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Review: Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry Vodka Is Impressive In Cocktails But Lacks Vibrant Flavor

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka
Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Smirnoff is one of the most prominent vodka producers in the world. The brand is consistently ranked number one as the best-selling vodka in the world, according to The Spirits Business. The publication reports that Smirnoff's sales grew by 6% in 2022, selling 28.1 million cases, up from 26.5 million in 2021.

One reason for the consistently high ranking could be due to the extensive vodka offerings Smirnoff provides. In addition to the classic No. 21 vodka, the company makes 26 different flavors and zero-sugar infusions. The company's desire to deliver products that excite their customers has also led to offering seasonal, limited-release flavors. Smirnoff Peppermint Twist was initially a limited-release product in 2015. Red, White & Berry was also initially a limited-release product in the summer of 2016. Both are now a part of the company's vibrant flavors product line. One year, Smirnoff even made vodka-filled Christmas ornaments.

For the 2023 holiday season, the company is offering a limited-release Red, White & Merry vodka. We had a chance to try the festive liquor to see if it would get us into the holiday spirit. As a Sommelier and wine and spirits writer, I have taste-tested and reviewed dozens of vodka brands and products over the past 20 years. We drew upon this knowledge for this review. Here are our thoughts.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

What Is Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry Vodka

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka
Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka is a gluten-free liquor that combines natural flavors and certified colors to create a spirit that displays the tastes of the holidays, including orange, cranberry, and ginger. The taste inspiration came from the signature flavor of the 2022 limited-time offering of the company's Smirnoff Ice seasonal release, Red, White & Merry Ice Holiday Punch. The malt beverage's flavors included cranberry, black cherry, blood orange, and ginger.

With a blushing pink berry color, each 1.5-ounce serving of Red, White & Merry's 60-proof vodka has 89 calories. The calorie count is slightly lower than a standard shot and a half of unflavored vodka with 96 calories, according to Medical News Today. The fewer calories are likely due to the alcohol by volume (ABV) being slightly lower in flavored vodkas than in traditional unflavored options that include only water and ethanol. The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives requires a minimum of 40% ABV in standard, unflavored vodka, where flavored options can have a lower ABV due to the liquor's dilution when adding sugars and other flavorings. Smirnoff's holiday offering has 30% ABV.

How Is The Vodka Made?

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka
Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Smirnoff is coming to the rescue for all cranberry vodka lovers who manually create DIY cranberry-infused vodka every year to drink throughout the holidays. No longer will you need to crush, strain -- or, more importantly, wait -- as the vodka steeps for weeks with the fresh berries to enjoy the taste of an infused liquor. Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry holiday bottle provides cranberry flavors in an easy-to-open, mess-free 750ml bottle.

Like all of Smirnoff's vodka sold in the US, the base of the gluten-free vodka is corn. Most vodkas are gluten-free as the distillation process removes the gluten, whether from wheat, barley, other grains, potatoes, grapes, or corn. However, using corn ensures the product's base ingredients are celiac-friendly. Smirnoff does not add any hidden products that may contain gluten to its flavorings either.

The spirit is triple-distilled to create a balanced taste. The triple distillation process helps purify the vodka, ensuring a smooth palate free of impurities, with lighter natural flavors and a well-rounded character.

The Tasting Experience

Smirnoff vodka and cocktail
Smirnoff vodka and cocktail - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry promises citrus and berry fruit flavors, complemented by the warming, spicy characteristics of ginger. The combination reminds us of the flavors we enjoy during the holiday season, like warm spiced mulled wine, cranberry sauce, and gingerbread. We tried the vodka neat in a tulip-shaped wine glass without ice and poured over ice in a rocks glass for our tasting. The tulip glass will help maximize the aromatics of the vodka, as the shape of the glass is so important as it helps concentrate the aromas, leading them toward the nose.

We found that the vodka has a fresh, fruity aroma, delivering on the ripe red berry and juicy citrus expectations from the product description. The texture of the vodka is thick, with a dense consistency that coats the mouth in a honeyed, sugary syrup when tasting the product. The taste is sweet and fruity, with a prevailing cranberry flavor on the front palate and a heavy, sugary, somewhat artificial sweetness on the finish. We found berry and cherry flavors rather than citrus. This left us wanting more of a prominent orange citrus taste and searching for the zesty, warming, spicy characteristics that ginger flavoring should provide. Trying the product with ice helps dilute the overall sweetness. However, the vodka's dominant flavor is cranberry.

