Smirnoff Wild Honey and Cinna Twist Review
Bottom Line: it’s easy to get snobby about flavored vodkas from Smirnoff. And we have to say, they’re more liqueur than flavored vodka. But that said, they’re both good and true for what they’re supposed to be. They both work well in citrus and apple… and the honey is shockingly good and authentic; it’s far better than we had any reason to suspect. For the price point, it could be the very best honey flavored anything on the market.
Now for the details.
Spirits like these are difficult reviews to approach. Does the world need another “shock vodka”? At the time of this writing, Smirnoff records 36 different flavored vodkas. Thirty-six!! Of these, there are flavors such as Root Beer Float, Iced Cake, and Kissed Caramel. Are we to believe that these two newer entries of Wild Honey and Cinna-Twist somehow filled an unmet need?
Yet the market has spoken: these new flavors are everywhere and they’re selling. So to us, the assessment of new vodka flavors in the “shock” category come down to:
1) Is this strictly a novelty, one-time purchase or
2) Is it worth a repeat purchase… or even more
3) Does it actually invent a whole new category worthy of being kept in any well-stocked bar?
These are the questions that come to mind that we might usefully answer to a would-be purchaser searching the Google results.
In approaching the Wild Honey flavor, we quickly recognize this is the more traditional flavor. There is not only a tradition of honey liqueur coming from Germany among others but also a lot of newer honey liqueurs on the market. We approach the Smirnoff entrant from those two perspectives: first, Barenjager - the German honey liqueur that all other honey liqueurs must answer to and second, Evan Williams Honey - the new liqueur that is making the market and somewhat well-regarded by professional critics.
Approaching the Cinna Twist flavor is harder. There is no tradition here… just shock value. It promises the taste of “flaky golden pastry.” This is not something we ever thought to drink. Given the cinnamon value, we decided to compare it to the most famous of all cinnamon liqueurs: Goldschlager. But beyond that, we literally baked up some cinnamon twist doughnuts in our own oven to determine the authenticity of the taste.
First, the Smirnoff Wild Honey.
How Does Smirnoff Wild Honey Compare with Barenjager and Evan Williams Honey?
Smells of brown sugar and honey… perfumy… has a very light cherry powder smell. It’s sweet but overly sweet on the palate. It’s got a burn that goes down, which is a bit odd for 60 proof. But it’s almost a pleasing burn for cold weather. The perfume finishes a bit off. We would call it a liqueur rather than a flavored vodka.
In contrast, the Evan Williams has aromas of root beer and cola… maybe a little lemon. It doesn’t smell like honey at all compared to the Smirnoff. All sugar and heat on the palate. Hard to swallow. It’s almost lemon sugar rather than honey sugar. Finishes very hot though it’s 70 proof compared to the 60 proof Smirnoff. In sum, the Smirnoff kicks the shit out of this.
The Barenjager is burnt honey all the way… no question. And it’s only honey… nothing else. Drinking it is exactly like drinking honey straight from the hive or chewing honeycomb. It’s better than the Smirnoff but it’s also twice the price. It could be twice as good but there’s a value correlation there.
How authentic is the honey flavor?
Let’s ignore the Evan Williams, which doesn’t taste like anything but corn syrup and heat. The Smirnoff actually tastes exactly like a light honey while the Barenjager tastes more like concentrated honey… more honey than actual honey. Again, we’re pleased with how authentic the Smirnoff is for its price point.
Does it work as a shooter?
Not as well… we would recommend sipping it. Sipping allows the honey flavor to come through while shooting it just leaves the heat. (The Evan Williams is only good for a shooter, by the way, and that specifically to get drunk while risking cavities.) A little ice and a little sipping is really rather nice.
Does it work in a True Temptation (lemonade and club soda)
This is a cocktail recommended by Smirnoff that appears to be a summer style drink. It calls for:
1.5oz Wild Honey Vodka
3oz parts lemonade
2oz club soda
Shake on ice and top with club soda; garnish with a lemon wheel
Smirnoff is redolent of honey on the nose… makes one want to drink it with no clothing on and that’s summer. The blend of lemon is interesting… it’s fighting a bit. A minority thought there was a bit of conflict in the flavors or, at best, an armistice. Others disagreed… we finally decided it was a divorced couple thrown back into each others’ arms on a wild weekend in Paris. If you’re getting the notion that all this honey is making us a bit amorous, you’re right.
