Smirnoff—the number one vodka measured by sales on the planet—is very aggressive in the flavored market. As of this writing, here at Proof66 we list 30 different flavors of Smirnoff and that’s certainly not all of them. In a move that we applaud, they are moving away from the “shock vodka” category and have introduced more natural flavors (and by that we mean flavors that actually occur in nature) offered in an exotic setting (sorbet) and taking advantage of the new urge for “skinnier drinks” (“light”). Welcome, Smirnoff Sorbet Light vodka!
We are brightly assured that the vodka tastes “like real scoops of icy, fresh sorbet.” Even better, they are “guilt free” due to the calorie count, which is said to be 78 calories per 1.5 ounces of spirit. Do they hold up? Let’s find out…
Bottom line: should I buy Smirnoff Sorbet Light vodkas?
Smirnoff Sorbet Light did something really nice… something that is getting forgotten in the madness of the vodka world. They made something delightfully light and incredibly easy to mix. The highlight for this vodka is its ease of use… you can almost mix this in any way imaginable and it’ll fall between good and great; it’s particularly well-suited for the party that’s not specifically ABOUT the cocktail but rather where drinks are simply wanted FOR the party. For specific groups of drinkers:
NO for the Vodka Snob: you’re probably turning up your nose at flavored vodkas that aren't made from some forgotten South Pacific herb organically produced and plucked by indigenous people under the light of the new moon paid by free trade labor. Smirnoff sorbet light won’t change your mind. These vodkas are for the boisterous party going on at the sorority house down the road from the upscale bar. Not the parlor of your house where you’re holding court on the fiscal policies of the European Union.
YES for the Boisterous Sorority Girl: you've found your perfect vodka! These have a lot more dignity than the various adolescent candy flavors and you can actually mix some civilized drinks. For the 21-29 crowd of hipster female, these get a strong BUY recommendation from us.
YES for the Soccer Mom: ditto. You've invited the other moms over at the end of soccer season for a little unwinding. This is perfect. Acquire a bottle of Smirnoff Sorbet Light… some fruit juice… toss in some fresh produce from the market… put it in a pitcher and the party goes on all night. Almost labor free and that’s probably important in your busy schedule. The kids just think you’re drinking fruit juice and the alcohol content isn't so high that you can’t drive your mini-van home. Perfect.
NO for the Manly Whiskey Drinker: why are you reading this article?
YES for the Lime-a-Rita and Red Bull & Vodka Crowd: how you drink those vile concoctions of chemical brew is beyond us. Anything you do with the Smirnoff Sorbet Light vodkas will be superior… presuming you have any working taste buds left. Seriously, going for the synthetic and the syrupy sweet to this will be like going from flip cell phones to smart phones.
NO for the Sarah Jessica Parker and her fellow cocktail enthusiasts: these vodkas are not going to compete with the elite cocktail. They aren't strong enough to assert themselves across spectra of flavor and intense ingredients. That’s not the market. The sorbet light vodkas are for the afternoon croquet games BEFORE you put on the little black cocktail dress and go out to break the hearts of men, not during.
Remind me… exactly what the heck is sorbet?
You’ve seen ice cream? Well, sorbet (or sherbet in the United States or sorbetto in Italy) is similar only it’s not made with any dairy products. This makes it decidedly less creamy… almost more of a stiffened slushy. It has a signature icy tartness that the Smirnoff folks tried to replicate in the aroma. So where a Smirnoff citrus smells like lemons, the Smirnoff Lemon Sorbet smells like lemons with a sorbet hit.
What are the flavors? Are they really all that exciting?
From the marketing side, we think that they hit the right note. “Lemon Sorbet Light” is a lot more exciting than “citrus.” And “Mango Passion Fruit Sorbet” is more interesting than “Mango.” The super-fruit crowd can’t but help fall in love with “Raspberry Pomegranate Sorbet” unless it was also “Raspberry Pomegranate Sorbet Infused with Flax Oil and Ground Unicorn Horns.” These flavors aren’t scary—they don’t make you think that they were invented in some crazy Russian laboratory with candy, Italian desserts, and sugary cereals laying around. They’re honest, nice. Very appealing.