Is Red, White & Merry Expensive?

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka
Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Though Smirnoff is one of the world's most popular and best-selling vodkas, the company does not inflate its price. Smirnoff No. 21 vodka is one of the more affordable vodkas available on the market. The company's flavored vodka options follow similar pricing guidelines, with the average cost for a 750ml bottle of Smirnoff Red, White & Merry being around $14, similar to the brand's Peppermint Twist and Pink Lemonade vodkas.

Fitting with the season, the bottle is wrapped like a Christmas present in a red casing, with gold accents and red glitter to bring a little glitz and glamour to the holidays. Following the initial release of the seasonal product on November 1, 2023, Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry vodka will be on sale through the end of the year to compliment any holiday occasion. The vodka is available at alcohol retailers nationwide.

How To Drink The Vodka

Smirnoff vodka and Cosmo
Smirnoff vodka and Cosmo - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Like any vodka, Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry makes the perfect base for an array of martinis, mixed drinks, and holiday cocktails. Though the vodka's sweet, fruity flavors are prominent enough to mix the liquor with club soda or seltzer simply, we found it best mixed into cocktails with additional flavored mixers. Beverages like ginger beer, pure cranberry juice, and lemon-lime soda, with garnishes like fresh herbs and citrus wheels, help balance the overall sweetness while enhancing the overall flavor of the vodka.

Use it in cocktails to add fruit-forward flavors to a festive Christmas punch, enhance cranberry orange crush cocktails, or make Ina Garten's big batch Cosmopolitans, perfect for entertaining a group of friends this holiday season. For those feeling adventurous, we suggest adding it as a cranberry twist on a Moscow mule, intensifying the cranberry flavor in a classic Madras cocktail, or using it in a frozen Cosmo. The icy cocktail is the best use of leftover cranberry sauce we have tasted.

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry Vodka Vs. Deep Eddy Cranberry

Smirnoff and Deep Eddy vodka
Smirnoff and Deep Eddy vodka - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry includes such a unique combination of ingredients that no other flavored vodka on the market is exactly like it. Of course, other citrus, ginger, and cranberry vodkas are available. However, Smirnoff is the only one to put the three flavors together.

Still, the cranberry in Smirnoff's vodka was the prevailing taste, so we compared Red, White & Merry to Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka. Like Smirnoff, the Texas-made product is also made from a corn base, making it naturally gluten-free. Deep Eddy also has national distribution and is available for around the same price.

Deep Eddy Cranberry vodka's alcohol is slightly higher than Smirnoff's, at 35% ABV, and the product goes through distillation ten times versus Smirnoff's three. The additional distillation creates an ultra-smooth vodka with a clean, well-rounded palate and smooth texture. The vodka is made with real cranberry juice versus natural flavorings, giving it a more authentic, genuine, tangy cranberry flavor in comparison to Smirnoff's offering. Deep Eddy's also uses pure cane sugar, creating a well-balanced taste of sweetness with tart fruitiness.

Is Smirnoff Red, White & Merry Vodka Worth It?

Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka
Smirnoff Red, White & Merry vodka - Hayley Hamilton Cogill/Tasting Table

When deciding if buying a bottle of Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry is worth is this holiday season, we'll say we truly appreciate any product whose goal is to help us get into the holiday spirit. We had high hopes for Smirnoff's Red, White & Merry vodka. We like that the vodka is gluten-free and the alcohol by volume is lower than other vodka products. We love that the product is inexpensive and widely available across the country through the end of the year.

However, we found the best use of Smirnoff's vodka to be as the base alcohol for cocktails that include other full-flavored mixers. This concept has us asking why not just use a standard unflavored vodka if we need to add additional juices and mixers to achieve the fruity, spicy taste the flavored vodka promises. That being said, we found the vibrant red packaging fun and festive. It will add holiday flair to any bar cart and make a pretty gift for any vodka lover.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.