Vodka – Past its prime(?)

In the entire world of food and drink, there are only a handful of items whose appeal I don’t understand. Number one on the list of those items? Vodka.

I mean, I get it. It’s alcohol; people want to get tipsy with alcohol; therefore people drink vodka to get a bit tipsy.

I also get that it makes a decent mixer. So it holds a bit of an appeal in making cocktails.

What I don’t get is the exalted position that some place the liquor, making it seem as if it was comparable to whiskey, gin, rum, or tequila. To me, vodka just isn’t that interesting. Apparently I’m not the only one who believes this. From the New York Times:

Some bartenders, like Damon Dunay at Delicatessen in SoHo, will actually try to steer patrons away from ordering vodka, just as Mr. Dunay, a reformed vodka bot, was once redirected by a bartender. Even The Wall Street Journal has jumped aboard, deeming vodka “passé.”

The “tofu of the bar” — as Paul Clarke, a cocktail blogger, calls vodka — appears to be losing its once-mighty cachet (if not, however, its dominant market share). An instant relic, perhaps, of the dissipated boom times (Trump vodka, anyone? … Anyone?). Or maybe a victim of America’s savvier taste buds. To hear some people talk, either way, it’s time to consign vodka to the same mock-worthy bin as white zinfandel, and be done with it.

Much like the piece, I agree that vodka isn’t going away soon, and it does have a place at the bar. But I hope the days of $70 bottles of vodka are long gone.

Over the course of my travels surrounding the whiskey book, the moments in which I’ve been less than diplomatic have always been around the topic of vodka. Invariably someone will ask me when I’m writing a vodka book, too which I almost always respond – there’s nothing interesting about vodka that warrants a book. While my tact may be incorrect, I’m of the belief that my stance is right on point. Whiskey, gin, and rum all have more interesting back stories. Even beer and wine seem a bit more romantic to me, from both an historical perspective, as well as one of taste. From my point of view, vodka suffers from the most tragic of afflictions. It’s boring. It’s the Certified Public Accountant of the liquor world.

So really – is the vodka boom over? Because I’d like to recommend a few other liquors that deserve some attention. Whiskey, of course, because it will help me out indirectly. But honestly, I would love to see schnapps get some artisinal attention. Then there are the Italian liquors that I love that seem to get little to no recognition – Fernet Branca, Strega, Campari, and Cynar all deserve greater recognition but are probably too bold for mass market appeal. But there’s always Amaretto.

Anything. Anything other than another vodka.