7 Vodkas (and Cocktails) to Sip Now
Odorless, flavorless vodka, be gone! These cool, crisp and sometimes sweet new vodkas feature nuanced flavors of grapefruit, citrus and spice. They prove once and for all that not all vodkas are created equal.
Sip these seven offerings neat, or mix them in perennial cocktail favorites.
The vodka: RWB Vodka, $26
This Houston-made potato vodka is lightly sweet, with an earthy touch and faint grapefruit-peel bitterness on the finish. It’s certified gluten-free, too, and mixes well in a fruit-forward cocktail.
The cocktail: The Thornburg
Recipe courtesy Beth Dixon, manager, Pasture, Richmond, VA
1 ounce vodka
¾ ounce Crème de Mûre (blackberry liqueur)
¼ ounce lime juice
1 bar spoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Rosemary spring, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, and strain into a rocks glass over a fresh piece of large ice. Garnish with rosemary sprig.
The vodka: LEAF Vodka, $20
Leaf Vodka offers two varieties distilled from organic wheat. One is distilled with glacial water from Alaska’s Blue Lakes, the other is distilled with Rocky Mountain mineral water. The Alaskan Glacial Water version is smooth and citrusy, just right for this cocktail that’s spiked with plenty of fresh herbs.
The cocktail: Alaskan Pine
Recipe courtesy LEAF Vodka
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 fresh sage leaf
1½ ounces LEAF Vodka Made from Alaskan Glacial Water
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce vanilla syrup
1 dash Scrappy’s lavender bitters
Fresh herbs, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the rosemary and sage to release their oils. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with fresh herbs (like lavender and rosemary), if desired.
The vodka: Belvedere Vodka, $35
Made from 100% rye, this Polish vodka offers hints of vanilla and almond. It works well in creamy cocktails like the classic White Russian, or this decadent drink laced with Sherry, vanilla and nutmeg.
The cocktail: Nutmeg Nick
Recipe courtesy Belvedere Vodka
1½ ounces Belvedere Vodka
1 ounce light cream
1 ounce simple syrup
¾ ounce cream Sherry
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated nutmeg, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients with ice. Shake well, and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
The Vodka: AO Vodka, $50
If you love Japanese whisky, give this vodka a try. Distilled from rice and filtered through bamboo, this vodka is silky, so look for a pleasing marshmallow sweetness and a crisp, citrusy finish. It needs little adornment, as in this martini-style libation.
The cocktail: Eastern Gibson Martini
Recipe courtesy Shingo Gokan, director/head bartender, Angel’s Share, New York City
2½ ounces AO Vodka
1 ounce Junmai Daiginjo Dassai 50 Saké
Cucumber slice, for garnish
In a mixing glass, combine vodka and saké with ice. Stir well, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a thin slice of cucumber.
The vodka: Hophead Hop Vodka, $30
Attention beer drinkers: this is your vodka. The hops add perky grapefruit and floral notes, and an almost effervescent feel. It’s particularly harmonious in drinks with a savory bent like Bloody Marys or this fresh, carrot-based stunner. Note: at 45% abv, it’s slightly stronger than most vodkas.
The cocktail: Hops Cocktail
Recipe courtesy Matthew Biancaniello, bartender/cocktail chef, Pot Bar, Los Angeles
2 ounces Hophead Hop Vodka
2 ounces fresh carrot juice
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce agave syrup
Pinch of sea salt, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish glass with sea salt.
The vodka: St. Augustine Distillery Florida Cane Vodka, $28
Distilled from sugar cane, this newcomer is generally neutral on the nose and palate, finishing with a distinct, lingering marshmallow sweetness. It resembles a superlight white rum, making it a slam-dunk for any cocktail that evokes the classic mojito.
The cocktail: The Vodka Maid
Recipe courtesy Austin Mendez, bar director, MessHall Kitchen, Los Angeles
2 slices cucumber, plus extra for garnish
6 mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
¾ ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice
2 ounces vodka
In a cocktail shaker, place the cucumber, mint leaves and syrup. Muddle lightly. Add lime juice, vodka and ice. Shake well, and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with cucumber slice and mint sprig.
The vodka: Earth Mama Natural Hemp Type Flavored Vodka, $30
This flavored, “marijuana-inspired” vodka won’t provide any side effects, but does offer rich flavors akin to gin, with notes of rosemary, spicy dried oregano and cedar. Mix it in this delightfully slushy tiki drink.
The cocktail: The Rangoon Gimlet
Recipe courtesy Blair Reynolds, bartender/owner Hale Pele, Portland, OR
1 ounce vodka
¾ ounce B.G. Reynolds’ Rich Demerara Syrup [or make your own simple syrup]
½ ounce lime juice
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Lime wheel, for garnish
In a blender, combine ingredients with 6 ounces of crushed ice. Pour into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel.