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

NOTE: We've moved this subthread from the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/726263 -- 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.

                                      2. I have no problem with vodka. I have enjoyed it and am sure I will again. As noted, a good Bloody Mary or Moscow Mule can be quite pleasurable. Likewise, I find vodka to be “the” accompaniment to a caviar service.

                                        Nevertheless, like it or not, I confess some disdain for those who eat to get full or drink to get drunk. In that context, vodka is the alcoholic equivalent of the drive-thru. I will also admit that I have even greater contempt for those who drink for display, as if holding a cocktail glass bestows upon one an aura of sophistication. In that instance, vodka is the obvious vehicle to permit style over substance.

                                        Vodka lends itself well to each of the foregoing. Its limited flavor, as well as its potency, is easily and frequently masked by sweetness or brine. I think this is the reason that many vodka drinks are simply variations of those that are truer and more complex in character when made with other spirits. Even worse are the abominations like vodka and Redbull or vodka and Mountain Dew – these suggest psychological distress much more than gastronomic enjoyment.

                                        In the end, vodka in a drink is, to many, reminiscent of mixing medicine in applesauce for a child – its sugar-coating. Unlike the medicine, however, the alcohol is not prescribed to cure a malady but requested by the consumer. In a sense then, one can’t help ask, why bother? Why not stick with the white zinfandel?

                                        47 Replies
                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          I cannot understand the point of drinking vodka with Redbull. I mean, really, why do that?

                                          I was about 18 when I was out in a bar and some guy walked up to me and said "I bought you a drink". Without going into the issue of a complete stranger having bought me a drink I asked what it was. When he told me it was vodka and Redbull I knew it was all bad and politely thanked him and said I would prefer to buy my own. There are some places I cannot go and that is one of them.

                                          The only people I know who drink vodka as a spirit and enjoy it just for being vodka are some Polish friends of our family. I completely understand their love of vodka and don't have any scorn for that. As long as they don't start drinking it with Redbull.

                                          1. re: TheHuntress

                                            Well, I'm a 64 y.o. 'murican and my drink of choice is Smirnoff on the rocks with a spash of water. (I can have more cocktails if I water them down!)

                                            That Redbull thing is just beyond me. Mixing caffeine with alcohol? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of each of them? We live about ten minutes from the NV state line and frequent casinos. I see it there so maybe they're trying to get drunk but stay awake.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I'd never do it now, but back when I was about 20 I'd smoke some pot, and then start chugging tequila and coca cola, sort of the same idea I guess. getting loopy yet still lucid (somewhat) but then I never was an ugly drunk, annoying yes, violent no.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                It actually makes people very unwell, C Oliver. I've lost count how many people I've seen in hospital who've been drinking vodka and Redbull in my short career span.

                                                Other than the odd cocktail, the only way I drink vodka is celebratory shots with the Polish crew (best baby christening I've EVER been to!). But as brought up by Will Owen further down the thread then you can get subtle differences and actually appreciate what you're drinking. While drinking in immoderation can be fun, I don't grasp the concept of solely drinking to get drunk. It just seems (big generalisation here) that those who do drink solely to get drunk, not for enjoyment of a good drink, seem to choose vodka, attracting the scorn that other vodka drinkers (such as yourself and OP) don't deserve.

                                                1. re: TheHuntress

                                                  That's so interesting, TH. Bob drinks Scotch cause he likes it and that's why I drink vodka. I had no idea that my vodka drinking is a source of scorn :) I think that's plumb weird.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    It's not YOUR vodka drinking, that would be weird :)

                                                  2. re: TheHuntress

                                                    Yeah, most folks tend to pass out when their BAC approaches .20 or so. The Red Bull keeps you awake so you can kill lots more brain cells.

                                                    Fact is that vodka is the penultimate (second only to Everclear) beverage for the "goal-oriented" drinker. That doesn't mean that vodka drinkers are inherently goal-oriented.

                                                    Me, I'm like Will Rogers at the bar. Vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, tequila, rum - I never met a (good) liquor I didn't like.

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      I think one of my favourites we had was a petient who came in to ED with a blood alcohol of 0.36. They were found having seizures in the hospital grounds - they'd just been in to visit another patient. I couldn't help but feel that it was beautifully timed.

                                                      When I meet an unlikeable liquor I'll let you know. It may be a long journey before discovery is made.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        I remember in college being in the kitchen at a house party (not my house!) - the requisite trash can of Jungle Juice (Everclear and Hawaiian punch) was on hand, and it was one of those strange moments when one crowd left the kitchen but the next crowd hadn't trickled in yet...I idly picked up the Everclear bottle and saw the warnings about blindness and not to drink it straight...and poured the rest of my drink down the sink.

                                                        My dad coincidentally told me a week or so later that he knew a guy who poured the stuff in his gas tank when he ran out of gas a long way from town....and the car knocked like mad, but it got him back to town.

                                                        I haven't touched that stuff since.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Blindness? Only if you pour it in your eyes. It's just 95% pure ethanol (watered down to 75.5% in some places).

                                                          Think of it as double-strength vodka; you don't want to put it on your tongue, but once it's watered down it doesn't have any deleterious effects other than those associated with alcohol consumption in general.

                                                          I find it very effective for making infusions. Less water equals better extraction, and purity makes for a neutral flavor. But trust me, they don't go to the trouble of charcoal filtration or any of that nonsense. Smoothness is not in Everclear's vocabulary.

                                                          And yes, it's good fuel. From alcohol lamps to E85 flex-fuel cars, ethanol's some pretty seriously combustible stuff. If you want to take up a career as a firebreather, you may want to stock up...

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            I totally get the use of high-proof clear alcohols for making liqueurs, infusions, etc...it ends up diluted, and lesser alcohols won't do the job for various reasons.

                                                            I'll still choose not to straight-up drink something (even diluted) that my car will run on.

                                                            (and mixing it with Hawaiian Punch? There are some reasons that the folly of youth is best left behind.)

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              But any time you have vodka or gin, you're drinking a diluted version of something your car can run on. The stuff comes out of the still at high proof; they just add water before bottling.

                                                              OTOH, I'm with you on the Hawaiian Punch.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                It's the "pour it into your tank and your car runs on it" that does it for me.

                                                                I realize that chemically, it's the same stuff...but I'll not take a good snort off of the pump the next time I fill up, thanks.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  If you're saying that you aren't going to drink grain alcohol neat, I'm with you. But if you're saying that you wouldn't want to drink grain alcohol diluted with water, I've got news for you - that's exactly what you're doing every time you drink vodka or gin.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Don't try to reason with my irrationality :)

                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                      Red bull is for staying awake. It has a higher percentage of caffeine than soda does. If they made super-caffeinated seltzer water, I'd drink that. Not necessarily because I'm wasted, maybe just because I'm tired but don't want to bail and leave my friend alone in a bar. It isn't intended to be a culinary masterpiece. It's acidic and sweet and full of chemicals, like soda and cheap sour mix and cheap juice and a lot of other things. The addition of the vodka is for pretending you're not completely exhausted and actually want to be drinking. If the psychological distress you're referring to is tiredness, fine.

                                                      There isn't a lot of compelling evidence that it's dangerous. Correlation does not equal causation (and I think it's easy to think of a lot of intervening variables here-- someone drinking RB&V is probably more likely to be young, male, determined to stay up late drinking, sleep deprived, etc, etc, etc), and we're talking about non-blinded and anecdotal data, at that. It has been shown in at least one study that people feel less drunk (report fewer/less severe unpleasant effects of alcohol) which may lead to more drinking. Other than that, the data are sparse.

                                                      I have to admit to disdain for people who pass unsolicited judgment on the choices of others. Especially when referring to a behavior that has absolutely no discernible effect on their lives, and in a manner far more likely to make people feel insulted than change anyone's behavior. It seems like a terrible use of time to me.

                                                      1. re: jvanderh

                                                        the dangerous comment was from someone who works in a hospital and sees it firsthand (and not the person to whom you replied, by the way)

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          And I work at one of the top research universities in the country with one of the leading experts in the field. The evidence just isn't conclusive yet.

                                                        2. re: jvanderh

                                                          >>"There isn't a lot of compelling evidence that it's dangerous."<<

                                                          Peer-reviewed scientific studies have established that:

                                                          1. When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol-attributable harms;

                                                          2. Drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks; and

                                                          3. Drinkers who consume alcohol with energy drinks are about twice as likely as drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks to report being taken advantage of sexually, to report taking advantage of someone else sexually, and to report riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol.

                                                          Your homework tonght:

                                                          O’Brien MC, McCoy TP, Rhode SD, Wagoner A, Wolfson M. Caffeinated cocktails; energy drink consumption, high-risk drinking, and alcohol-related consequences among college students. Acad Emerg Med 2008;15(5):453-460.

                                                          Ferreira SE, Tulio de Mello M, Pompeia S, Oliveria de Souza-Formigoni ML. Effects of energy drink ingestion on alcohol intoxication. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2006;30(4):598-605.

                                                          Thombs DL, O’Mara RJ, Tsukamoto M, Rossheim Me, Weiler RM, Merves ML, Goldberger BA. Event-level analyses of energy drink consumption and alcohol intoxication in bar patrons. Addictive Behaviors 2010;35;325-330.

                                                          Now you can certainly argue that that's not conclusive, but it's pretty damn persuasive. And in the absence of credible conflicting evidence, I'd certainly call it compelling.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            I desribed the first article already. As for the second two, correlation DOES NOT equal causation. Take a moment to list in your head all the demographic characteristics that might be true of people who drink RB&V. Might they be younger? More likely to be male? More likely to be sleep-deprived (and therefore more likely to make dangerous choices)? More likely to be alcoholics?

                                                            Heck, a propensity for highly caffeinated drinks might even be correlated with ADD, character traits like impulsivity, or even addition to another stimulant-- cigarettes, cocaine, whatever. And while the researchers may have controlled for some of the obvious variables, no correlational study can do enough of it. Double blind randomized trials are what establish causality.

                                                            1. re: jvanderh

                                                              Right. After my fourth cocktail, I'm not so good at driving, but that doesn't mean the alcohol **caused** the impairment.

                                                              I'm well aware of the difference between causal and casual relationships. But when you're talking about behavioral changes, causation is tough to prove. In the absence of data that supports any other basis for differences in reported behaviors, you can begin to infer causation from correlation.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                You most certainly can not. We persist with incorrect ideas of causality for years, decades, centuries. Just because someone hasn't yet demonstrated the interference of those other variables, doesn't mean it ain't true.

                                                                I was really hoping to find some evidence that Charlie Sheen drinks a lot of red bull and vodka in order to illustrate this point, but unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be fond of the stuff.

                                                                Ah! Here, this'll do: http://www.allmoviesblog.com/2007/cel...

                                                            2. re: alanbarnes

                                                              None of this suggests that specifically energy drinks are the cause of these issues. It's like a study that says that most folks that have chronic liver disease drink vodka. One interpretation is that vodka is worse for you than other alcohols. Another is that folks that are chronic drinkers favor vodka.

                                                              Ditto with RB&V. There's nothing inherent about the energy drink that, in combination with alcohol, is bad for you. A RB has 80mg caffeine. A cup of coffee has about 100 mg caffeine. Are folks going to start claiming Irish coffees as being dangerous for you (any more so than having a cup of coffee, or having a shot of Jameson)?

                                                              The studies so far have all been correlational. What is needed is an experimental study, one that takes 2 samples of individuals from the same population, and examines the physiological effects of drinking RB&V vs. straight vodka or vodka&water. In this case, we don't know if it's the product, or if it's the personality type, that leads to the end result.

                                                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                You're describing the Ferreira study above. Almost. That study was better than the one you suggest in that the **same** individuals were observed after drinking Red Bull, vodka with fruit juice, and vodka with Red Bull (on three separate occasions). When drinking vodka with Red Bull, the subjects showed motor impairment that was the same as when drinking vodka with fruit juice, but they reported feeling less drunk.

                                                                So to connect the dots between caffeinated alcoholic beverages and things such as binge drinking and drunk driving, all you need to establish is that individuals are more likely to continue drinking or to get behind the wheel if they don't realize how impaired they are. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

                                                                As far as coffee and whiskey, I'd be willing to bet that the effect would be the same. It's just that I don't often see people pounding half a dozen Irish coffees in the course of an hour. Maybe I need to hang out in classier establishments.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  About 35 years ago a guy friend called me up, rather late if I remember correctly, wanting me to go out so he could cry on my shoulder about a breakup. We went to the Buena Vista in SF and I had an Irish coffee...and another...and another. Too long ago to remember when we stopped. But I had insomnia that night and a hangover the next morning. Seemed quite unfair to me.

