A couple months ago I agreed to be in a vodka infusion contest hosted by Oval Vodka. The winner received a free hotel stay in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. Unfortunately I found out soon after the bottle arrived that I wouldn’t be able to attend this year, so I didn’t compete and have an extra bottle of vodka sitting on my home bar. At about the same time my friend David sent me a package that included a big bag of hibiscus flowers. This makes for a nice coincidence given that this month’s Mixology Monday theme is “vodka is your friend,” hosted by Felicia’s Speakeasy:
The theme of August 10th’s Mixology Monday is “Vodka is Your Friend.” The recent high profile bashings of vodka interspersed with a few weak “yeah, buts…” left me wondering, is vodka the axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy? While it may not be the life of the party, experts agree: Vodka’s obituary does not have to be written just yet.
Every once in a while I do enjoy vodka on the rocks, especially if it has some rye character to it. I very rarely choose to mix with it though. There’s a limited amount of spirit that can fit into a cocktail and I don’t often want to devote any of it to a nearly flavorless ingredient. If a drink is good with vodka, wouldn’t it be better with gin? Or rum, or aquavit, or tequila, etc.? Despite this, the two most popular cocktails on Carlyle’s menu are made with vodka. Like it or not, we craft bartenders have to use it.
One thing vodka is good for is letting other flavors shine through. Given what I had on hand, my first thought was to try a hibiscus infusion. This turned my vodka an attractive shade of red but the flavor wasn’t strong enough to stand out in a mixed drink; clearly I would not have won the infusion contest.
So then I started doing some research. And by “research” I mean I looked up the hibiscus entry on Wikipedia. There I learned that there are countless words for hibiscus tea, a beverage popular throughout the world and made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers in hot water. In Jamaica fresh ginger is often added. Thus an idea for a drink began to take shape and after a little trial-and-error I settled on this Package Notice cocktail:
2 oz chilled hibiscus tea (agua de Flor de Jamaica)
1.5 oz vodka
.25 oz ginger liqueur
.25 oz rich simple syrup
Shake over ice, strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnish with an edible flower.
The hibiscus flavor is tangy but also very light, so vodka works nicely here. It’s a simple drink, but it’s admittedly pretty nice on a summer day.