In times like these, many of us could use a drink. Luckily, National Vodka Day on October 4th provides a great occasion to imbibe. For food and beverage brands, this spirit celebration offers an opportunity to tap into strong consumer demand for vodka-based creations.

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A Resilient, Creative Spirit

Despite — or perhaps because of — tough economic conditions and a continued global health crisis, alcohol sales have remained resilient. Vodka has been among the leaders as consumers stocked their liquor cabinets, reports BeverageDynamics.

But that doesn’t mean vodka brands are the only ones winning in this environment. Many consumers want more complex vodka-based libations that they might not be able to easily create at home. And because traditional vodka on its own offers somewhat of a blank canvas, food and beverage brands can get as creative and funky as they want with the spirit.

Specifically, as bars and restaurants start to re-open for seated service, or as they serve customers to-go drinks, they can offer vodka drinks that hit on several of the 2020 Symrise flavor trends, such as...

Adding natural/healthy ingredients: Many consumers, especially younger ones, are turning to low- or no-alcohol drinks as part of a larger trend toward emphasizing wellness. That said, when they do consume alcohol like vodka, they often want the drink to have some added health benefits or at least evoke a more natural feel. Fermentation is also on the rise, which can tie into areas like gut health.

What do these trends look like in practicality? The Bluebird, a cocktail bar in Baltimore, serves a libation on draft that pairs vodka with ingredients such as fermented cucumber soda and elderflower. And in the COVID-era, The Bluebird offers this cocktail by the bottle for takeout so consumers can enjoy it at home.

The Spare Room in Los Angeles also brings a sense of naturalness to their “Salt & Vinegar Martini,” which includes ingredients like carrot dill brine.

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Sprucing up classics: Another Symrise flavor trend is “Prime Classics,” which encompasses demand for classic cocktails, often with elevated twists. For example, the espresso martini is making a comeback. At The Raines Law Room in New York, the menu includes staff favorites, one of which is an espresso martini. Yet the bar spruces the drink up with ingredients like cold brew coffee and chocolate bitters.

Other classics like the Moscow Mule are also trending and sometimes getting a modern upgrade. For example, at Sundry and Vice in Cincinnati, the bar serves a “Ginger Snap Mule” draft cocktail, which includes vodka, ginger snap liqueur, ginger beer, lime acid and bitters.

Pairing vodka with tea: Tea in all its varieties has also been on the rise, and it can pair well with vodka. For example, Yvonne’s, a restaurant in Boston, upgrades the Moscow Mule with their “Chai Mule” offering. This drink includes vodka, chai tea, ginger and lime.

UES, an ice cream shop/speakeasy in New York, serves a to-go cocktail, “Asphalt Green,” that includes green-tea infused vodka. This drink also ties back to flavor trends like naturalness, as it includes fresh basil and Chinese five spice.

As these examples show, vodka can tie in easily to so many different types of trends. The drink itself may traditionally be tasteless, odorless and colorless, but that opens up opportunities to get creative with other ingredients.

In addition to bars serving creative cocktails that consumers might not be able to easily recreate at home, this demand for vodka also opens up chances for food brands to create complementary pairings. Espresso martinis, for example, could be paired with all different types of desserts, whereas Moscow Mules might call for lighter fare.

Overall, the outlook for vodka seems bright. Even if the economy continues to struggle, there’s potential to attract customers with innovative vodka drinks.

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