Bottom Line:The fourth entry in the Smirnoff sorbet line is not as exciting as its predecessors. In the world of pineapple and coconut, Smirnoff sorbet is not a new player but rather a latecomer… so, while competent and worth purchasing on sale, it’s not something we say one should go out of one’s way to buy. It’s highest and best use is mixed with orange juice and splash of seltzer; if you have orange juice on hand-get rid of your regular vodka and get this.
We had a chance to review the original 3 flavors of Smirnoff Sorbet vodkas when they launched in 2013 and mentioned then that “We feel that Smirnoff Sorbet Light has something of a hit on its hands.” This turned out to be the case, of course, with strong sales across the board. Apparently, people like the idea of sorbet vodkas.
This success has inspired Smirnoff to release a new flavor: Pineapple Coconut Sorbet. It’s right in line with their tropical-themed flavors that have powered the line to date and still promises “reduced calorie” by whatever alchemy they use. But where the prior flavors of mango, pomegranate, and-to some extent-lemon sorbet are exotic flavors, coconut and pineapple are actually classic flavors in the cocktail traditions. Pineapple and coconut are flavors that are found up and down the liquor aisle as well as many cocktail books, the most notable is, of course, the Pina Colada cocktail. That particular cocktail is famous for being so tasty it’s sung of in songs but is infamous for being high in calories. A great place for the “light” in Smirnoff Sorbet Light to shine!
So to line up our tasting, we wanted to try it against some classically prepared Pina Colada cocktails… can it be a diet version of the drink? Then start comparing it against industry standards in these flavors, which can only be the king of all coconut flavors, Malibu Liqueur (we used the Black to help get closer to the proof of the Smirnoff). We also used the Malibu Pineapple Rum as another point of comparison… really the perfect comparison because it is this spirit that combines the flavors of coconut and pineapple. Another fine example is the Svedka Colada Vodka, which was able to pull down an unexpected double-gold medal at the 2013 San Francisco Spirits Competition and also uses flavors of pineapple and coconut. Can Smirnoff stand out in this crowd? Let’s find out…Drinking Neat! Just by itself…
Notes: the most interesting thing to note are the calories. The Smirnoff is right on top of the Malibu Black in calories per ounce-and well below the Malibu Pineapple and Svedka-but when you correct for proof, the calories “per proof point” soar. Yes, Smirnoff is “light” but that has to be tempered with the notes about the bottling proof.
The Malibu Black tastes of Mexican sunscreen with a kind of butter acid fade… but for all that, many people in our group liked it a great deal. In contrast, the Malibu Pineapple is almost all pineapple; a jolly rancher. Sweet and short on the taste… smells a lot more pungent than it tastes. Very sweet. The Svedka is vanilla and coconut with a much more pronounced alcohol taste.
In contrast, the Smirnoff smells the best of all the group… in fact, just like pineapple sorbet. The pineapple smell is much more authentic. Much lighter in character, which make sense because of the lighter vodka instead of rum base. A bit of a saccharine or stevia fade that we noted with the other sorbet flavors. Overall, if you want pineapple, the Smirnoff is the choice of all of the spirits but the more popular spirit in our group was the Malibu Black. Very interesting to see how these things mix.Drinking on club Soda-this is an easy way to drink a liqueur and a very non-calorie way to improve the drinkability and gulpability of a product. Not sophisticated but easy… can the Sorbet Pineapple mix well in this basic setting?
Notes: the Black mixes very nicely with club soda… it’s not too sweet and like a coconut soft drink. But many felt like it lost too much flavor. The Malibu Pineapple is able to shine through with its flavor. The sweet really helps the club soda and many liked it a great deal-particular the women in the crowd. But considering calories changes many votes. The Svedka is much less sweet and makes a nice, nuanced flavor. A squeeze of lime really helps it out. “If my girlfriend ordered it but didn’t like it, I’d finish it,” charitably announced the male half of one couple.
With a moderately nice impression as the background we move on to the star of the show with the Smirnoff. Sadly, it did not stand out. The flavors rather vanished into the club soda where, in contrast to the other drinks, it felt more like we were drinking only club soda. This is an interesting outcome for a liquor that had an authentic and bold pineapple flavor in the neat setting. Will it hold up in other cocktails?Drinking in a Pina Colada-pineapple and coconut are designed to simulate the Pina Colada cocktail. So let’s put it in a Pina Colada cocktail and see what happens. Are the flavored versions on ice an analogue to the prepared, labor-intensive Pina Colada?
Notes: The classically made Pina Colada is popular and designed to be drunk in bulk. “This’ll put the baby right to sleep!” nicely summed up the group’s impression of the drink. We used Tito’s vodka in our completely uneventful but delicious version. People questioned whether or not there was even alcohol in it, which we think is part of the point of a Pina Colada anyway. But now comes the bad news: 500 calories PER DRINK… it’s a five mile trip on the treadmill to make up for one of these; and how many do you knock back at the pool again? The Malibu Pineapple as a Pina Colada short cut tastes good-not as good-but at a quarter of the calories (and knowing that) it’s a preferred drink.
So how did the Smirnoff do in this setting? Is it a similar and low-calorie short-cut version? No. We’re sorry to report that in contrast to the other versions this was a kind of violation; this is not something that replaces anything worth having in the first place. We’re learning that this particular sorbet does not play well in limited settings with only water or ice.Pina-Coco Spritzer is a drink recommended by Smirnoff and an easy one to prepare at home. We compared it to Svedka plus just regular old vodka. It calls for 1.5 oz of spirit; 2 oz orange juice; 2 oz club soda; poured over rocks.
Notes: What Smirnoff is describing as a Pina Coco Spritzer is really just a screwdriver with a top of seltzer. In the event, the drink is boring but inoffensive with the Tito’s. “It’s what I would expect for free at the casino,” sourly remarked one gambling veteran. Svedka makes it a far more interesting drink. With the Svedka, It’s good… almost Mimosa like. “I could drink this hung over as a mimosa… it’s a breakfast drink!” remarked the same sour gambler suddenly brightening up. The coconut and orange go very well together. Can the Smirnoff do as well? Sadly, the Smirnoff feels a little more watered down by comparison. It’s still good… just as good as the Svedka. It is way, way better than the Tito’s. Over many (many!) trials, we have to call this one to close to call. This is as close a match of two drinks as we’ve had in quite some time.Colada Cold Wave is one of a number of interesting cocktails on the Svedka site (though clearly not interested in counting calories). This is a Mai Tai inspired cocktail that calls for 2oz spirit; 3oz triple sec (!); 1oz lime juice; and ¾ oz of orgeat syrup. Shake and serve on ice.
Notes: the Malibu pineapple is amazingly sweet-too sweet for a minority-but the sweet-tooths love it. Even the panty wearers were declaring it a panty-dropper. Many people said “magic.” But those who don’t like it sweet, sweet, sweet… ugh. The Svedka is a little less sweet and holds the lime a little better. It has a bit of a liquor burn that lets one know you’re drinking a drink. (We think it absolutely demands a rum floater.) Here, though, to drop the panties it would “take some sweet, sweet words before the drop.”
How about the Smirnoff? It came out very, very sweet. It also had a distinct bubble gum flavor in comparison the others that is probably coming from the aftertaste we noted in the beginning. “It’s the equivalent of a like Mike’s Hard Lemonade but Bellini style (?)” Again… not a bad drink but not quite the sonorous singing of sweet of the others… still in consideration of the calories, there is a use.
by: Neal MacDonald, editor
[Disclosures: we received a bottle Smirnoff Pineapple-Coconut Vodka free of charge for review. All other products mentioned in this review were acquired on our own.]