The Vodka Report: A periodic reality check

New vodkas and vodka flavorings are as common as toadstools after a spring rain. Yet, they keep on being introduced to the market as vodka maintains its status as the No. 1 selling spirit in the world.

Here are some of the latest offerings:

• p.i.n.k. -- The first caffeine- and guarana-infused vodka stays in the usual strength range at 80 proof for this Dutch-made spirit. The concept is based on the trend of mixing alcohol with "energy" drinks. David Mandell, a former Federal Aviation Administration official who now is president and CEO of an organization called High Energy Holdings LLC, worked with several partners to create p.i.n.k. Clarendon Flavor Engineering developed a process to extract the natural intensity component from the guarana bean, while removing its dark color and tart flavor. The Brazilian bean contains a natural form of caffeine, 2 1/2 times stronger than the caffeine found in coffee or tea.

“While traveling through Brazil on government business, I witnessed the power of guarana and its widespread popularity,” Mandell told HappyHours.com. “The bean is now being used in sodas, juices, work-out drinks, vitamins, and a host of foods. For us, it was a perfect ingredient for p.i.n.k.”

The suggested retail price for a 750 ml bottle is about $40.

• Absolut Ruby Red -- This grapefruit-flavored vodka is initially aimed at the summer market, but the company obviously would hope it gets enough of a following to still sell year-round even at a reduced level.

It has a floral aroma with pungent grapefruit notes. As always, Absolut is marketing it through parties, celebrity-centric TV shows and a Web page offering drink recipes using the new vodka.

The suggested retail price is about $30.

• Diaka -- Although the company hasn't set a firm suggested retail price, its PR people are calling this Polish-made spirit the world's most expensive vodka because of its unique diamond filtration method.

Diaka, an acroym for diamond vodka, is filtered using up to 100 diamonds of up to a carat in size to give it clarity and smoothness. It also has crystals in the bottle itself, although they're not diamonds.

This all reminds me of my earlier report on the introduction of Diva, a triple distilled wheat-based vodka filtered through Nordic birch charcoal then filtered again -- through such precious gems as diamonds, emerald and rubies, we are told. A glass tube in the bottle is filled with 48 crystals that can be used as a garnish. They include cubic zircona, smoky topaz, pink tourmaline, amethyst, citrine and peridot. Suggested retail price: $60 a bottle.

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