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The vodka revolution

india Updated: Mar 29, 2013 01:35 IST
Shara Ashraf
Shara Ashraf
Hindustan Times
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Vodka brands have never had it so good before! There’s a trendy, cosmopolitan feel to the liquor, you don’t really have to bother about nursing a hangover after having it, and it gives a lot of freedom to the bartenders to come up with quirky cocktail flavours, with the neutral liquor as the base.

With an ever-growing number of foreign vodka brands launching in India, it has become the starter’s choice across metros. Vodka is now among the fastest growing spirit category in India, and it’s sale is almost 25 - 30 % higher than rum or whiskey.

Young consumers now don’t mind loosening their purse strings for premium vodkas such as Belvedere, Bacardi owned Grey Goose that’s made in France, Diageo’s Ketel One, Kauffman from Russia, Poland made Ultimat or the Italian Cavalli. Another French brand Tigre Blanc, made a splash into the Indian market just a week ago.

The vodka that has a hint of vanilla, would soon be available in a premium gold version. “The Indian consumer’s taste is evolving. Also the fact that it is a preferred base for variety of cocktails, and light enough to be had in the day, vodka has found it patrons who prefer it over whiskey or rum,” says a spokesperson for Tigre Blanc. The premium vodka consumption in India has seen a robust growth rate of 18-20 % per annum. “The inference is clear, Indian consumers want quality reassurance, a taste that is smoother and fuller, less harsh than other vodkas,” says Gaurav Bhatia, Head of Marketing, Moet Hennessy India

The spirit’s journey
In the last one decade or so, the drink has taken off, with brands taking it to the next level with innovation. And its neutrality — the fact that it’s a clear, colourless, aroma less liquor has worked to its best advantage. “Vodka had to find an audience among the young people to keep pace with innovations happening in others spirits, and mixed drinks made it happen. With no character of its own, vodka could easily merge with almost anything, and brands started mixing vodka with a variety of fruit juices. Soon, flavoured vodkas entered the market and there was no looking back,” says mixologist Yangdup Lama of Speakeasy, Gurgaon.

Does vodka pose a threat to whiskey and rum?
Many vodka lovers are hopeful that soon specialised vodka bars will spring up in the country, and bartenders hail it as the best base that allows them to think out-of-the-ordinary while concocting cocktails. Can such a booming popularity be perceived as a threat to whiskey and rum, the highest selling liquors in the Indian market? “There is a clear shift from whiskey to vodka. I see a lot of men choosing vodka over whiskey, and they are so cool about it,” says Priyank Sukhija, restaurateur. But whiskey expert Sandeep Arora, does not agree. “The comparison is not fair. The whiskey connoisseurs’ club is also growing, and even women are joining us. There’s a complete different category of people who love single malts, and will continue to do so,” he says.