Spice Up Cocktail Hour With Herbal Vodkas 

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Spice Up Cocktail Hour with Herbal Vodkas

The liquor store's vodka section feels oddly like an ice cream parlor: salted caramel, cookie dough and wedding cake vodkas jockey for space with acai berry, pumpkin pie and mint chocolate chip flavors. Reading the labels is enough to give you a stomach ache and a preemptive hangover. So while this month's tasting technically involves flavored vodkas, these herbal concoctions have little in common with their saccharine peers.

Bak's Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, $26.20

Lightly herbaceous on the nose, this faint green Polish import has a single blade of bison grass, or "zubrowka," dwelling inside. On the palate, soothing chamomile notes blend with an ever-so-light hit of cinnamon resulting in a sweet, easy drinking nip that one sampler proclaimed "tastes like wildflowers smell." This vodka would make a great nightcap, served on the rocks. Mixers would overwhelm its subtle and intriguing flavors.

Square One Basil Organic Vodka, $32.75

With a pungent blast of licorice on the nose, this clear, organic vodka smells more like anise than basil at first whiff. And though the bottle claims it's infused with the essence of Genovese, Thai, Lemon and Sweet basils, the licorice flavor dominates the palate, bringing up comparisons to candy-coated fennel seeds and Pastis. This tipple, with its silky mouthfeel, would make a great digestif.

Absolut Cilantro, $16.95

Limey, citrus notes rule the nose on this pungent vodka, with subtle hints of earthy cilantro clawing through after a few sniffs. This hooch is the hottest of the three on the palate, with bright lime and non-soapy cilantro flavors bursting through then diffusing quickly. One taster compared it to cheap lime popsicles. This one would be best in a cocktail--perhaps in a gimlet served with spicy Thai food or even in a bloody mary.

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