                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    I fully agree that it's the combination of RB & V *when consumed in large quantities* that gets folks into trouble. And, again, yes, I've never seen folks pounding Irish Coffees like RB&V.

                                                                    But that why I think it's important to be precise when talking about energy drinks in general, or energy drinks + alcohol in particular. Energy drinks when consumed in moderation are safe. Alcohol when consumed in moderation is safe. And energy drink + alcohol when consumed in moderation is safe. I've known folks to drink 1 or 2 RB&V through the evening. Is that a problem, any different than another person that drinks 1 or 2 vodka and tonics? I don't think so. It's the moderation part that's important. It might be like saying taking a nap before going out partying is dangerous, because you are more likely to feel fresh, and thus consume more alcohol, than if you didn't nap. Does that mean napping, or napping before drinking, is somehow dangerous?

                                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                      I agree completely that the problem is binge drinking, not alcoholic energy beverages per se. But there do seem to be both sociological and physiological reasons that the two are so closely associated.

                                                                    2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                      I'm not quite following your first paragraph. I read Howland, Marczinski, and Ferreira before posting above. Yes, Ferreira is a within-subjects design, which is nice.

                                                                      People are probably more likely to keep drinking if they don't feel drunk. But I think you have to actually demonstrate that before you call it a dangerous combination. You have to prove that it's a significant difference (maybe people drink 2% more), and show actual harm (people may do just as many dumb things after 13 drinks as 12). It could be that caffeine induces vomiting at those high levels. Most American adults are caffeine addicts: It could be that the low-level caffeine withdrawal in the non-redbull drinkers has some kind of effect. It could be that lack of perceived headache makes you more willing to wait for a cab, and lack of perceived weakness makes you more willing to walk home, once you remove intervening variables and do a real randomized study. I think increased energy with caffeine is pretty well accepted. Maybe it still applies when mixed with alcohol, in spite of the motor impairment. Maybe people drinking RB&V are more likely to stay out past close and get pizza, sobering up a little before driving home. Until there's some legitimate science, we're all just speculating.

                                                                2. re: jvanderh

                                                                  Did you really mean to reply to me????? I wrote nothing that should have caused your reaction. BTW, not sure why someone who wants to stay out later with their friend couldn't have the RB w/o the V. But I have no judgment about this.

                                                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                                                    The behaviour of those who have had an excessive consumption of energy drink and alcohol does have a discernible effect on my life - I have to clean these people up after they've been scraped off a pavement and poured into an ambulance. When they're that drunk AND stimulated it's like trying to wrestle a bull with no conscience.

                                                                    As for changing the behaviour of these people the unit in which I work liases very closely with drug and alcohol services to work with our patients - it's just a shame by then the major damage (and often death) has already occured. I am working on the front line to try and make change, but when you're always being abused or assaulted by the very people you're trying to help it can be dfficult after a while to not pass judgement. It doesn't affect my work, but it does make me cringe when I see a group of young people slamming back RB&V - especially if I'm working the next day.

                                                                    1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                      I'm sorry things are tough for you. Correlation still does not equal causation.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                          People who drink red bull and vodka may have other things in common. Things that may be correlated with bad decision-making and violent tendencies. And are you polling all the non-violent drunks to see if they've had any redbull? If you expect a correlation, the examples of it are salient. Like thinking that people who drive luxury cars are rude drivers. Red bull and vodka may be dangerous, but is has not been proven.

                                                                        2. re: jvanderh

                                                                          I accept that and I certainly believe more studies need to be done. We have a very unfortunate binge drinking culture over here and I do struggle with people who drink solely to get drunk - not because they enjoy what they are drinking.

                                                                          Bringing it back to the OP I can understand why people drink vodka and certainly don't scorn that. It's purely generalisation (which I've stated) that many people who do drink to get drunk or don't like the taste of alcohol tend to drink vodka as it can easily masked with other flavours - which I do scorn. Drinking solely to get drunk is just not cool for a number of reasons and as a happy chowhounder I simply cannot understand why people would ingest a large quantity of something they don't find delicious - something I am sure many people would scorn me for. Perhaps we can agree to disagree? :)

                                                                          1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                            I agree to disagree. Although we don't disagree much.

