Skinnygirl, Skinnygirl, Skinnygirl, oh how do I loathe thee.
It’s not because I dislike calorie counting or “healthy alternative” fads. It’s not even the ridiculous marketing, nor the fact that it’s one more bottle of booze with a celebrity behind it.
It’s the cynicism, i think. It may not even be intentional, but the success of Skinnygirl Bare Naked Vodka is based on a cynical premise: that its target demographic won’t know enough about booze to know they’ve been had.
(Full disclosure: I work in the tasting room of a small artisan distillery. It’s not the reason I dislike Skinnygirl, but I do have a horse in these races. It’s a small horse, and it’s running a completely different race, but still a horse. And if you’re wondering why I’m focusing on the vodkas but not Skinnygirl’s pre-mixed cocktails, Jason Wilson has already been carrying that torch.)
With a name like “Bare Naked Vodka,” one might think of a clear spirit that has been stripped to its essential nature. Less flim-flam, less calories, just a vodka letting it all hang out with nothing to hide. Surely, they wouldn’t use “Bare Naked” to describe a product that conceals a heinous truth: that you’re paying more for less.
They would, and that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Look, maybe the intentions behind the vodka are good, laudable ones. But even if the intentions are as pure as triple-distilled vodka, it’s still about making a profit on ignorance. For the same $20 you’d spend on Bare Naked Vodka, I can show you how to end up with more (and better) vodka, in terms of variety, quality, and quantity.
Start by buying your favorite bottle of vodka in the $20 range. Not sure what your favorite is? No worries, this is why bars, pubs, and restaurants exist. This is why folks do tastings. Go out, eat, drink, be merry, and come back with one you like.
Got that new bottle of vodka? Good. Here’s how to skinny-fy it.
- 1. Open your bottle of vodka
- 2. Pour out about 1/4 of the liquid within
- 2b. On second thought, don’t pour it out; there are young 20-somethings out there who go without booze, so let’s not waste it. Instead, pour it into a mason jar we’ll come back for it later
- 3. Measure out an amount of water, equal to the amount of vodka you poured into the mason jar
- 4. Pour the water into the bottle
- 5. Close the bottle
Congratulations, you have now made your vodka skinny. Seriously, that’s it.
See, when you buy vodka, you’re buying two things: distillate and water. There are other factors that have subtle influences on the spirit: what the distillate was made from, the number of distillations, the “width” of the “cuts’ ” the type of water used, the filtration system…
But if you’re buying a bottle of Skinnygirl vodka, you’re not buying it for the subtleties. So let’s go back to what you are buying: distillate and water. These two items are all that we have to work with here. Water has no caloric content, meaning all calories are coming from the distillate – and that doesn’t offer much wiggle room.
(By definition, vodka must be distilled up to 95% alcohol by volume [ABV] or 190 proof. This means that distillate is as close to pure ethyl alcohol as you can get – like I said, not much wiggle room.)
The only way to make a low-cal vodka, then, is to play with the proportions (hooray mathematics!) of distillate to water. Skinnygirl vodka is 60 proof (30% ABV), whereas most spirits are bottled at 80 proof (40% ABV) or higher.
But what about the flavors? What about Skinnygirl tangerine or cucumber vodka? Yes, where would we be without flavored Vodka? Y’know, I’ going to leave that question for someone else. In the meantime, let’s go back to the mason jar of vodka that you shrewdly did not pour down the drain.
Maybe you’re like me, and you have a co-worker who always has tangerines as a snack at work, and always offers you one. Here’s what I want you to do: accept a couple of these tangerines from your generous and healthy co-worker. When you get home, peel the zest off them (or use a zester on them – just make sure to leave the pith behind). Drop the zest into the mason jar of vodka, cover it up, and put it away.
Every couple days, take a tiny sip from the jar. Once it tastes ready, strain out the zest – congratulations, you’ve just flavored your vodka.
But wait! It’s not skinny yet! Measure out some water, 1/3 of whatever the total volume of the vodka in the jar-o is. Maybe you add a tiny bit of juice from the pithy tangerines. Maybe you like sweet stuff, and you mix a packet of Splenda into the water – hey, they’re your taste buds. Just don’t add too much. We are going skinny here.
Now mix that water into the mason jar, and cover. Done.
See that? For the same $20 you would’ve spent on over-marketed booze, you not only have a full bottle of skinny vodka, you have a bonus jar of flavored vodka that is made to your specifications.
Hell, you’ve probably snacked on those tangerines by now, so you’ve also eaten that much healthier during this whole process. Once you make your cucumber vodka, you’re well on your way to your daily intake of fruits and veggies.
For me, this is the appeal of today’s spirits and cocktails. Yeah there’s a lot of bullshit out there, but even a small bit of knowledge will have you drinking better.