Think back to a time when you had your very first alcoholic drink. For some, it may have been a Zima, for others, it may have been their parent’s (or older sibling’s) beer like a Bud, a Miller, or a Coors. Admittedly, my first alcoholic drink was a bottle of Zima and it was the nastiest thing I’ve ever tasted at the tender age of 10 and ironically, that taste alone had prevented me from the joys of drinking for many, many years to come. Despite that horrible experience, I wouldn’t really count Zima as my first real alcoholic drink as I later found out in my adulthood what Zima was really all about. Fizzy water mixed with the cheapest liquor available (or leftover in the case of Zima).
My first real alcoholic drink was probably a bottle of Miller followed by a shot of Bacardi 911 at a friend’s wedding. Both of which were really horrible but between the two, I would choose the bottle of Miller over Bacardi any day of the year, at least back then when I was still in high school. Fast forward to a couple of years after when I was well immersed into my college life, I came across vodka for the first time at a friend’s house party. Vodka, and most notable Smirnoff vodka, was the first choice amongst college students in my day. (Boy, do I sound old). Yes, we had Four Lokos and Mike’s Hard Lemonade but those were child’s play, according to my former college peers. Those were meant for those middle school and high school students. Vodka was the “man’s drink” or so they said. And Smirnoff was the cheapest available hard liquor in the area: Pomona. (Thank you, Stater Bros).
My first sip of Smirnoff burned my mouth on entry and burned down the gullet and kept burning when it was well past the esophagus. It had a really horrible and strong alcohol smell. Now, I don’t know if it was because of my age or my virgin esophagus but Smirnoff vodka was one of the worst tasting vodkas of all the vodka’s I’ve ever had in my life. Mind you, I haven’t had that many vodkas but I’ve tried Absolut Vodka, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Grey Goose Vodka (who hasn’t?), Seagram’s Vodka, and one other name brand vodka whose name escapes me at the moment. Fairly limited experience of different vodka’s I would say but nevertheless, out all of the above, Tito’s Handmade Vodka was the best vodka all around before I came across CVS’s store brand Gran Legacy Vodka.
There’s nothing special with the labeling of the bottle. (It’s plastic, by the way, but there is a glass version as well.) There’s no history. There’s no cute story that goes along with the bottle. It’s just “Vodka” in bold letters followed by smaller letters immediately below it that says “Distilled 4 Times With Premium Grain,” whatever that means. That’s exactly what the label says. Nothing else. It’s quite literally a no-frills labeling scheme like all of Gran Legacy’s other liquors. It sells for $5.99 regular price at my local CVS. The glass version is apparently on sale for $4.97 as of two days ago (1/6/16). Why the price difference? Apparently, the plastic bottle version is “travel-safe.” Again, I don’t know what that means but if the concern is that the plastic bottle don’t break as easily as glass, then I suppose in that sense, it’s “travel-safe.”
Upon cracking open the bottle, I didn’t really get a strong whiff of alcohol. It was actually rather odorless for the most part. Maybe there was a hint of grain somewhere in that whiff but otherwise, it smelled pretty neutral to me. On my first sip, surprisingly, there was no burn on my lips or when it was in my mouth. And like the smell I had earlier, I didn’t really taste much except a minor hint of grain. Once it has gone down the gullet and well past the esophagus, that’s when I felt the burn. You know this burn. This is the same burn you felt when you had your first horrible experience of terrible vodka, tequila, bourbon, or [insert your first liquor you’ve ever had]. It’s that burn but by that time when it hits the tummy, it’s not so bad. It’s a tingly sensation but not bad overall.
Pouring it over ice also had the same effect but the taste is definitely more clean and more smooth. It’s almost like sipping on Tito’s Handmade Vodka (which I highly recommend for a sub-$20 bottle of vodka, by the way). There’s no harshness to it, sipping it neat or with ice. And with ice, the burn in the tummy has actually been masked pretty well. I didn’t really feel much burn until it hit the intestines but even then, they were, at best, a momentary “warm feeling” that’s not too different than from the warm sensation of drinking hot soup on a cold wintry night.
For this experiment, I bought two bottles of sparkling water from CVS. One, the Black Cherry flavored sparkling water and the other, the Tangerine Lime flavored sparkling water. Both were prices at $0.99 plus $0.10 CRV. Both bottles contain aspartame, citric acid, and other natural and artificial flavors. I don’t recommend mixing it with the Black Cherry flavored sparkling water. The fizzy water heightened the Black Cherry flavor in a bad way like it made the Black Cherry taste much stronger than usual. Plus, it also gave off a syrupy texture in the mouth and ended up bringing out the harshness of the vodka, which was never apparent, if you drank it neat or poured it over ice.
On the other hand, the Tangerine Lime flavored sparkling water gave it a nice, sweet, citrus-y flavor. There was no harshness so far as I could tell and there was no syrupy texture that may have been exuded when mixed. I mixed it equal parts vodka with the sparkling water on both counts over ice, which is about 2 ounces each. I would imagine that the regular Lemon Lime flavored sparkling water would have a similar taste.
I think that amongst the line of Gran Legacy products and CVS brand liquors that I’ve tried thus far, this one is, by far, my favorite of the bottom shelf liquors at CVS. Mostly because it is the smoothest of the bunch and is for the most part, flavor neutral all by itself with no burn on entry and minimal burn once it hits your stomach. Of the ones I’ve tried so far, I would highly recommend buying this one and mixing it with your favorite juice, sparkling water, or cocktail mix of your choice, if you really want to make it an enjoyable drink. But otherwise, this bottle of vodka can definitely be sipped all on its own or poured over ice.
Next up on my list of Gran Legacy products to try out are the following: Amaretto, Coffee Liqueur, Rum, and their flavored vodkas. Not in that particular order but I’ll try to get a bottle of one of the above in the next week or so.