Quick Guide to Vodka and Vodka Cocktails
Vodka is a clear spirit of high purity and found in many popular vodka cocktails, such as the White Russian, the Screwdriver, and the Appletini. Vodka can be made from a wide range of raw materials however grain is usually the primary ingredient. Vodka is often considered a tasteless, odorless spirit, mainly suitable only for mixing, hence the vast range of vodka cocktails available today. The fact that vodka has no discernible flavour or aroma has not stopped it from becoming the biggest selling spirit in the world with Smirnoff owners Diaego selling 25 million 9 litre cases of the brand globally in 2011. Some other different brands of vodka that have global reach include Absolut, Belvedere and Grey Goose.
Today, most vodka is made from grain, contrary to the popular held notion that its mainly made from potatoes. Although possible, it is actually very difficult to make a decent vodka from potatoes. The bulk of the industry is made up of corn-based vodka, however, rye and wheat are also commonly used. Apples,sugar beets, grapes and even molasses are also sometimes used to produce vodka.
By U.S. law, vodka is a neutral spirit, distilled at or above 190 proof (95% alcohol by volume). Vodka is an unaged spirit, so after it’s distilled, it’s usually filtered, before being diluted with water to its bottling proof and bottled. Distilling vodka to such a high proof strips out the majority of the character of the grains or other raw ingredients used in the vodka. Some manufacturers use careful distillation methods to preserve some of the flavors and aromas of the source material—for example, some rye-based vodkas carry a hint of rye flavor. Different brands of vodka use different methods though, the majority strive to make their products as neutral as possible.
Most vodka produced for consumption in the United States is filtered before bottling, through activated charcoal. Filtering can be used to improve a cheaply made vodka by removing some of the impurities that produce off flavors. But it also can strip out some of the chemicals that add flavor and richness to vodka, thereby making an already neutral spirit even more neutral. Some of the more traditional Vodka Belt producers, such as Poland and Russia, choose not to filter their vodkas, leaving in some of the natural flavors that contribute character to the liquor.
When selecting the correct vodka, particularly for vodka cocktails, factors such as cost, intended use and taste should all be taken into consideration. The less expensive vodka brands will tend to burn in the mouth and are preferable for shooters or for vodka cocktails such as the Sex on the Beach or the Sea Breeze, which have flavoursome mixers.
When considering premium and super premium vodka brands it is good to consider the way the Russians and the Polish drink vodka: chill it down very cold, usually in the freezer, and sip it alongside some food. When appreciating a premium vodka, there are 3 main stages in appreciating the taste.
- The tingling sensation of the spirit on your lips as you drink it
- The taste in the front of your mouth
- The lingering warmth in your throat
We would be interested to hear your favourite brand of vodka, so please take our Vodka Poll here
We sat down at Social and Cocktail and came up with 5 of our Favourite Vodka Cocktails:
The White Russian is one of the most popular of all cocktails, and with good reason. It has a deep, smooth flavour and is the perfect drink to kick back and relax with.
37 1/2 ml Vodka, 25 ml Coffee Liqueur, 15 ml Cream, 15 ml Milk, Chocolate Powder, Coffee Bean
Apricot, lemon and vodka combine to create a wonderful golden coloured drink, which is one of our favourite fruit flavoured Martinis.
37 1/2 ml Vodka, 20ml Apricot Brandy, 25 ml Lemon Juice, 1 dash Angostura Bitters, 12 1/2 ml Simple Syrup, Lemon Zest
Although very popular, the Bloody Mary is still somewhat of an acquired taste, but if a spicy tomato cocktail is up your street, then this is pretty much perfection.
37 1/2 ml Peppered Vodka, 15 ml Sweet Vermouth, 35 ml Tomato Juice, splash Red Wine, 6 splashes Worcestershire sauce, 10 dashes Tobasco sauce, 25 ml Lemon Juice, 10 dashes Salt, 10 dashes Pepper, 3 Cucumber slices
Hard to deny the popularity of this cocktail. Fruity, tasty, refreshing and with a wonderful pink hue. One criticism would be that it may be a little sweet for some tastes.
37 1/2 ml Citrus Vodka, 12 1/2 ml Triple Sec, 30 ml Cranberry Juice, 1/2 squeezed lemon, 12 1/2 ml Sugar Syrup
A great cocktail in which the ginger beer adds a nice spicy dimension to the rich blackberry flavours.
37 1/2 ml Vodka, 20 ml Crème de Mure, 25 ml Lime Juice, Top-Up Ginger Beer, 6 Blackberries, Aromatic Bitters