Vodka is back on bartenders’ radars

Erik Lorincz of The American Bar at The Savoy

“When I started making cocktails a decade ago I joined the mob thinking that vodka was evil, but that was during my bartending adolescence. I’ve since grown to realise that vodka’s not evil, it’s a good product that the general public loves,” he says. And he adds: “There’s a lot of respect for the bartending tradition now, but I actually miss the days when people used to ask what my real job is.

The snobbery in bartending is crazy and people need to get over themselves. You’re kind of an asshole if you don’t stock certain things people are asking for. We should be gracious and thankful that people are coming through the door.

The Savoy’s Bronze Guardian cocktail

It’s not about people coming to see me and having to drink what I make them because I want to convert them to my way of thinking. This stems from insecurity on the part of certain bartenders who put vodka down to make themselves feel superior and sophisticated.”

Whearty is equally annoyed with sniffy bartenders shunning vodka. “It’s all well and good for bartenders to proclaim that vodka is dead, but at the end of the day it’s what customers want. If people want a vodka, lime and soda you’re going to have to serve it. Why fight against it when you can work with it?

These guys need to get over themselves as bars are supposed to be about fun. I’m embarrassed to say I’m a bartender sometimes,” he admits. Erik Lorincz, the suave head bartender at The American Bar at The Savoy in London agrees that mixologists shouldn’t push their taste preferences on their guests.

“As bartenders, we love Tequila, mezcal and whisky, but we’re not making the cocktails for ourselves. Some mixologists don’t even stock vodka as they think it has no flavour. Bartenders should be more respectful of the spirit – I have regular guests that are vodka lovers who like the flavour and don’t want to change their drinking habits,” says Lorincz, who shakes up to 30 vodka Martinis a night at the Art Deco bar.

One of his most popular bespoke vodka serves is the Bronze Guardian cocktail, which blends Grey Goose, chamomile liqueur, pine, cloudy apple juice and lemon verbena. For PDT’s Bell, the beauty of vodka lies in its purity, texture and mouthfeel.

He singles out Dutch wheat vodka Ketel One, Swedish potato vodka Karlsson’s and Canadian winter wheat vodka Aylesbury Duck as three particularly good brands he regularly works with. “Vodka is still king – vodka brands had it really good for a long time and were slaying it, but whisky and gin are now eating into sales.

It’s still the number-one spirit in a lot of venues though,” he says. In terms of classic vodka cocktails, Moscow Mules are enjoying something of a resurgence in the US, while the Lemon Drop – a twist on a sidecar made with vodka, lemon juice, triple sec and simple syrup with a sugar rim – is also making a comeback there. “Serving Moscow Mules in copper cups was a great marketing idea, as customers remember the experience and order them again,” notes Bell.

His own experiments with vodka are more controversial – it’s used in a savoury cocktail at PDT called the Peking Duck, which blends Aylesbury Duck vodka with Cognac, lemon, ginger, averna, Mandarin Napoleon, and a dash of soy sauce. Bell describes the drink as “something fun for cocktail nerds”, but warns that the soy has to be used sparingly as it can quickly overpower the other flavours. Inspired by how Zubrowka bison grass vodka is drunk in Poland – with cloudy apple juice – another of Bell’s vodka concoctions combines Zubrowka with pommeau (a blend of Calvados and cider), grapefruit and Swiss bitters Suze.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters