Light vodka brands are gaining traction amongst health-minded individuals who want to sip an occasional cocktail without the extra carbohydrates and calories (or even alcohol). While light vodka might sound strange to those who never heard of it, the trend is real – and gaining momentum by the day.
Despite myriad naysayers who proclaimed that consumers would never accept low-carb, low-calorie, or “healthier” vodka, determined distillers continue to prove otherwise. The first light vodka brands have already smashed through the first barriers to success, and they intend to continue to expand their market share, as trends toward upward with lighter alcoholic drinks.
THE BEGINNING OF “LIGHT”
Early distillers crafting low-calorie spirits knew they could gain healthful, fitness-minded consumers. They found encouragement and inspiration by looking at the history of the first breweries to offer a “light beer” option.
The “light beer” concept dates to Coors Brewing Company, a neighborhood Colorado brewery. They first introduced and marketed their Coors Light product in the early 1940s (reintroduced in the late 70s). Just as the marketing campaign began to catch on, the United States entered World War II, putting the product on hold. Coors Brewing Company reintroduced a lighter, 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) lager to receptive consumers in 1978.
Before the reintroduction of Coors Light to Americans, Miller Brewing Company became the first American brewery to find commercial success in the light beer niche. In 1967, they obtained the recipe for and rebranded Gablinger’s Diet Beer, simplifying the name to Miller Lite. The brand dominated the market for a brief time before other breweries adopted the notion.
Why did the other breweries – like Coors – jump into the game?
Because consumers loved it. They could “have their cake and eat it, too.” That is to say, fit, healthy people – primarily young, hip adults – could indulge in a social drink or two without ruining their fitness goals.
Today’s light vodka brands look to the innovators who developed light beer and see the immense opportunity.
WHAT IS VODKA LIGHT?
To understand why someone would choose a light vodka brand over a traditional competitor requires an overview of the differences between them.
Vodka is a distilled spirit traditionally made from potatoes or grains. It originated in eastern Europe, but today people around the world enjoy vodka. Its neutral, unflavored form has a crisp, clean, almost tasteless bite.
Here are a few of the primary differences when comparing traditional and light vodka brands:
This data may vary from one brand to the next. These numbers represent averages – always check the manufacturer’s label or website for precise information.
- Most American vodka distilleries have a minimum of 40% ABV or approximately eighty proof –although some brands are higher, even 100 proof.
- One shot of vodka, which equals 1.5 fluid ounces, contains between 97 to 115 calories, depending on the brand.
- Some vodka distillers offer flavored options; these can introduce artificial flavors and sugar (not cool).
As with traditional brands, check each vodka manufacturer for the most specific information.
- Light vodka reduces ABV to around 30% or about 60-proof. This slight reduction in ABV allows consumers the benefit of sharing cocktails with friends but waking up without a hangover.
- A single shot of light vodka contains between 65 to 86 calories, varying a little between brands (ours contains 86). The calorie differences can add up quickly if you indulge in more than one cocktail.
- Some light vodka distillers offer flavors; however, reputable distilleries are likely to include only high-quality, whole ingredients instead of flavorings – honoring their customers’ active and healthy lifestyles (we do that!).
REPUTABLE LIGHT VODKA BRANDS
Several light vodka brands are available today, many of them are regional – but plan to expand nationwide (we are expanding, too). Others already have a national market share, with family-owned craft distilleries nipping at their heels. Watch for these three increasingly popular brands:
Switch Vodka, crafted by 52eighty Distilling in Littleton, Colorado, offers three light vodkas. Their flavored offerings use only the natural juices of fresh fruits and herbs – no artificial ingredients.
All their flavors are sugar-free, lower in calories and carbs than traditional vodka, and free of artificial ingredients. Their three flavors are perfect for the healthy, active consumer.
- Vodka Light Spirit: This vodka has a crisp, neutral flavor and is a 60-proof, 30% ABV spirit. It has no discernable aftertaste and a pleasant mouthfeel. It can hide in anything it’s mixed with, or sipped by itself.
- Pomegranate Lemongrass: The fruity taste of pomegranate, balanced against the zesty lemongrass, makes this 60-proof, 30% ABV vodka a hit with those looking for refreshing cocktails.
- Peach Basil: The juiciness of peaches and fresh basil is a classic flavor combination that customers cannot get enough of in a 60-proof, 30% ABV vodka.
You can find Switch Vodka at several Colorado/national retailers, including Whole Foods. The company has a cult following and plans to grow its footprint. For now, you can try their product through online ordering.
Keel Vodka, a light vodka brand produced in Idaho, also enjoys wild popularity among fitness-minded people. They offer their customers one well-crafted, unflavored vodka made from Idaho potatoes. This spirit touts its super-low 23.8% ABV and has a clean finish.
Keel also makes a sparkling soda drink with just 4% ABV; it comes in these refreshing fruit flavors:
- Lemon lime
- Blue raspberry
- Blood orange
Keel’s distribution is primarily in the western United States, with limited retail locations on the east coast. Like most small distillers, they always hope to expand to new markets.
BODY LIGHT VODKA
Body is one of the newest among the light vodka brands – a female-owned-and-operated company made in North Carolina. Body distills one light vodka so far – an unflavored, neutral spirit made from Indiana corn and sweetened with a touch of agave nectar, a natural sweetener.
The spirit is 30% ABV and 60-proof; it finishes with a luxurious mouthfeel with a slightly sweet finish.
Distribution is limited to the east coast right now, primarily in New York City and surrounding areas.
Besides these three bespoke distilleries, a couple of national light vodka brands recently entered the competition for market share. Natural Light (yes, the beer brewers) now distills vodka. Also, Skinny Girl, the Bethenny Frankel female-centered brand that appeals to health-conscious women, has created a light vodka option.
We can’t say we’ve tried them all, but it just goes to show you how popular light vodka and light vodka brands have become.
LIGHT VODKA IS HERE TO STAY
Light vodka brands are trending, but we have a feeling they’re not going anywhere.
It is the next generation of vodka to suit an active, healthier lifestyle. So, choose vodka light when you’re wanting to meet friends for cocktails on Friday night without being too fuzzy for a Saturday hike.