilla syrup to a latté. “Infusions” belong in a different category, and begin by steeping fruit, spices, vegetables or herbs in liquor (usually vodka) to make an intensely flavored liquid (much like a strong pot of tea). The concentrated spirit is later blended with vodka, then filtered to remove color and most of the sugar, leaving the intense all-natural flavors behind.

My embarrassingly well-stocked home bar includes a few familiar, dusty blue bottles—the original line of Skyy Flavors, introduced in 2000 with citrus marking the brand’s entry into the flavored vodka market; berry, vanilla, spiced, melon and orange soon followed.

As the flavored vodka craze spread, Skyy had to distinguish its product, and in 2008 it blazed a new trail infused with all-natural ingredients and intense flavors.

Skyy discontinued the Flavors line that same year, but also reinvigorated its iconic cobalt blue bottle with a sleek new look and launched the all-natural Skyy Infusions line—in citrus, raspberry, passion fruit, grape, cherry, pineapple and ginger—the last two being the first nationally available vodkas of their kind.