Here at Binny's, we like to think that we have our finger on the pulse of the community when it comes to spirits, beer and wine. We listen to you in the aisle, we are out at trade shows and constantly touring wineries, breweries, distilleries. And now with the social media on the internets, we have this new layer of communication with you (would this be a good time to shamelessly plug our Facebook and twitter pages?).
Case in point: Bakon, the bacon flavored vodka.
There's a lot of bacon talk out there "bacon-mania" they call it. I'm probably not the guy to ask. Bacon has come to represent something all-American, macho and sexy and smirkingly gourmet. You can get it smothered in chocolate, you can have bacons-of-the-month delivered to your door, you can put your system through the 1390-calorie punishment that is the Baconator Triple (which is a real thing, apparently). A vodka flavored like bacon only seems reasonable.
I shrugged off Bakon vodka at first. The spirits buyer at Binny's ordered it in based on customer interest, and I smirked each time I passed it in the aisle. Then I started hearing about it on Twitter, on blogs. And it's selling well in our stores. My curiosity was piqued.
I did a little research, and now a bottle is sitting on my desk. Despite my skepticism, I dove right in. The bottle comes with a necker that suggests using Bakon in two drinks the Bakon Mary a take-off on the classic bloody mary, and the Chocolate Bakon Martini. For science, I tried this vodka neat, with Bloody Mary Mix, and a cocoa bar, since I didn't feel like springing for fresh cream and chocolate liqueuer. For science! Also, I got some other people in here to try it.
The vodka is clear with just the slightest hint of pink. It certainly smells hammy not smoky like I was expecting, maybe like hot dogs? Bacon bits? It shows no chemical components at all; the vodka under the bacon flavor is of good quality and does not betray its standard 40% abv. The bacon flavor is there on the palate a little black pepper and savory meat. It's not like charred, crispy bacon, but floppy raw meat with black pepper. That's probably good. Char is not a great quality in vodka. It's smooth. The general consensus here is that the bacon flavor is right up front and the spirit underneath is held back nicely.
For the Bakon Mary: Zing Zang is my old standby mix for those times where I can't lug all the ingredients for a bloody mary with me. I prefer to mix my own, but that's not always an option. Zing Zang is super spicy with lots of celery salt, and a value for five bucks. It's so flavorful you'll need to mix the Bakon vodka to almost 50/50 before the meatiness shines through, but then there it is, savory meat.
The verdict? I think I'd prefer my bloody mary to be about the spices and vegetables, but if you're a fan of meat in your tomato juice, this actually seems like a pretty good option. Just make sure to use a mellow mix or recipe, or you might eclipse the savory flavor of Bakon.
Then there is the Chocolate Bakon Martini. I wanted to keep it simple, so instead of setting up a full-service bar, I opened up the Lindt 70% Cocoa, broke off pieces passed them around. We first bit into the chocolate, then sipped the vodka.
...And it's a decent pairing! The richness and bitterness of the chocolate covers the hamminess of the vodka, but the subtle savory quality remains. I could really see this working well in a cocktail, adding a subtle layer of savory flavor into a chocolate martini a drink too focused on sweetness.
Bakon is a decent flavored vodka, and though "refreshing" isn't the first word that comes to mind, it is sort of refreshing to see a new vodka flavored like something other than fruit or candy. It's certainly not for everybody, but if you're into this whole bacon thing, it's something you should know about. And probably already do?