Sometimes curiosity gets the better of me, and I fall down a rabbit hole of information about spirits. I typically look into brands I love, learning about Blanton’s Bourbon, Effen Vodka, or Frida Tequila. Tonight, however, I wanted to get to the bottom of Pinnacle Vodka.
Where did this vodka come from? It seems to be everywhere now, and it has earned a three-pronged reputation at bars where I’ve worked. First, it’s cheap. Like, really cheap. Some bars on Long Island sell shots for $1 or $2. Next, it’s bad. Straight bad. Especially when imbibed as a shot, cheap or otherwise. And last, it’s known for having the widest array of flavors. Some bars carry twenty flavors!
Pinnacle flavors I’ve seen include…
- Kiwi Strawberry
- Cherry Lemonade
- Cotton Candy
- Double Espresso
- Rainbow Sherbet
- Cucumber Watermelon
- Pumpkin Pie
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Atomic Hots
- Key Lime Whipped
- Rood Beer
- Tropical Punch
And no, I didn’t make any of those up, including Cinnabon. I left out all the normal flavors. If you’ve ever tried a flavor of vodka by another brand, Pinnacle makes that, too. It’s also notable that I’ve never seen plain Pinnacle vodka. I see online that it exists, but I’ve seen no physical proof.
The brand was sold to Beam Suntory in 2012. Beam owns a lot of liquor brands you probably like – Jim Beam, VOX, Cruzan, Laphroaig, Maker’s Mark, Ardmore, Old Crow, Kilbeggan, Basil Hayden’s, Sauza, Bookers, Canadian Club, Knob Creek, and Courvoisier. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They also own one of my favorite vodkas, Effen. Wouldn’t you know it?
Beam purchased it for $600 million, then shifting production from France to Kentucky.
Considering how prolific the brand is…I never sell it. Nobody asks for it, bartenders don’t recommend it (at least not in my experience). So who is this for? I worry that the brand is targeted at underage drinkers, who haven’t yet developed a taste for fine alcohol.
I was surprised to find that the vodka is decently reviewed online. But when I left the review sites and read blog posts and more formal reviews, I find that spirit enthusiasts tend to dislike it. To me, it tastes like they add sweeteners or something. There’s something thick, syrupy about the mouthfeel that rubs me the wrong way.
That said, I’ve known some bartenders who use some of the strange flavors in their off-menu specialty drinks meant to wow customers…to great effect. In the interest of using higher-quality ingredients, I think I’ll refrain from that.