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Feb 28, 2011 11:12 AM

What's wrong with wanting a drink made with vodka? [moved from Boston board]

NOTE: We've moved this subthread from the discussion at -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM

I understand the bud light thing--sometimes people get dragged places though, and if you have it, then serve it with a smile. Sometimes I want a bud light too, for whatever reason (I want something low alcohol, or low calorie, or cheaper, but I don't want to catch grief for ordering a diet coke, etc.).

Also, can someone explain to me the vodka thing? I get that gin is the clear liquor of choice for classic cocktails but what the hell is wrong with wanting a drink made with vodka? It's one of the world's most beloved spirits.

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  1. I got sick from vodka once as a teenager so I avoided it throughout college. Now I'm a grownup and it never occurs to me to drink vodka because it doesn't taste like anything.

    Also, nobody wants to be seen drinking something that needs a billboard to promote it, or tends to be synthetically flavored, or is frequently a starter spirit for pre-legal drinkers.

    1 Reply
    1. re: robwat36

      wow robwat36, you must have really gotten sick when you were a teenager. I think you are the first true "vodka hater" I have ever encountered. :)) But, you know, you are right about the billboard thing. I just drove past a billboard advertising Coca Cola. I'll never be caught dead drinking it again. Of course there is nothing 'wrong' with drinking vodka. Millions of people do, in fact, obviously enjoy the spirit straight up, on the rocks or mixed with dozens and dozens of different "flavorings".

    2. The whole pricey vodka craze of recent memory (marketing driven promotion of overpriced, fancy looking bottles of what is after all essentially colorless and flavorless) is really the antithesis of the craft cocktail ideal authenticity and real flavor.

      Further, the comos, appletinis, chocotinis are also generally considered booze for people who don't like booze by the craft cocktail crowd. Add to that the crappy artificial flavoring in most of the aforementioned drinks...

      27 Replies
      1. re: StriperGuy

        So there are no good cocktails to be made with Vodka? To the point that a great bartender can't make a great drink with vodka? And someone who asks for a cocktail made with vodka should be mocked and scorned? Preposterous.

        1. re: tamerlanenj

          I didn't/wouldn't say any of those things.

          1. re: tamerlanenj

            I think we all agree that if the customer is being civil, then the bartender should make them feel cared for and welcome, regardless of their preferred tipple.

            I can tell you the rationale for some bartenders and certain cocktail snob types like myself disdaining vodka: it's because it's a blank canvas, contributing nothing of intrinsic interest to the drink but water and ethanol. Or it's flavored, almost always in a way that is inferior to a craft equivalent (e.g., citrus flavor versus fresh juice). There are exceptions, e.g., Karlsson, but that's more like a potato eau de vie than a proper vodka.

            I'll defend your right to love vodka cocktails, though.


            1. re: tamerlanenj

              That's not quite what SG said.

              Someone who asks for a chocolatini should be mocked and scorned though ;)

              People who demand top shelf vodka should probably be mocked and scorned a bit too

              1. re: jgg13

                I've long publicly scorned and mocked vodka drinkers, but for two specific reasons. One, I generally agree that super-premium vodka is a scam, and like to point to the NY Times expert-panel taste test that had Smirnoff trumping a bunch of $30-and-up bottllings. Two, my own tastes don't run to sweet drinks, and I think folks that prefer them are missing something of the joys of balance in a well-made cocktail.

                This latter notion is not helped by the fact that hordes of sugary-vodka-"tini" drinkers are younger, and to my eye seem to be overestimating the frisson of sophistication derived solely from drinking something out of a cocktail glass. Thanks for nothing, Sex and the City.

                Of course, those are generalizations, and all generalizations are stupid, including this one. And there are vodka cocktails I like; they're usually long drinks.


                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  100% agree with everything you said there.

              2. re: tamerlanenj

                That is NOT what I said.

                Though I do agree with JGG13's statement below: "People who demand top shelf vodka should probably be mocked and scorned a bit..."

                This is a running discussion on the Spirits board, but tasted blind, the fru fru $40 a bottle vodkas usually don't even win taste tests.

                More to what MCSJB said: "it's a blank canvas, contributing nothing of intrinsic interest to the drink."

                By definition, if you have an interesting cocktail made with vodka, the vodka itself deserves little of the credit.

                Heck, mash some juniper berries in it, it might be interesting, wait, that's gin.

                I myself used vodka for infusions of citrus zest, etc if I do not have any grain alcohol.

