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I'm sick of buying infused spirits (usually advertised in the U.S. as flavored vodkas) and discovering that they have added sugar (and often, apparently, glycerin).

I have scoured labels and asked in stores and never found any way of determining whether a liquor is a pure distillate or whether it has substantial additives (other than water and flavor).

In the U.S. is there any way to determine this before acquiring a particular bottle?

  • 1
    But by definition infused is an additive – paparazzo May 27 '16 at 17:46
  • @Paparazzi - I guess you could argue that, although I thought a "proper" infusion was done by steeping and filtration, and at the lowest end of the market by adding flavor extracts. I'll modify the question to make that clear. – Lysander May 27 '16 at 23:37
  • Unfortunately, ATF regulations make it illegal to list ingredients on any alcoholic beverages in the USA: You may see vague descriptions of barkey, hops, etc, but you will never get a comprehensive list like you do on processed foods and beverages. – jalynn2 Jun 2 '16 at 17:18
  • @jalynn2 - illegal to list ingredients?! That is surprising. I just tried to find any rule, reg, or law stating that and failed. Could you provide a reference? – Lysander Jun 2 '16 at 23:22
  • @jalynn2: In fact, I just found TTB rules going back to 2004 allowing: "Truthful, accurate, and non-misleading numerical statements about the sugar content of a product are permitted on alcohol beverage labels and in advertisements." – Lysander Mar 4 '17 at 13:06
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There is no way to determine if a particular flavored vodka has added sugar or glycerin!

Unless one can find a particular website of a certain vodka, which states that there is no added sugar or glycerin the chances are that you will have to taste the product yourself in order to know.

The following information is from Drink Skool:

If you’re confused, don’t be angry. Clearly the U.S. government is struggling with the issue as much as you are. Today’s science is capable of measuring imperfections in a spirit. So rather than insisting that 190 proof is an adequate minimum to guarantee quality in vodka, other metrics might have been considered in the TTB’s rule-making. For instance, some successful brands add sugar or glycerin to their vodkas to “smooth” them out. Never mind that these spirits throw any standard cocktail recipe completely out of balance. The larger question is: why do they need to add these softeners? What are they covering up? If they focused upon good raw ingredients and clean distillation they could achieve the same result. But perhaps that’s asking too much; it always comes back to economics.

Other countries are demanding that producers note upon the label any additions such as sugar or glycerin; the TTB hasn’t wised up yet. It will probably be a while before those additives are visible on the vodka labels, but until then, taste the stuff yourself. If it tastes sweet, it probably is, and you may want to alter any cocktail recipes that you’re working from.

Absolut Raspberri is just one example of a flavoured vodka that does not contain added sugar!

Absolut Raspberri is made exclusively from natural ingredients, and unlike some other flavored vodkas, it doesn’t contain any added sugar. It’s rich and intense with the fresh and fruity character of ripened raspberries.

  • So one reasonable (but perhaps overly cautious) approach would be to assume that any American liquor does have additives unless it explicitly disclaims them? And only the additives disclaimed? (E.g., is Absolut glaring in its mention of sugar while remaining silent on the common and sweet additive glycerin?) – Lysander May 29 '16 at 2:37
  • @Lysander That is the approach I would take to this question. It may be possible that you could get a more detailed answer if you were to email the manufacture of a particular liquor directly, but there is no guarantee that you would get a response. – Ken Graham May 29 '16 at 2:50

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