In comparison, there’s much more honey in the Barenjager… now the couple is happily married on the beach. The Smirnoff version, one might miss the honey if gulping poolside. The Barenjager, no question. There were several who actually preferred the lighter taste of what we’ll call the Russian temptation rather than the German… but no question there’s more honey in the German.
We have to say, once again, for the price point it’s nice to see the Smirnoff showing so well. Surprisingly well.
We tried it with the Evan Williams… and, well, the drink improved it. There’s no honey at all. But it’s not unpleasant; very light and mild. It might be worthwhile in a punch bowl and finishes a bit harsh. It’s not pleasant and we wouldn’t order again. Big loser. At best, it’s a lemon drop gone bad. Smirnoff is the easy winner against the Evan Williams.
How does it work in a Cider House Rules (apple cider)
Another recommendation from Smirnoff is the Cider House Rules, calling for:
1.5oz Wild Honey Vodka
2.5oz Apple Juice
2.5oz apple cider (we had to use more apple juice with a pinch of cinnamon because who has cider laying around out of season?)
2oz club soda
Smells of sweetened cinnamon cider, which is exactly what it is. It tastes just faintly of honey and even though this is supposed to be on ice we really think this should be warmed and served at Yuletide parties. The Barenjager finishes with a lot stronger honey flavor. They’re both very good with a Russian finish that is short and sweet and a German finish lingering a lot longer with the honey. Again, the victor goes to the preference for honey but both are very nice. Smirnoff, again, holds its own.
We didn’t bother to try the Evan Williams. It’s disqualified.
How does it work in a Baron Von Bourbon (bourbon and lemon)
Moving over to a Barenjager cocktail recipe we find a Baron Von Bourbon, calling for:
1 part Barenjager liqueur
¾ part bourbon (we used Devil’s Cut)
1 part lemon juice (we halved this from past experience)
Smells of tart lemon. The drink is almost good but not really. Like a short dude trying to dunk a basketball. There’s a little honey in the Sminroff and a lot more in the Barenjager (as one would expect at this point) but neither is a drink we would order. We have to say the Barenjager is better—a bit more drinkable—but it’s nothing we would ever finish.
We tried again without the god-damned lemon, which we thought was the problem. And it’s better. It’s almost verging on an incomplete Old Fashioned, which is not a bad. It makes us think this would be a good additive to a real old fashioned in lieu of simple syrup. Once again, opinions were split on which was better… a lot more bourbon flavor on the Russian version, which is good if you like bourbon. We’re noticing that if you wait a while on the German versions, the honey comes back like a pleasant haunting. The honey and bourbon is a nice combination (just lose the damned lemon!).
What have we learned about the Wild Honey?
Overall, the Barenjager is probably the better of the two bottles. But listen: the Smirnoff is actually very good and competes very well. It kicked the daylights out of the Evan Williams and likely a lot of other pretenders on the market. The Smirnoff honey flavor is authentic and pleasing - no bees would have cause for complaint. At the price point, it’s a very likely alternative to Barenjager, particularly if you can’t find the somewhat obscure German liqueur. Well done, Smirnoff: you exceeded our expectations!
Now we move on to the Cinna Twist… the only real liquor comp we could come up with was Goldschlager. As a cinnamon schnapps, it might be a reasonable comparison point for people to consider the Smirnoff. But first…
How does it compare to a real pastry?
We compared this straight up to Pilsbury Cinabon Grands Flaky Cinnamon Rolls. This is what they promised: a golden flaky pastry so that’s exactly what we compared it against. The cinnamon rolls are damned yummy, for the record. But the Smirnoff smells a little like popcorn in comparison… which is strange. We're not really sure if there's cinnamon in there at all. It tastes like buttery popcorn rather than doughy, pastry cinnamon. It’s not bad … but it’s certainly odd. You wonder what you drank. Did we drink melted margarine? What happened here? What is this good for? We wish this was as good as the cinnamon rolls from Pilsbury.