                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                      Red Bull is an upper (or rather, caffeine is an upper) and alcohol is a downer/depressant. So Red Bull & vodka is like a mini speedball - and some people find such sensation pleasant.

                                                                      I personally don't, but I detest both Red Bull and any kind of alcohol, unsophisticated me.

                                                                      1. re: uwsister

                                                                        "alcohol is a downer/depressant" not actually correct, alcohol has both stimulant AND depressant effects.

                                                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                          Alcohol is a depressant. More specifically a central nervous system depressant, which is the context I am speaking of in the above post.

                                                                          1. re: uwsister

                                                                            Ethanol exerts both stimulant-like and sedative-like subjective and behavioral effects in humans depending on the dose, the time after ingestion and, we will argue, also on the individual taking the drug. This study assessed stimulant-like and sedative-like subjective and behavioral effects of ethanol during the ascending and descending limbs of the blood alcohol curve across a range of doses in nonproblem social drinkers. Forty-nine healthy men and women, 21 to 35 years old, consumed a beverage containing placebo or ethanol (0.2, 0.4, or 0.8 g/kg) on four separate laboratory sessions, in randomized order and under double-blind conditions. Subjective and behavioral responses were assessed before and at regular intervals for 3 hr after ingestion of the beverage. The lowest dose of ethanol (0.2 g/kg) only produced negligible subjective effects compared to placebo. The moderate dose (0.4 g/kg) increased sedative-like effects 90 min after ethanol ingestion but did not increase ratings of stimulant effects at any time. The highest dose (0.8 g/kg) increased ratings of both stimulant- and sedative-like effects during the ascending limb and produced only sedative-like effects during the descending limb. Closer examination of the data revealed that individual differences in response to the highest dose of ethanol accounted for this unexpected pattern of results: about half of the subjects reported stimulant-like effects on the ascending limb and sedative-like effects on the descending limb after 0.8 g/kg ethanol, whereas the other half did not report stimulant-like effects at any time after administration of ethanol. These results challenge the simple assumption that ethanol has biphasic subjective effects across both dose and time, and extend previous findings demonstrating individual differences in response to ethanol. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1998 Dec;22(9):1903-11

                                                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                              Yeah, and I could cite twenty studies about it being depressant but I don't feel like Googling, copying, and pasting. It's pretty irrelevant to the topic.

                                                                        2. re: uwsister

                                                                          HA! Yes, were I sitting at a bar and the otherwise impressive looking man beside me ordered RB&V, I wouldn't mistake him for James Bond :)

                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                            As someone said above, one doesn't usually see people 'shooting' ICs :)

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              In my social circle it is much more likely for people to be pounding Irish Coffee than Vodka and Red Bull. Before brunch, on the weekends, is a particularly favorite time for my friends and family to get rolling with the IC-action. In my experience, though, I can certainly say that the people that pound Irish Coffee behave the exact same way as those that start with Irish Coffee and move to whisky and the exact same way as those that just stick with whisky or beer - drunk.

                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                            Caffeine and alchohol is a heck of a combination. It gets you drunk and wired, resulting in a totally different buzz from either of them alone. In the drug world, its the equivalent of a "speedball"...cocaine and heroin.

                                                                            Spiked redbull will also keep you going through a night of partying.

                                                                      2. Well, you’ve sung the post hoc chorus and flung the ad hominem barbs, but ultimately it appears that you really are illustrating the point pondered by the OP. You’ve pointed out that the vodka can be hidden in a stronger flavor; explained that it can be made into a cocktail so as to maintain the appearance of drinking; disclosed that drinks based upon it are available that are appropriate for times when one either shouldn’t, or otherwise wouldn’t, be drinking; and, rather significantly, admitted that how a drink tastes is not the single most important factor to be considered.

                                                                        Jvanderh, you are clearly a bright fellow and I laud your defense of your drink of choice. Nevertheless, I think you can see how a serious bartender might smirk just a little when yet another vodka drink is ordered. Right?

                                                                        53 Replies
                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                          Even a vodka tonic? With "nice" vodka (I'll leave it up the spirit specialists/snobs to insert their vodka of choice. that is, if vodka even is a choice for the spirit connoisseurs here) and, say, Fevertree Tonic, or such?

                                                                          I guess I just don't get the big fracking deal. People should drink whatever the hell they want if they are paying for it at a bar. What the bartender thinks about it is not my concern. If they want a tip, they'll smirk inside. No water off my back.

