Bottom Line: Should You Buy Mars White Cranberry Vodka?
|How We Tasted It||Ratings||Reviews/Notes|
|Neat||“I would not mix it with anything… I’d drink it on rocks and be okay all the long day.”|
|Marz’s Sister||“I’m with my woman. Later on, we’re going to get it on cause we’ve had 3 of these.”|
|Greenberry Vodka||“Oh, Christ save me!”|
|Bourbon Cranberry Experiment||“I wouldn’t do this to good bourbon but it might make my bad bourbon taste better.”|
|Overall!||“Hell yes! It’s not the first thing you’ll buy… but when exploring flavored vodkas, this is one that should rise high in your consideration set.”|
Bottle details available at the Marz Vodka bottle page
For the Vodka Nerds
Mars vodka is produced under Supernova Spirits but made out of the LeVecke Corporation in California. That’s a big outfit that contracts a number of different spirits as well as producing some on their own. Those vodka nerds that treasure the local distillery, the small batch, pot distillation method, or the organic provenance of unusual ingredients may find themselves annoyed by a large-scale producer making a wheat vodka in the Euro-style. We’re at least half-convinced that they had a point of view in offering their vodka (and particularly their flavors) rather than simply ending up with a bottle, a label, and whatever it was that was coming off of the still. It’s contracted vodka but contracted with a purpose and that should mean something.
For all that, the bottle is pretty sexy. It’s a shape that fits well on the shelf, very cool designs, but elegant and subtle instead of a leering head or some such statuesque thing. Very nice marketing. And, of course, astronomy nerds will be very excited… particularly those infatuated with the Mars1 Mission.
More importantly: the flavors! Marz is making their story not based on crazy-ass, shock-value, adolescent favors—a fad that is blessedly if finally subsiding at the time of this writing—but rather based on upmarket and moderately hipster fruit flavors. Here we examine the White Cranberry expression, which was their first flavor and really the foundation on which the brand rests. The white cranberry presents as a clear spirit (not red!) and evoke flavors of melon and vanilla.
Of What It’s Made
Wheat vodka; charcoal filtered! Isn’t that right down the middle of the fairway for traditional vodka? This is a specific and direct challenge to the Grey Gooses, Smirnoffs, Stolichnayas, Pinnacles, and all the rest that dominate the market and almost always from Europe.
In our opinion, wheat has always been a great base for vodka because it offers a soft and neutral flavor that slides into mixing just right. French wheat? Winter wheat? What about some other country’s wheat grown in summer? We’re never entirely sure how much credence to give the wheat but it’s worth noting that many of the elite companies pay close attention to the quality of their grain and Supernova seems to follow in that suit. To us, this always signals a receptivity to fruit in particular as opposed to citrus or herbs and that’s exactly how we tested the vodka. It also signals a style of vodka that’s not necessarily meant to call attention to itself as it is to merge with others.
The White Cranberry is, of course, the flavor presented here and comes as an infusion. We guess that the brand uses essences and “natural flavors” (as opposed to an old-fashioned, labor-intensive, messy, and difficult to control maceration with real fruit).
How it Performed
Neat, Naked and Unadorned
The aroma, immediately upon opening, fills the entire room. “Yes, yes, yes!” our gallery eagerly shouted. It’s something a flavored vodka should do is entice with the aroma.
The taste was interesting… the panel differed on its impression of “natural cranberry taste” to “no cranberry but lots of bubble gum.” Some said that they tasted no cranberry and some claimed that’s all they tasted. One lone itinerant thought they tasted aspirin on the finish. What we eventually decided is that no one knew what cranberry actually tastes like. Fetching a jar of unsweetened, organic, not-from-concentrate cranberry juice we realized that raw cranberry tastes awful and while Marz White Cranberry doesn’t resemble it, it does taste very good.
We compared this to Effen Black Cherry Vodka as one of the market-dominant well-respected fruit flavors. While the Proof66 panel liked both vodkas the preference was for the Marz Cranberry if faced with a purchase decision. Victory: Marz Cranberry!
This is a cocktail recommended by the producers. It calls for:
- 1oz Marz White Cranberry Vodka
- 1oz Crème de Cacao liqueur
- 1oz half-and-half
Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with grated chocolate.
This is clearly a dessert styled drink. Once again, we compared with Effen Black Cherry. Not having half-and-half, we decided to try it without the cream (daring folks that we are).
The drink was fantastic… it was actually fantastic with both vodkas. It was so good we fetched some cream and that made it a complete dessert drink. The only problem was the calorie count… nothing to be done about that. With the cream, though, it’s so rich that it’s hard to imagine drinking many of these.
From a panel standpoint, we had a split decision. Some preferred the cherry flavor, which ended up presenting like a classic cherry chocolate familiar to those few who actually enjoy Valentine’s Day. The other half very much preferred the cranberry for the slightly tart flavor. No one disliked the drink, which is saying something because we have whiskey snobs on our panel who tend to scorn sweeter drinks: even these joyless hard-asses liked both drinks. In a world where rum creams are enjoying market dominance, this is an overlooked style of drink that will thrill (and titillate!) many.
Another cocktail recommended by the producer, this looked like a kind of lemon drop adorned with some fashionable vegetables.
- 1oz Marz White Cranberry Vodka
- 1oz sugar syrup
- Juice from one lemon
- Mint leaves
- 6 cucumber slices
Mix all ingredients in shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.
Well, maybe people in California have cucumbers and mint leaves on hand. In our kitchen, we had an unsweetened mint liqueur and a cucumber vodka. We swapped in agave syrup for sugar syrup because we are apparently hipster in that way. We’ll make a point we reiterate often: spirits and the cocktails they go in should be flexible and accommodating. Nobody has all of this exotic shit with them all the time (though, to be fair, cucumber and fresh mint isn’t all that exotic).
In the Marz vodka, this drink collapsed due to the sourness. The juice of an entire lemon seemed suspiciously large to us and we were right. This thing was pretty bad. We could’ve sucked on a lemon and chased that with vodka and been happier. We cut this down to the juice of one-quarter of a lemon and that improved things, even made the drink a touch interesting, but it was still too sour.
By way of contrast, the Effen Black Cherry in the same drink was better but not good. Maybe agave syrup was contra-indicated with lemon. Whatever the case, we’ll pass. No victor here.
Bourbon Cranberry Experiment
Inspired, now we freestyled a little bit. Sometimes, cranberry is very good in whiskey. We’re also thinking of cherry flavors in Manhattans. So, we made a sort of Manhattanish Old Fashioned just to see what would happen.
- 1½oz bourbon (we used Buffalo Trace)
- ½oz Marz White Cranberry Vodka
- ¼oz sweet vermouth
- Dash of bitters
- A bit of agave syrup to sweeten
Shake on ice and then pour over in in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a quizzical look and drink.
This drink didn’t smell too bad. It didn’t smell great… if served at a bar by a proud bartender who claimed to have one some competition or other with it, we would wonder about things but still try it. The overall goal was to see how Marz played with aged spirits; in the spirit of science, we tasted.
This is where that “bubblegum” flavor noted earlier came out. The berry and bubblegum add some aromatics and flavor to the drink that are, indeed, interesting. It’s not an elevated drink—our particular experiment would not win any competitions—but it’s interesting and makes one want to explore further. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a very good thing!
Importantly, comparting to Effen Black Chery we’re compelled once again to say they’re on quite equal footing. The flavors here do exactly how they’re advertised.