Little more than a decade ago, gin was on its knees and vodka reigned supreme.
How quickly things have changed. Vodka has been collateral damage of the gin boom that has swept Australia over recent years – or so it seems.
Grey Goose Vodka global ambassador, Joe McCanta, says that while mainstream offerings have declined, top shelf vodka remains in good health.
And he reckons he has witnessed what might be the beginnings of a vodka resurgence in some of the world’s leading cocktail bars.
“Ten years ago, I remember certain bars not even stocking vodka, because it was so successful,” he says.
“The bartending community was putting a pole in the sand and saying, ‘there’s so many other spirits out there, let me introduce you to them’.
“Now, I think there’s a re-embracing of vodka because the pendulum swung so far in the opposite direction.”
Vodka versus gin
McCanta says vodka’s versatility will ensure its longevity in the world of spirits, and he has a point.
They might claim otherwise, but even the most ardent gin fancier will reach for vodka when circumstances demand.
“Vodka can be in drinks as varied as the bloody mary to an espresso martini, so we’re able to cover more occasions,” he says.
What vodka is made from: Grains, potato, milk & more
Of course, the reason that vodka works in these drinks is the purity and neutrality it offers bartenders; a blank canvas of sorts.
But McCanta says drinkers would actually be surprised at the obvious contrasts between different vodkas when tasted side by side, accounting for the wide array of sugar sources it can be distilled from.
“Vodka can be made from anything; wheat, rye, potato, corn, even milk,” he says.
“We make our vodka from the same wheat that you make baguette or a croissant from, and there is an inherent sweetness in that.”
While gin has taken the limelight, there’s been a swathe of new vodkas hitting the market in Australia in recent months.
Here are some of the noteworthy ones.
Republic of Fremantle Signature Vodka (Australia)
Distilled from scratch, using a base of Swan Valley verdelho wine grapes, this subtle and elegant vodka offers hints of citrus and melon.
Manly Spirits Grape and Grain Vodka (Australia)
A pure, crisp Vodka crafted from grape and three grains – barley, wheat and rye. Designed to support any cocktail with a smooth, sweet and grainy backbone.
Grand Domaines Organic Vodka (France)
From single estate cognac producer Grand Domaines comes this delicate and sweet wheat-based vodka offering lemon and peppery notes. New in Australia from Single Vineyard Sellers.
78 Degrees Boab Vodka (Australia)
The rich sugars from the young tuber of the Boab tree were extracted, fermented and distilled into vodka at 78 Degrees’ home in the Adelaide Hills.
Zyr Vodka (Russia)
Distilled from a blend of Russian-grown wheat and rye, Zyr is a smooth and creamy vodka ideal for consumption enjoyed neat or on ice, with a dash of olive juice or olives as a garnish.
Archie Rose Distilling Native Botanical Vodka (Australia)
Harnessing the hybrid vacuum stills at its new Botany distillery, Native Botanical Vodka heroes lemon scented gum, sunrise lime, peach and chamomile for the ultimate vodka soda.
Kavka Vodka (Poland)
This premium Polish vodka is made from a blend of wheat and rye, with the addition of small quantities of aged plum and apple spirits.
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