                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            Just addressing the instant topic.

                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                              You are right linguafood - people should order whatever the hell they want. Yes, I've admitted there are a certain class of drinker I scorn (may I also note that it is internal scorn, not outwardly) and they are the drinkers who do so to get drunk and those who order alcohol to not taste like alcohol. It simply is because I don't understand those types of drinkers.

                                                                              We don't have a tipping culture here, but I would never go to a bar where I was scorned for what I ordered. Hell, I've ordered diet coke with my meal while fine dining and the waitress handled it beautifully - although I am sure they were laughing at me hysterically and my husband wanted to crawl under the table and not be seen with me :D I would like to think that nobody actually cares that deeply about my opinion on what I think is a good drink. We all have different tastes and if they extend to RB&V, well...what I think is really not that important.

                                                                              I also had a thought overnight about at time I went to my favourite bar with a group of friends. It was my round and one fellow wanted a RB&V - I asked why he wanted that when we had some of the best bar staff in my city at our disposal to make excellent drinks. It actually came down to the fact that he had no idea what was available and when asked what he wanted it was the first thing he thought of. So I ordered him a hemingway daiquiri - he is now converted and I gave myself a little pat on the back :)

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                But this whole thread started in reference to places that serve craft cocktails. Vodka just isn't a very popular ingredient with the folks who spend their time thinking up drinks that use fresh, seasonal, and/or exotic ingredients.

                                                                                I don't disagree that people should drink what they want, but they should also consider the place they're drinking. Ordering a vodka tonic in a place that's run by "mixologists" is a little bit akin to ordering a burger from a chef who's proud of molecular gastronomy.

                                                                                I like vodka tonics and burgers just fine. But there are places where ordering them may be less than optimal.

                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                  I see where you're going. And I'll be the first one to say that when a few friends and I walk into a bar that has great hand crafted beers, and a guy orders a bud light, a part of me says "really, can't you expand? is that all you can bring?"

                                                                                  Yeah, I judge.

                                                                                  But I think the vodka thing is a different question. As some have intimated here, vodka is not just for those that want to get wasted fast with little boozy breathe.

                                                                                  There are some excellent vodkas that stand there own as single drinks, and hold as mixed.

                                                                                  Don't get started on the scotch snobs - some are at the other end: the heavier the taste, the better. laphroaig is an end. Pu-lease.

                                                                                  1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                    Again, there's nothing wrong with vodka. I keep it around all the time and enjoy it, both by itself and mixed into other stuff.

                                                                                    Nobody can deny that those who want to get wasted fast tend to prefer vodka drinks. But that doesn't mean that everybody who drinks vodka is just looking to get wasted fast.

                                                                                    My lovely wife recently had an amazing vodka-based drink at a place that does "serious" cocktails. It featured shaved fennel and bits of dill frond with saffron and black pepper. But having one of those is kind of different than stumbling up to the bar and ordering a Cosmo.

                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                      I'm completely riding with you on this alanbarnes. If you have a variety of fantastic drinks available to you, why not try them. It's all too easy to order that Cosmo anywhere you go. Not that I've actually ordered a Cosmo before, come to think of it...

                                                                                      1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                        For the same reason that not all folks are going to order tripe when it's on a menu, or fois gras, or steak tartar. Because some folks just don't want to stray far from their comfort zones. Because some folks prefer to stick with what they know they like. And, when it comes to drinks, because some folks just don't like the punch of high-proof alcohols unless they are watered down some by mixers.

                                                                                        I'm not sure why some folks here are looking down at that. Personally, I prefer a Manhattan, and I love steak tartar. But lots of folks don't like drinks that are straight alcohol, and don't like raw ground beef. But I don't go around looking down my nose at them.

                                                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                          If you don't like offal, why would you go to a restaurant that specializes in head-to-tail cooking? If you don't like food that's outside your comfort zone, you might want to choose restaurants that don't push the envelope with their techniques and ingredients. And if you don't like cocktails (which by definition are pretty much straight alcohol), what on earth are you doing in a craft cocktail bar?

                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                            Maybe because you've gone there with friends that are ordering craft cocktails?

                                                                                            Or, if your group of friends decided to head to a craft cocktail bar, but you don't like cocktails, perhaps you should stay home? That's what you're implying.

