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Five Spirituous Cocktails That Trade Whiskey for Vodka

Thanks to terroir-driven bottlings, bartenders are revisiting a category overlooked during the cocktail renaissance.

Once overlooked during the cocktail renaissance, vodka is being revisited by bartenders, who are crafting cocktails that showcase the clear sense of place found within a handful of densely flavored, terroir-driven bottlings. Whether employed like brown spirits in riffs on classic spirituous drinks such as the Diamondback, or in innovative new creations like a salty, caviar-washed cocktail, these spirits are inspiring a new category of cocktails that foreground vodka’s nuance, texture and regional identity.

Diamond Rye Back
The Diamondback is one of the gems of the pre-Prohibition canon, a potent mixture of rye, applejack and herbaceous yellow Chartreuse. The Diamond Rye Back taps into the famous whiskey drink’s legacy, brightening the powerful alpine profile of green Chartreuse with dashes of sherry and crème de peche. A grapefruit twist highlights the delicate citrus character of Belvedere Vodka’s Lake Bartężek, as layer gives way to layer in this lush variation on the original.

Night or Day Vesper
At the acclaimed Cooper Lounge in Denver, Colorado, guests can customize their Vesper selection, choosing between either Smogóry Forest or Lake Bartężek from Belvedere Vodka’s Single Estate Rye series. “People get to compare and contrast,” says Brittany Barbery, assistant general manager. “Couples often get pairs together.” The gameplan for the classic drink, inspired by James Bond’s drink order in Casino Royale, is simple: Let the base spirit shine. Here, the terroir of either vodka selection becomes the focus, with Smogóry Forest lending savoriness and Lake Bartężek offering a fresher, peppery drink. Gin provides botanical heft, while the sweetness of the Cocchi Americano lends a rounded, luscious mouthfeel. “People absolutely love the Vesper,” says Barbery.

Remember The Grain
A playful nod to the classic midcentury rye cocktail, Remember The Maine, this drink summons the cherry flavors of sweet vermouth to play against the cocoa hint of the bitters, while Belvedere Vodka’s Smogóry Forest supplies a velvety texture. The dash of absinthe comes through on the clean, anise-y finish, making for a perfect after-dinner drink that’s light in texture but dessert-like in flavor.

Run Forest Run
Drinkers at the Living Room Bar in Scottsdale love sparkling wine, says Bar Manager Marcus Valenzuela, so he and the staff devised a drink that would gird the crisp effervescence of prosecco with a fruit-infused base. In the hot, dry heat of Arizona, this drink is a bonafide thirst-quencher, with grapefruit liqueur and lemon juice enhancing the mellow orchard fruit notes of  Lake Bartężek from Belvedere Vodka. “We wanted to let the vodka stand on its own,” says Valenzuela. “It’s not too sweet and not too strong—a happy medium between the two.”

To Casimir
Denson Liquor Bar in Washington, D.C. is a quiet getaway from the city that attracts drinkers seeking bold new flavors. With that in mind, General Manager Dominic Prudente and his staff developed a drink that would “be as elegant as the vodka is itself.” Riffing off the classic pairing of vodka and caviar by washing the glass with liquid caviar, the drink takes savoriness to the next level by adding a briny dram of saltwater to Belvedere Vodka’s Lake Bartężek. A caviar cube is the finishing Eastern European touch—appropriate for a drink named after the Polish king Casimir III the Great.