                But essentially people who INSIST on vodka drinks are drinking the equivalent of Kraft macaroni and cheese (which I eat on occasion) but never insisting I am eating haute cuisine. Vodka is the booze world equivalent of junk food, more or less.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  The one place where I disagree w/ you & slim is that I don't agree that there's simply no place for just adding booze to something. Look at something like a bloody mary - there's so much going on there that I don't know that it really matters if it's vodka or not, but it still makes for a good eye opener.

                  I think there's a real, if subtle, difference between "drinks for people who don't like alcohol" and "something that one just wants to add some alcohol to"

                  1. re: jgg13

                    Mmmmm. I was thinking of a nice bloody mary too. (Not at Drink, but in general). I also really love a vodka gimlet.

                    That being said, I don't care for the attitude at Drink.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      Gosh I love a good Bloody!

                      Worchestershire, tabasco, horshradish, lemon juice, crush celery seeds, a fresh stalk of celery.... eggs benedict anyone?

                      Point well taken.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Pretty much the only thing that gets me through the holiday season. I use celery salt and sometimes garnish with a pickled stringbean in lieu of the celery stalk. I'm always much jollier after the second one. ;-)

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          Although the Bloody Mary is the exception that proves the rule: it's one of those rare drinks where the booze is not the star of the show, and therefore vodka works better than gin.

                          But compare a proper gin greyhound to a vodka greyhound and the difference is night and day.

                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                            Agreed on the superiority of the original gin in the Greyhound and the Gimlet; in the former, I think the use of fresh juice is equally important. For Bloody lovers, tequila, genever, and aquavit are all interesting variants.


                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              Hmm. I actually completely prefer a Bloody with gin to vodka (although tequila is my fave).

                              I like a couple vodka drinks (Moscow Mule, for example), but it has nothing to do with the vodka and everything to do with the mixer (ginger beer, in the above example). That said, when I feel like getting bombed, it's often via vodka, since it has no flavor. It mixes with anything and is easily pounded.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                I know MANY people say vodka has no flavor but I know for a fact that I don't care particularly for Absolut. A close friend liked it and I would keep it on hand for her. But when I was of Smirnoff I would substitute Absolut and could definitely tell a difference. Not talking about mixed drinks.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  It's not that they're literally indistinguishable. The problem is that the ideal vodka is one that is by definition odorless & tasteless. Thus, the better the vodka (in objective sense, not by cost or reputation), by definition you're achieving less actual flavor and complexity. Most spirits, the better versions are the ones that have *more* flavor & complexity.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    "The problem is that the ideal vodka is one that is by definition odorless & tasteless."

                                    I'm not sure I'd agree with that statement. Take the most basic of liquids - water. While most folks would say off the bat that water no flavor, once you compare several different waters, ranging from those with very few minerals to those with lots of minerals, then you get that water actually can have a ton of flavor.

                                    Ditto with vodka. I'm not comparing expensive to cheap, but different vodkas can certainly taste different. I agree, that once mixed with a lot of juices, the flavor profiles disappear. But ice cold, of with a spritz or tow of a fresh fruit, and maybe a muddled herb or a couple drops of a tincture, and vodka has a character. It might not be as in your face as a gin, but for me, vodka certainly has a place, and not merely as a conveyor of alcohol (though sometimes).

                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                      "once mixed with ..."

                                      And there's the crux of the issue. Yes, there are flavor differences. Ideally there'd be none, but this isn't an ideal world. But the moment you start adding stuff to your drink, if you're not using rotgut vodka it becomes pretty difficult to discern those difference. Throw in the fact that most people drink their straight vodka ice cold and that makes it even harder.

                                      There's also the point that too much of the vodka market is based on glitz & marketing (perceived quality) and not *actual* quality.

                                  2. re: c oliver

                                    >>"Not talking about mixed drinks."<<

                                    Bingo. There are significant differences between vodkas, but I defy you to distinguish between a Grey Goose chocolatini and one made with Elit.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      I gotta tell ya the very word "chocolatini" makes my flesh crawl. Actually, as someone said here, any prefix to 'tini' other than 'mar' is against my religion. Blech.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Amen. Absolut *does* have a flavor: it tastes like rubbing alcohol.

                                      Myself, I like vodka because I'm not a huge fan of gin. I get the whole g&t vibe, but gin just doesn't go with everything, and neither does rum. There's a place for the blank canvas, IMHO.

                                      As for the chocolatini, to us true chocoholics, it's *sacrilege*. IMNSHO.

                                  3. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    For the last year or more, I've been drinking Gin Mary's (I know there's a 'proper' name but can never remember it) and prefer it to regular. And I'm a Smirnoff drinker on a day to day basis.

