Mixology Monday is billed as the monthly online cocktail party, where our host chooses a theme and we rock up a couple of hours late, stinking of cheap wine and muttering something about “consumption”. This month, Felicia’s Speakeasy is graciously listening to our ramblings about our favourite Doctor Who and the fact that vodka is your friend.
In Scotland, of course, vodka is everyone’s friend. It’s been the biggest selling spirit in both on- and off-licence sales (that’s bars and liquor stores) since 2008, while Diageo’s Cameronbridge distillery produces several quadrillion litres of Smirnoff every year. As far as Scottish bartenders go, vodka should be our friend, because selling it pays our wages but it’s not.
Vodka has a bad reputation because it’s in an awful lot of terrible drinks, all the classics of the vodka-liqueur-fruit juice school. It’s telling that the drink that broke vodka in the US – the Moscow Mule – doesn’t foreground its base spirit. There is, however, one vodka cocktail that does. The vodka martini is the elephant in the room. It’s probably the most famous vodka cocktail, but the prevailing attitude among those in the know is that it’s a corrupted gin drink. However, it remains one of the most popular and enduring drinks of all time. The key thing to take from the martini is that vodka’s prefered partners are subtler and less confrontational. Pairing it with bolder flavours, like those in heavily sweetened liqueurs, pushes it to the background.
The other lesson to take from the vodka martini is that vodka can work in repurposed recipes. The trick is not to overcompensate for the lack of immediate, accessible flavour in the spirit. The basic plan, therefore, is to steal a formula and there’s few better than the original – spirit, sugar, bitters and water. This refitted Old-Fashioned uses 42 Below as the spirit because, being honest, they gave us a bottle to play about with at work. St. Germain operates as our sweetening agent, with a touch of Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters with a slow stir and a cranberry juice float for dilution.
60ml 42 Below Vodka
1 barspoon St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
1 barspoon cranberry juice
Stir the first three ingredients with ice for at least 45 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Float the cranberry juice and garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.