                                                                                            I go to plenty of places that have great beer selections. But not everyone I go with likes craft beers. So one guy orders Bud Light while the rest of use are drinking oatmeal stouts or hoppy beers. Should the Bud Light guy have stayed home because he doesn't enjoy craft beers?

                                                                                            Sorry, but that's one of the most ridiculous things I've heard, and adds exponentially to the snob factor.

                                                                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                              If you just substitute food for drink, you'll realize just how ridiculous this argument is. If a group of friends is talking about getting together for Sichuan food, should the guy who dislikes anything spicy join them but then demand that the restaurant serve him a tuna sandwich?

                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                But you can't simply substitute food for booze.

                                                                                                Does the craft cocktail joint have vodka? Cranberry juice? Triple Sec? Lime juice? If so, mix them together, serve in a glass, and move on to the next customer. It's not that hard.

                                                                                                In your example, I wouldn't expect the Sichuan joint to have a can of tuna around. I don't think you can simply switch out food for alcohol and claim that based on that, you're argument makes the most sense.

                                                                                                Let's keep with the alcohol examples - food examples don't belong here. If we go to a wine bar, I certainly wouldn't expect them to have beer as an option for the guy that doesn't like wine. That goes without saying. Similarly, you don't go to a beer bar if you don't like beer. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking cocktails. If you're business is to serve cocktails, then serve cocktails. If you have the ingredients to make a cosmo, make a cosmo. That's your business, and you're being paid for it.

                                                                                                This is actually a very timely discussion, because I'm in the process of picking a bar to go for a happy hour to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday. On the short list are a couple of craft cocktail bars in the area. We both enjoy well crafted cocktails, as do a few other folks in our group that are likely to attend. But not everyone. Some are more along the cosmo end of things. And a couple are even most likely to get a beer or a glass of wine.

                                                                                                So here's the question - because everyone in the group won't order a "craft cocktail", should all craft cocktail places be off the list for consideration?

                                                                                                If that's the case, why would they carry a wine and beer selection, if the expectation is that you will only order a craft cocktail?

                                                                                                Seems to me that the craft bartender that looks down his nose at serving a cosmo to a customer is likely to lose the entire group's business.

                                                                                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                  I wouldn't expect a craft cocktail bar to have the ingredients for a Cosmopolitan around any more than I'd expect a Sichuan place to have a can of tuna and a loaf of whole-wheat bread. At Bourbon & Branch, for example, all the juices are squeezed to order. So no, they don't have cranberry juice around, and you can't get a Cosmopolitan. They don't stock DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker schnapps, either, so you can forget about that appletini too.

                                                                                                  I agree that if a place has Bud Light in the fridge, it should be served to customers who request it without any attitude. But you shouldn't expect a craft cocktail bar to stock inferior ingredients in order to satisfy a demand for mainstream drinks.

                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                    Off topic, I know, but . . .

                                                                                                    I sometimes (ok, maybe more than sometimes) drank in a bar near my college apartment where the bartender/owner offered approximately 150 beers. This was a pretty significant number back in the late 80s. Although he did have a few bottle of Lite around - "For the ladies," he would say - if a guy ordered a light beer, he would half fill a pint glass from the tap and then top it off with seltzer from the gun.

                                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                      I agree 100% that a craft cocktail bar shouldn't stock inferior ingredients just to satisfy mainstream customers. No argument there. And if you don't have the ingredients, then you can't serve the drink. No issues. But the couple of different craft cocktail bars I've been to carry both - the high end, hand crafted stuff, and the bottle of cranberry juice to make the cosmo for the group member that wanted to join in the evening, but doesn't want a vodka drink with fennel and dill (which sounds fantastic to me, BTW).

                                                                                                      So if the question is, should a place stock inferior ingredients to satisfy mainstream, of course not. But if they have the ingredients, then the drink should be served without condescension. If they don't have them, then perhaps the bartender could offer some suggestions that can be made with ingredients on hand, but that might satisfy the customer.

                                                                                                      From a look at Bourbon and Branch's website, it looks like a very high end place. I can understand that if you're talking specifically about B&B, then yes, clearly, a cosmo, or a cosmo like drink, is out of the question. And with that in mind, I wouldn't go there with friends if they are not going to enjoy a craft cocktail. I can understand your line of reasoning if Bourbon and Branch is what you have in mind. But craft cocktail bars run the gamut, and B&B seems to be at one end of the spectrum.

