By Mason Johnson
The jokes have already been made.
What? A Chicago vodka? What’s it taste like… A dirty L car? Deep dish pizza? Italian beef? The bricks & mortar of a 2-flat?
Apparently, none of the above.
According to the Absolut website, Absolut Chicago is “rich and aromatic with intriguing herbal notes of rosemary and thyme in a harmonious blend with fresh green olives.”
Having tried it, I can attest that this is an accurate description.
But is that a good thing?
Last night, I bought a bottle, and instead of chugging it down all by myself (which would have guaranteed I’d end up mysteriously in my bathtub by the end of the night, suspiciously sweaty and curled up in a fetal position), I invited some friends over to taste test Absolut Chicago with me.
Most of us assumed we wouldn’t like it — me chief among them (I’m a whiskey kinda guy). As it turns out, we were pleasantly surprised.
Here’s what we found…
Everyone had to take a sip of the stuff straight before they could mix it with something.
We found the description of its taste accurate. There was a definite hint of green olives, but even more present was the rosemary, which hits you first, before the typical taste of alcohol associated with vodka invades your mouth.
It’s important to note, the olive and rosemary tasted natural. Not like some weird, fake taste you’d find in flavored vodkas. Despite the fact that the rosemary can’t take that alcohol taste away from vodka entirely, it does a great job of lessening the kick.
All in all, it wasn’t bad straight. The gin drinkers of the bunch remarked that they were surprised how much they enjoyed sipping it.
Two parts Absolut Chicago, one part vermouth, shaken, served with a slice of lemon
Absolut Chicago mixes well into a Martini. My advice would be to go light on the vermouth — having the drink be 1/3rd vermouth was definitely way too much. The vodka seems to mix super well with it, to the extent that a little too much vermouth can overpower the drink in a bad way.
All in all, the Martini was drinkable. Not the best, but to be honest, I’m probably not the best Martini maker (this is what I get for not watching Mad Men).
As we stood around sipping on our Martinis, multiple people couldn’t help but shake their head up and down and remark, “This stuff would taste great in a Bloody Mary.”
And that’s absolutely true. The rosemary taste of Absolut Chicago definitely seems like the perfect partner for a Bloody Mary (though we unfortunately didn’t have the supplies on us to test this theory out).
The truth is, most of my friends and I are poor 20-somethings more accustomed to drinking crappy liquor mixed with whatever’s around the house than we are mixing decent liquor into fantastic cocktails.
With that said, we also tested Absolut Chicago with whatever happened to be in my fridge.
Absolut Chicago went super well with Canada Dry Ginger Ale, ice and a slice of lemon. My drink was about half and half, and you could barely taste that the vodka was even in it. The rosemary was still faintly there and it definitely added to the drink in a positive way.
Similarly, lemonade went well with Absolut Chicago. The alcohol was just faintly noticeable, but in a good way.
Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper did a good job of masking the bad of vodka, but also seemed to mask the subtle goodness that other mixers brought out from the liquor.
All in all, Absolut Chicago, a vodka I was prepared to hate, is a pretty great liquor. Those who like olives and rosemary will like Absolut Chicago, even if they don’t typically like vodka. Even though it tastes good straight, its qualities shine brightest when mixed into a Martini, with ginger ale or lemonade, or, I imagine, into a Bloody Mary. If you’ve been waiting to decide whether to try it or not, you definitely should. Is this vodka — around only for a limited time — worth buying by the crate so you’ll have some long after it disappears from shelves? For me? Probably not. For you though, it’s a definite possibility.