THIRST FOR VODKA GROWS
Companies that produce mixers
crusade for more exotic vodka cocktails.
Consider bacon syrup from Torani for
savory drinks. Fever-Tree Ltd. produces
ginger beer for the classic Moscow Mule
and lower-sugar natural tonic waters.
For dirty vodka martinis, which build
on a classic martini with olive juice and
multiple olives, Dirty Sue offers fresh-tasting natural juice in a convenient and
hygienic package for bars.
With vodka sitting in the No. 1 spirits
position, expect more companies to
enter the market. New brands manifest
transference from the wine industry.
Underdog Wine Merchants, Livermore,
Calif., introduced Cupcake brand vodka
this year as an extension of its Cupcake
wine label. According to marketing
director Todd Ziegenfus, the flavors
were developed by a company that
creates flavors—but the ingredients are
all natural: Chiffon (lemon), Frosting
(vanilla), Devil’s Food, all tagged for the
Given the number of companies producing
vodka these days, Miller of Martin Miller’s
Gin observes, “It’s hard to see where gin
ends and flavored vodka begins.”
Miller favors gin over vodka any day—but
he adds a tiny amount of Pölstar Cucumber
Vodka from Iceland to his gin for a specific
reason: “It’s a ‘drying agent,’ giving my gin a
fresh, long finish.”
Café Adelaide’s Brow summarizes her
perspective on the beverage. “Vodka will always
be popular—maybe not in all craft cocktail
bars, but the American public likes vodka,
and they are comfortable with their spirit.”
Deborah Grossman is a San Francisco Bay
Area journalist who writes about people,
places and products that impact the food-and-wine world.
Bartenders are notoriously persnickety
about choosing the vodka and mixers for
all cocktails, but especially for martinis.
The three-martini lunch is back, at least
in New Orleans. At the historic Rib Room
in the Omni Royal Orleans, the lunchtime
Washbucket Martini is as popular as ever.
Served from a cart, the 3 ounces of top-shelf vodka for the Washbucket arrives
in an oversized brandy snifter with a pour
spout, accompanied by a side glass of
soda, tonic or water for mixing at the table.
The Oxford Hotel in Bend, Ore. She is
particular about her ice, using only small
cubes that flake into shards. She shakes
the vodka three times, hard, with the olive
juice or other mixer. After letting the mix
settle for 20 seconds, she shakes twice
more and then strains into a chilled glass
sprayed with vermouth.
Birgy’s vodka of choice is Crater Lake
Vodka from Bendistillery, about 20 minutes
north of Bend, which is filtered 10 times
through charcoal and crushed volcanic
rock and then aged briefly in oak.
doesn’t add vermouth. She is picky about
her olives, using only king-sized Spanish
olives and their juice. A fanatic about cold
martinis, Erickson shakes hers in a tiny
shaker with cubed ice to maximize the
After a taste test with several vodkas,
she concluded that Ketel One yielded the
smoothest taste. “Vodka is such as personal
thing,” says Erickson. “It’s like wine. Each
person has their favorite taste profile.”
At Touche Bar next to the Rib Room,
bar manager Donna Seyer suggests
Stolichnaya—a smooth spirit without the
price tag of Belvedere or Grey Goose—for
her Dirty Vodka Martinis.
Claudine Birgy tends bar at 10 Below, the
acclaimed restaurant on the lower level of
Shula’s Steak House at The Westin New
York at Times Square is renowned for
oversized beef entrees. Jodi Erickson
crafts Dirty Vodka Martinis nightly as
guests choose their steak from the menu
printed on a Shula-inscribed football.
To minimize impact on the briny flavor, she