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VODKA: To be or not to be

October 1, 2009

I had a chat with Natalie, the Liquid Muse, a couple of weeks ago, and part of our discussion was about vodka and whether or not it should be considered a viable spirit category for “advanced” mixology.

 Most bartenders, when they go to create their first signature drinks, turn to vodka because it is easy to work with.   And as these bartenders develope their skills of creation tend to move on to more complex liquors to build their drinks upon.

There are some cocktail lounges around the globe that don’t stock vodka.  They owners/bartenders do not think that vodka is spirit category that can be used is “serious craft mixology”.  This is an interesting proposition in that by definition vodka is colorless, tasteless and odorless, and aside form the flavored vodkas, will mix with almost anything and be a “good” drink.

But it is impossible to deny vodka as a spirit category and that many of the drinks popular today use vodka as its base.  So how does a mixologist use such a simple liquor as vodka in craft cocktails?

Enter my friend Jose.  Jose is a quite well known in the hospitality world of Santa Fe, having working at the Anasazi Restaurant for about 17 years now.  He is one of the most knowledgable servers in town when it comes to food, wine, and dining.  Jose is a fan of green Chartreuse, and when my new venture opened a couple months ago, Jose became a quick regular since Secreto Lounge is one of two places that stocks this lovely liqueur.  Now, green Chartreuse is pretty pungent on its own, so to calm the flavors without diluting the proof, Jose would drink Chartreuse mixed half and half with vodka.  Soon after, I created a classicly styled cocktail expanding and enhancing the flavors of Jose’s 50/50 drink.

There is our answer!!  Vodka,  as a subduer of flavor, is a viable spirit in craft mixology. 

Another example is Armando Rosario’s Real Dill cocktail which won the 2008 USBG Cocktail Competition.  Fresh dill, lime juice, agave nectar,cucumber, tequila and vodka make up this ingredients.  All are strong flavors in and of themselves, but add a little vodka and the drink becomes a mellow and refreshing libation.

I hope that this opens up some ideas for experiemtation for both the vodka lover and the vodka not-so-mucher, and that we all can continue to imagine, invent, and imbibe.


1 oz Vodka

1 oz Green Chartreuse

1/4 oz bergamot Syrup

1 dash Orange bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain up into a chilled cocktail glass



2 Comments leave one →
  1. T. G. Mittler permalink
    October 2, 2009 10:43 am

    Other great vodka cocktails come from Paul Harrington. His “Petit Zinc” and “Drink without a Name” are wonderful. The latter being rechristened by Robert Hess as the “Harrington Cocktail” and includes green Chartreuse.

    “Petit Zinc”

    1 oz. vodka
    1/2 oz. Cointeau
    1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
    1/2 oz. orange juice
    Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and orange wheel.


    2 oz. vodka
    1/4 oz. Cointreau
    1/8 oz. green Chartreuse
    Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist

  2. October 2, 2009 12:18 pm

    Most definately T.G!

    There are plently of great vodka based cocktails out there, and I believe vodka has a strong place in craft mixology. My appeal is to those who think vodka is too basic to work with, and should not be stocked behind the bar.


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