What’s the real story with the “light” calories?
So, some quick level-setting: There are calories associated with the ethanol itself, obviously, and for a standard 80 proof vodka of 1.5 ounces averages out at 64 calories (this according to the folks over at Live Strong). That’s obviously less than the Sorbet “Light”… but remember that this is for standard, neutral vodka. As soon as you add flavor, you’re also starting to add some sugar or other sweetener… how much depends upon the brand.
According to the Calorie King, 1.5 ounces of Smirnoff citrus comes in at 87 calories… so we’re 9 calories to the better with the Sorbet Light.
Compare this with the insanely popular Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka which is 114 calories per 1.5 ounces. The Sorbet Light is a full 36 calories to the good on that one.
Bud Light, by the way, has 116 calories per 12 ounces to go with 8 grams of carb.
The hideous Lime-a-Rita has 330 calories per 12 ounces and 45 grams of carbs… so Sorbet Light is way ahead of that marketing atrocity.
Then, there are the mixers, of course. One has to acknowledge the calories in whatever your cocktail of choice contains. Cranberry juice and vodka at 3:1? Well, you just picked up about another 70 calories. Red Bull? 110 calories.
So it is light but how light depends upon what you do with it.
How does Smirnoff Sorbet Light taste straight up?
We wanted to see how different vodkas stacked up against each other bare and naked. So we compared to some traditional flavored Smirnoff vodkas to try and figure this out.
Sorbet Lemon vs Smirnoff Citrus: the (what we’ll call) classic citrus has a clean, citrus smell—a bit like Lemonheads but still nice. The Sorbet in contrast has the same citrus but a back-end whiff of… well, something. Not sorbet… something that tried to be sorbet and ended up something funky. It tastes a little diety, like aspartame. Where the classic finishes with a clean citrus, the sorbet finishes like diet soda. But wait! On ice, things get a lot better for both. In ice, the sorbet picks up a sweetness that’s quite nice—still a bit diet but a lot nicer. Tastes almost like a lemonhead. This has to be meant to be taken on ice—never as a shooter but nice on ice and, presumably, in a drink.
Sorbet Mango Passion Fruit vs Smirnoff Melon: Why Melon? It was the closest thing to mango we could find. The melon is a honeydew melon and smells very nice… and a Bubble Yum bubble gum odor. It tastes great… probably brilliant in tonic and club soda. The Mango Passion Fruit Sorbet also smells great… it has none of the diet/aspartame aroma of the lemon. It smells of orange, pineapple, tangerine... a tropical medley, really. There is a faint diet cast on the finish. In what appears to be a trend, it gets sweeter on ice. The whole flavor is very successful and particularly so on ice. Can’t wait to mix it.
Sorbet Raspberry Pomegranate vs Smirnoff Blueberry: The blueberry smells bad—fake blueberry and the same weird funkiness we picked up on the Lemon Sorbet. Whatever flavoring agent that was used for the lemon Sorbet is also showing up here. Despite the claims of natural flavoring, the taste is all artificial. The Raspberry Sorbet, on the other hand, smells great. Even better, it’s the first one that smells exactly like sorbet … and we can verify because we actually compared it to raspberry sorbet. Tasting neat, the aspartame taste is still present but it fades into glorious sweetness on ice. This is best of the three flavors.
How does Smirnoff Sorbet Light taste in fruit juice?
We wanted to mix these vodkas in common types of juice we’d find at home parties, refrigerators on the weekend, or you’d order in an unfamiliar bar. In this case, we used orange juice or cranberry juice as we thought appropriate for the flavors.
Lemon Sorbet and cranberry juice: The odd, diet aroma comes through loud and clear. But in the actual tasting? It’s quite nice in the cranberry juice. Whatever magic happens when the Sorbet Light is introduced in water to generate sweetness works very well here. It performs excellently in cranberry juice and easily a match for classic citrus flavored vodkas in the same setting.
