However, the contemporary batch of craft bartenders that brought pre-Prohibition cocktails back to popularity generally has eschewed vodka, because they had their noses pressed firmly in late-19th century manuals from the likes of Jerry Thomas and Tom Bullock. There was no vodka in those early manuals. Gin was the clear spirit of choice, and brown spirits, like rye, cognac and bourbon, ruled.
Furthermore, the flavorless aspect of vodka doesn’t tend to excite folks who play with intense flavors, such as Chartreuse or Fernet-Branca.
It’s time to call a truce between these factions.
Any bartender worth his or her hospitality credentials should have at least a few quality vodkas to satisfy guests. Besides, the high profit margin of vodka helps pay for those expensive amaros (a spirit for another story) that they want on their back bar shelf. Those same bartenders will quaff a few bloody marys at a Sunday brunch after a busy Saturday night.
And, we also enjoy the occasional cosmopolitan — at its heart a well-made vodka sour — without guilt.
Here are three of our preferred vodkas:
Cathead vodka – From the first legal distillery in Mississippi, Cathead is a corn-based vodka. It has a mild, almost sweet finish that balances nicely in a bloody mary. Its logo is based on the blues culture of its home state, and the company’s philanthropy dollars go to support live music and musicians in the Delta.
St. George all-purpose vodka – A California-made vodka, it uses a mix of neutral grain spirit (corn) and fruit (Bartlett pear) distillate. It has a rich mouthfeel, and finishes with just a hint of the fruit. This one is good in a vodka martini.
Absolut Elyx single-estate copper-crafted vodka – This vodka is the luxury brand of the already upscale Absolut distillery. Using winter wheat from a single estate in southern Sweden, and distilled in an antique 1921 copper still, Elyx has a weighty, creamy mouthfeel, with a hint of vanilla. This is our on-the-rocks vodka.
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