Wedding Gift Booze Review: Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

As we posted earlier in our article A Boozehound Wedding or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bar, Shanna and I recently tied the knot. The process of planning and executing all the details and expenses of a wedding is a wonderful experience that can bring you closer as a couple and make you glad you only have to go through this stressful, nerve-wracking trial once (hopefully).

Luckily for fabled bon vivants such as us (read: notoriously debaucherous), friends and family were kind enough to restock our home bar in the form of wedding gifts. As we delve into the Boozehounds’ rebirth, many of these bottles will be featured in our new six-part series: the Wedding Gift Booze Review.

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

First on our list, due to popular demand (read: one man’s persistent nagging), is Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka. Now, my disdain for flavored vodkas is well documented (see also: The Method), but I have made an effort to go into this review with an open mind. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka comes to us well recommended, and Shanna, at least, doesn’t share my admittedly snobby perspective.

Firefly Distillery has been operating on Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina since 2008 and now offers six varieties of tea infused vodkas, and one sweet tea bourbon. According to their website, Firefly distills its vodkas four times and blends it with Louisiana sugar cane.

Most spirits are distilled only twice with the exception of Irish whiskey, which is triple distilled. Each time a spirit is distilled it becomes more concentrated and increases the alcohol content, with a double distilled product usually around 80-100 proof. I think that it is a testament to the volume of Louisiana sugar cane added to this spirit that after being distilled four times, the final product is still only 70 proof. And there lies the crux of my only criticism of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.

This spirit, in its attempt to lasso the novelty cocktail market, has wedged itself into an odd rut. Firefly is too sweet to be a liquor, but too strong to be a liqueur. To drink the spirit straight is like drinking sweet tea syrup. It tastes more like sweet tea than actual sweet tea does and the effect almost makes one feel a bit ill.

But here comes the part where I redeem this sad, mean review. Despite the spirit’s faults on its own, it actually does mix rather well. Now generally when mixing drinks you want to hit a nice balance so that flavors complement each other without overwhelming. Here though the primary goal is to drown the sugar and therefore tall drinks will be your best bet.

Mixing Firefly, we thought that simplicity was probably wise. This vodka has enough flavor to it that adding too much else will end up tasting muddled. We figured that a highball of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, lemon juice, and club soda would work quite neatly. (Full recipe to follow) And we were right.

Surprisingly, and perhaps to my mild chagrin, the result was very pleasant and refreshing. At a proper level of dilution it’s possible to actually taste the tea in the sweet tea. The result is a very nice drink for a hot summer evening. Precisely what Firefly Distillery is shooting for.

Firefly’s website also boasts an impressive list of suggested mixes, largely contributed by fans. An alarming number of these recipes, though, encourage you to add even more sugar to your drink, perhaps in bold defiance towards the looming specter of diabetes. However, one of these recipes we can endorse is the Mo-Tea-To, and we’ll post that shortly.

My overall assessment of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka can be summed up as “better than expected.” Perhaps I am a bit of a reactionary against the Appletini crowd, and this has been something of a lesson to me. I maintain that flavored vodkas and overly sweet cocktails are a crutch for drinkers and bartenders alike, but I’ll at least make an effort to judge each drink on its own merits.

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