Mango Passion Fruit Sorbet and orange juice: Dangerously, the sorbet doesn’t taste remotely like alcohol. You could drink it like Sunny Delite and never know differently until you were counting purple kittens on the moon. But the nice tropical flavors we felt drinking straight kind of vanish into the juice. We ended up trying it out in champagne as well to great effect… a very Mimosa-like drink. What we’re learning is that these sorbet light vodkas are very hard to mess up. Mix it in one thing or another and you have something very easy to make and very drinkable.
Raspberry Pomegranate Sorbet and cranberry juice: We have a winner! The sorbet light is absolutely breathtaking in cranberry juice. It takes the nice, tart flavors and improves everything dramatically… plus you get a little alcohol kick. Heavenly. Huge acclaim from our group. It screams summer… this could be drunk all day long at the beach. All. Day. Long.
How does Smirnoff Sorbet Light work in designer cocktails?
Each of these drinks was recommended specifically by Smirnoff. They’re all martini styled but we say that true martini-style cocktails are sipped very slowly due to their strength while these particular drinks all beg to be gulped. Not bad… but not necessarily in the classic style. If you want to gulp, then read on…
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Berry Cosmo: our first drink is a take on the classic Cosmopolitan with 1.5 ounces of vodka, 2 ounces of cranberry juice, and a quarter ounce of fresh lime juice, shaken on ice and served up in a martini glass. We already knew this was good from trying it in just cranberry juice… what would punching it up with lime juice do? Well, the magical sweetness of the Sorbet Light + Ice really comes out in the aroma. It’s one of the greatest smelling drinks around… which is a long way from the oddness it gives straight. It’s very, very easy—too easy—to go overboard on the fresh lime. But if you get it right, the proportions balance each other. The lime, the lemon sorbet, and the tangerine all meld together in a harmony that makes the individual indistinguishable from the whole. Very interesting. A shot of cranberry bitters or similar truly brightens up this drink into something special.
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini: this one calls for 1.5 ounces of vodka, 1.5 ounces of coconut water, and 1 ounce of pineapple juice shaken and served up in a martini glass (very much like a pina colada). The drink is a gorgeous, sunshine yellow. The smell is all tropical but very fresh, natural smells. The taste is delicate… but almost too delicate. It’s not at all sweet but very refreshing summer breezy. It reminds us of minty freshness without the mint flavor. While the flavors are balanced they’re also a little muted. Rather than a martini style cocktail, this would be much more successful in a huge batch laying in a punch bowl to be drunk on ice.
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch: this drink calls for 1.5oz of vodka, 2.5oz of diet lemon lime soda (we used non-diet Sprite), and 1.5 ounces of pomegranate juice (we used cranberry juice because who has pomegranate juice laying around), built on ice in a highball glass. You knew this one was going to be good… easy, easy drinking. Easy to make, fast to slug down, and please ma’am yes I’ll have another. The raspberry tartness from the sorbet really sets the drink apart and one can imagine these coming out in a Vegas pool by the dozens. Best of all, the whole drink packs just a tad more punch than a light beer (a little less than a Canadian beer).
Why wouldn’t I just get real sorbet if I wanted sorbet flavored drinks?
This is actually a very reasonable question. Why not just get regular old Smirnoff vodka—itself a great buy and low calorie—and goose up a dish of sorbet by pouring it on? Wouldn't that accomplish the same thing? For less money?
We got several different kinds of actual sorbet and sherbet. What happened? First off, this is terrible from a labor standpoint. Scooping sorbet is messy. Then there are the proportions. It’s easy to get too much vodka and make the whole thing way too hot and taste awful.
Buying the sorbet light vodkas is incredibly easier than using real sorbet. Plus, Smirnoff really got the aromas down when they inserted it in the spirit. At the price point, if you like sorbet, buying the bottle is really the way to go.
The Final Conclusion
We feel that Smirnoff Sorbet Light has something of a hit on its hands. For our money, a bottle of Smirnoff, a jug of fruit juice, plus a pitcher of ice equals immediate party. That should immediately replace every pre-made bucket of slush or other pre-made cocktail mix that's on the market... the sorbet light flavors are better flavored, better made, and if they're not for the elite they're much better for the beach party.