Absolut began a line of limited edition flavored vodkas named for cities in 2007, with a new one released each year since. The latest is Chicago, and it’s an intriguing blend of olive and rosemary. While that may not sound great at first mention, it creates unique opportunities not normally found with flavored vodka.
Before getting into the spirit itself, I have to mention the Absolut Chicago bottle. It’s an absolutely beautiful cityscape that was crowd-sourced through Threadless. The online community of artists and designers put together 174 entries, and 157,000 votes later the design you see on the bottle today was crowded the winner. I’ve only lived in Chicago for 8 years, and it still touches me in inappropriate places. Now for the real reason we’re here.
The first whiff of Absolut Chicago has a fair amount of alcohol in it. That’s normal assuming you don’t regularly hold your nose directly over things that are 80-proof. A second nosing and the alcohol smell is all but gone, giving way to a rich aroma of olive and rosemary. They didn’t waste any time letting you know what was in the bottle. The aroma isn’t overwhelming, but it’s tough to find anything other than the two flavorsakes.
If you’ve ever done any cooking with rosemary, you know its taste is immediately recognizable. The herb almost jumps out of the glass with Absolut Chicago. If I had a flash blackout, I might have thought I stirred my Vodka Neat with a rosemary sprig for some reason. The olive plays third fiddle, with second being played rosemary’s identical twin sister rosemarie, but it’s certainly present. This helps to balance out the vodka and create a little more depth of character. There’s a brininess to the finish that is reminiscent of taking a pickleback. It’s the perfect ending for a culinarily inspired vodka.
I’m not big on flavored vodka. They’re typically overly sweet and fairly useless with anything other than Sprite or tonic. Absolut managed to eliminate both those gripes with Chicago. There is almost no sweetness to the spirit, and its uses extend far beyond collegiate drinks.
It’s amazing how a Vodka Neat is frowned upon yet a Vodka Martini, which is upwards of 96% vodka, is celebrated as classy. In this case, the vodka alone tastes much like a Martini. That should give you free rein to chill it, pour it in a cocktail glass, and go to town repeatedly. Of course you could always just make an actual Martini using 3 parts Absolut Chicago and 1/8 part dry vermouth. Garnish with an olive, and you’ve got a damn fine drink.
While the Absolute Chicago Martini is great, the Bloody Mary is where you want to be. I typically prefer gin in mine, making it a Red Snapper, but the flavor combination in Absolut Chicago is perfect for everyone’s favorite excuse to drink in the morning. Vodka typically gets lost in a Bloody Mary, which is why some people like it, but this is one case in which it actually enhances the drink. It’s no longer just spicy tomato juice with a garden on top. It’s truly a cocktail worth consuming for more than hangover management.
Four out of six Absolut Cities have been rebranded into the standard Absolut line of flavors. The conversation won’t take place until awhile down the road, but I hope the powers that be at Absolut seriously consider doing the same with this olive and rosemary flavored vodka. It’s not going to be an everyday drink for me because I’m not a raging alcoholic, but it will always have a place in my liquor cabinet.