                                  4. re: StriperGuy

                                    Funny I like gin bloodies as well.

                                    1. re: Glinda

                                      I nursed a girlfriend through a truly horrible gin hangover. It was bad enough I haven't touched the stuff since.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        There's something about gin hangovers that are "qualitatively" worse than even vodka hangovers. I didn't drink gin for 5 years after a binge on g&t's in my late teens. Headaches, too - which I never get with other hangovers/drinks.

                                  5. re: jgg13

                                    Gin makes such a tasty, layered Bloody that I always have it in mine. The presence of gin makes a big difference in the flavor profile. Yes, I had an awful gin experience in college but like a good grownup I got past it and have learned to love the varied styles of gin. In my book, all Bloody Marys should be Gin Marys, with favor to the most juniper-forward gins like Tanq.

                                    1. re: marais

                                      I'm with you 100% on this. Better flavor in my book.

                            2. I think it really is that association of vodka with under age drinkers, or (and being very general here) people who don't really care what they drink/don't actually like alcohol. I certainly concede that vodka has a rightful place within a bar (and I certainly wouldn't want to get between it and my Polish friends) and it definitely has its place within certain cocktails. Much of the scorn comes when it's added to something awful and super sweet flavoured, which is really there to disguise the flavour of alcohol and for the drinker to get drunk. I can't help but scorn that.

                              Whenever I speak to the barmen at my favourite bars they usually say the same thing - it's nice to meet a younger woman who enjoys a cocktail that isn't vodka based and sweet. My tastes run to anything sour and acidic - if it happens to have vodka, so be it. Mmmm, time for a cocktail maybe...

                              1. offer no excuses or apologies EVER. (unless of course you just drove an SUV through a church)

                                never. I do have (internal) rules and regrets. but this show is not about us.

                                just please don't add 'tini as suffix to anything. please! and you can get away with a LOT around me.

                                1. If anyone is giving you grief for drinking what you want to drink when you want to drink it, you need to find a new watering hole, new friends, or some combination thereof.

                                  You're an adult and owe no explanation to anyone about what you're drinking.

                                  (By the way -- the best comeback for someone getting grief about drinking diet coke was overheard in a busy bar....the bartender was giving a big guy grief about his diet coke, and finally the guy picks up his coke, shrugs and says "booze f*&&s with the drugs" and walked off)

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I always say that the diet coke frees up calories for better stuff later in the day

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      I think there's two sides to the scornful bartender (or friend) thing. There's the good side, which is the desire to turn a drinker on to new things that he might like even better than his standby. Then there's the whole cooler-than-thou thing, which is unfortunate.

                                      We all give my friend who likes Bud Light Lime a hard time constantly. When you know there's so many things that taste better (beer with real lime juice in it, micheladas, naturally full-flavored beer, etc) it can be hard not to want to preach.

                                      Personally I don't have much use for vodka other than Moscow Mules and Bloody Marys (except cleaning my sunglasses).

                                      1. re: nickls

                                        "When you know there's so many things that taste better "

                                        In your opinion, of course. We truly don't want to all like the same things to eat and drink, do we?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Exactly. There's a whole lot of "cooler-than-thou" in this thread, too. I don't apologize for what I drink, and anyone who wants to be scornful about it can go drink with someone else -- it's really none of their business.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            We spend time in R io and in the kinda 'joints' where we tend to have lunch the wine is truly dreck. So I get a beer even though I'm really not into beer. The one I like is so cheap that 'nicer' places don't even have it. It's literally icy cold, kept in a different fridge than the better ones. Do you think that bothers me? Ha.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Beer-wise, Pabst Blue Ribbon has made a comeback in recent years, but nobody's going to confuse it with Pliny the Elder. Each of them has their place, and I'll unabashedly enjoy either (albeit in different ways).

                                              Nothing "cooler than thou" about it. It's just a matter of time and place.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                oh c next time you come to DC there's a dive (one of the few left) in Columbia Heights that chills the beer so cold to the point ice crystals are forming. perfect in August. and AND the booths are sort of broken, it's perfect (name escapes me at the moment but it's infamous).

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  If you find ME in DC in AUGUST, I'll have to have ice cold beers strapped to my body! We've offered to exchange again with this person but not in August :)

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    aww c'mon, it's the closest to living on the surface of Venus you're likely to find. (be sure to dress for a job interview for max effect)

                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      Oh, yeah. And something you MAY not be experienced with - panty hose. Woohoo.