In Wednesday's post on the obstacles facing vodka in the craft-cocktail world, I briefly touched on one of the challenges vodka encounters: its relative youth as a cocktail ingredient.
While you can't swing a bottle of Stoli nowadays without hitting a vodka-soaked cocktail menu, the spirit was a relative rarity in American bars until the 1950s.
For today's artisan bartenders—many of whom place special value on classic and classically styled drinks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries—vodka's absence from vintage guides such as the Savoy Cocktail Book or Jerry Thomas' How to Mix Drinks has counted as a strike against the spirit.
But vodka does pop up in a few drinks from the early and mid-20th century; one worth discovering is the Gypsy.
Unlike many vodka-based drinks that simply use the spirit to lend alcoholic oomph to a mixture of soda and fruit juice, the Gypsy uses vodka's neutral character to soften the powerful flavor of the drink's other main ingredient, the French herbal liqueur Benedictine. Similar in style to the Drink Without a Name, the Gypsy showcases one of vodka's utilities behind the bar—being able to provide a blank stage where the vibrant characters of other ingredients can perform, while blunting the intensity of these bold flavors.
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce Benedictine
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well to chill, and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as garnish.