Vodka has been the most popular spirit in America since the 1970s, and there's no sign of it slowing down. As outlined in "Clear Thinking," this week's cover story about Spring44, vodka's popularity keeps growing year after year, expanding into a market now worth billions of dollars.
Part of that popularity is thanks to vodka's flavor, or lack thereof: Distiller Rob Masters calls vodka "white paint," since it takes on whatever flavor you mix it with. And while that's turned some bartenders off to the liquor, many of Denver's bar-men and -women have embraced its versatility.
We asked a few of Denver's best bartenders to send us a vodka cocktail recipe that would be easy to mix at home. Here are their suggestions:
GINGER DAISY by Mike Henderson Root Down
2 oz. vodka 1 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur 1 oz. lemon juice .5 oz. pomegranate syrup (equal parts pom pomegranate juice and sugar)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass and garnish with a lemon zest.
PERFECT KISS by James Lee Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar
1.5 oz. vodka .75 oz. fresh lemon juice .75 oz. agave nectar .5 oz. dry vermouth .25 oz. Parfait Amour 1 wedge of fresh Hotchkiss peach
Muddle the peach first, then add all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Shake and strain into a large rocks glass with ice.
THE BITTER SICILIAN by Randy and Ryan Layman Steuben's
1 oz. vodka 1 oz. Averna Amaro .75 oz. fresh lemon juice 3 sprigs of thyme
Muddle thyme in lemon juice. Add vodka and Amaro, shake and strain over fresh ice in a highball or old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel and sprig of thyme.
THE FLORAL GRAPEFRUIT by Bryan Dayton Oak at Fourteenth
.75 oz. fresh grapefruit juice .75 oz. St. Germain .75 oz. vodka .75 oz. Aperol
Combine ingredients in mixing glass with plenty of ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with grapefruit peel.
GYPSY COCKTAIL by Kevin Burke Colt & Gray
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2.25 oz. Vodka .5 oz. Benedictine DOM 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters Lemon twist for garnish
Combine ingredients in mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir briskly for 30 seconds and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with the oils from a lemon twist to provide aroma and a hint of acidity.
Note: The spec shows up in a couple of different books published immediately after Prohibition circa 1930-1940, with a couple of different ratios. We adjusted for modern palates as people tend to prefer drier cocktails without much of a length of finish. The vodka adds an element of space to the cocktail. The neutral aspect of the spirit allows room for the botanicals in the Benedictine to shine and not get all jammed up. The bitters are absolutely essential; the cocktail is balanced with a bitter/sweet edge. Without them, the cocktail falls flat. All ingredients should be available in a well-stocked liquor store.