How does it take as a shot?
We took it chilled as a shot. We put on our best sorority girl attitude and knocked it back. It tastes buttery and finishes kind of messy… like a butter slip ‘n slide, which would certainly be messy. But very appealing to some sororities. This might have an audience as a shooter… but only up to the age of 22. This should be called a buttery twist instead of a cinnamon twist. If they’d called it butter, we would agree. This is not a cinnamon pastry.
There is this though: 100% of the women present, loved the taste. Maybe chicks dig the butter. These women would’ve happily taken shots of this all night long and been the grand prize at closing time.
How does it work in a Lucky Lemonade (lemonade and apple juice)
Here, Smirnoff recommends the same ingredients they suggested for the honey only used for the cinnamon-twist. Convenient! They call for:
1.5oz Cinna-Twist vodka
3oz apple juice
Now the Goldschlager… it’s all cinnamon red hot on the nose. A lot of cinnamon and scary to drink at first but the taste ends up being very nice.
Smirnoff has a hazelnut aroma now… how the margarine turned to hazelnut is a mystery. It tastes like buttered apples. Exactly like a very buttery fruit - or a butter slab melted on - a bunch of apple pie. It’s good… but very, very different. This could be an excellent exotic cocktail.
Both are very drinkable. If you like more cinnamon, you sip the (what we’ll call) Swiss version and shoot the Russian but vice versa if you’re looking for a lighter drink. Depending upon your point of view, you shoot one and sip the other. But both have merits. We are, again, happy with how the Smirnoff stands up. But if you’re ordering the Smirnoff hoping for cinnamon you’re going to be very disappointed because all you’re going to get is butter. Drinking it is good but it tastes like it’s clogging your arteries.
How does it work in a Cinnful Sour (lemon juice and simple syrup)
The other cocktail recommendation is another citrus option that looks like a replacement for the ever popular lemon drop shot. It calls for:
1oz Cinna-Twist vodka
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
Serve as a shot
The Russian version is a good shot but there’s not an ounce of cinnamon in there. False advertising. But it’s good… sweet and nice. A little artery hardening maybe.
The Swiss version, on the other hand, does have cinnamon. The lemon makes the Goldschlager better and it is shootable.
They’re both good but the Russian version is better… but for the false advertising on the cinnamon. Getting over our chronic complaint about the mislabeling and regarding it for what it is, we have to say it would get a good thumping start to the party.
What about an Oatmeal Cookie?
One of the more well-known shooters from the Goldschlager canon is the Oatmeal Cookie.
1 part butterscotch schnapps
1 part cream liqueur (we used Buffalo Trace bourbon cream)
1 part Goldschlager
Smirnoff: there’s the aroma of nutty butter! It smells good…. But not of cinnamon. We’ll assess this for real after we get over the unfulfilled promise of cinnamon. It’s very sweet… candy bar sweet… but once again 100% of the women loved the buttery cookie taste of it. They’d shoot it all night long.
Goldschlager: cinnamon sugar cookies. There’s a lot more cinnamon but it’s not as good as the other. Again, ignoring the false advertising, the butter bourbon goes better than the cinnamon version. Smirnoff is better than Goldschalger at its own drink without having any cinnamon at all. The irony of it all!
What have we learned about Cinna Twist?
First, let’s get this out of the way: it’s mis-labeled. It should be labeled buttery pastry flavored vodka. Or just butter flavored vodka. There’s no cinnamon here that we can detect. As a cinnamon flavored vodka: fail. Now, as a butter pastry flavored vodka, it’s actually really good. It comes out great in a number of shots and would easily be the life of the party. In fact, this is a party starter in a bottle. Collegians everywhere should be lining up to buy it. We say this hating the shock vodka category. But if shock vodka has leaders in the category, this would be in the running, false labeling and all.
[Disclosures: we received a bottle each of the Cinna-Twist and the Wild Honey for review; all other products mentioned were purchased on our own.]
By Neal MacDonald, Editor