                                                                                                      1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                        I think we're pretty much in total agreement.

                                                                                                        If you're ever in SF, you should check out Bourbon & Branch. I wouldn't call it high end - it's in the Tenderloin, for starters. The crowd is pretty casual, and the drink prices are very reasonable, especially considering the work that goes into them. Hard core to the point of geekiness, but not high end.

                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                          I will make sure to check it out. It looks like a great place. Thanks for the tip!

                                                                                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                        really ab? you wouldn't expect a place that makes high end cocktails to have cranberry juice or cointreau, both of which are used in many more cocktails than only cosmos?

                                                                                                        and as to the szechuan example - if one person in the party does not like spicy food there are always non spicy choices, even on a szechuan menu.

                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                          I personally know of a few craft cocktail bars that don't stock cranberry juice, and mentioned one by name above. Didn't say anything about Cointreau.

                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                            Cointreau is a legitimate liqueur, intended to be sipped as a digestif.

                                                                                                            Rather unfortunate that it gets dumped into trashy drinks where its flavor and subtlety is completely lost in the mix and wasted on the drinker.

                                                                                                            (true story: bar in Chicago some years ago, older fellow and rather Marilyn-esque woman, several decades younger enter the bar -- she asks the bartender for a Core-vwah-seer and Coke. The barman sets down the glass he was wiping, says "My dear, it's Courvoisier, and if your boyfriend doesn't smack you for putting Coke in it, I will." )

                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              I don't think I could go anywhere that didn't have Cointreau. Cointreau on ice with lime is one of my favourite drinks in the whole world.

                                                                                              2. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                But the beauty of craft cocktails is you can talk to the barman and have something tailored for your wants. For those who don't like straying from their cosmo comfort zone can easily request something similar or based around their other likes. I'm not suggesting everyone jumps in to eat steak tartare (as much as I love it), however if the chef recommends your steak done rare would you not want to utilise their expertise and knowledge?

                                                                                            2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                              How is a cosmo different than a Manhattan? Or different than a rum and coke? The only folks that order cosmos are lushes?

                                                                                              To be blunt, there's some pretty serious drink snobbery in this thread. We don't all order high-end crafted drinks with house made bitters, we don't all drink Opus One, and we don't all plate microgreens on our burgers made with applesmoked bacon and 5 year old cheddar. If someone wants to order a cosmo because they want to have a drink and like the taste of high-proof alcohol, what's wrong with that?

                                                                                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                To be fair, the instant topic, to synthesize, is "Why is ordering vodka drinks looked down upon at bars specializing in craft cocktails?" Answers have therefore been offered.

                                                                                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                  There's a big difference between being a drink snob and realizing that not all bars are the same. In most places, drinks made with easy-to-find liquors, prepackaged mixers, and minimal skill and care are the rule, not the exception. In a place like that, there's absolutely nothing wrong with ordering a Cosmopolitan. Or a Lemon Drop. Or (to stray from the vodka theme) a rum & coke. Doesn't make you a lush, or a philistine, or anything else.

                                                                                                  But there are bars that specialize in high-end craft cocktails. They focus on fresh and/or exotic ingredients. They tend to charge more for their drinks. And it can take quite a while for your round to be delivered. If you're going to take up a stool and the bartender's time a place like that, it seems silly to stubbornly refuse to experience the drinks that the place is all about.

                                                                                                  There's nothing snobbish about realizing that some things are inappropriate at a given place and time. It's snobbish to look down at anybody who eats burgers and fries. It's not snobbish to point out that someone who demands an off-menu burger and fries in a Michelin-starred restaurant is missing the point.

                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                    You're example of the burger misses the mark. Are you implying that when at a craft cocktail bar, one can only order what on the drink menu?

                                                                                                    Yes, some things are inappropriate at a given time and place. No issues there. But when you're at a bar with a bunch of friends, you should have the freedom to order whatever you want without being made to feel like an ignorant fool. If a friend of mine wants to order a Bud Light at a bar that has 50 craft beers to choose from, fine. That's what he likes. He shouldn't have to stay home just because he doesn't care for beers with flavor. He's paying the same money as everyone else.

                                                                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                      I like to go to craft bars and SPECIFICALLY order a Boilermaker. the ritual of dropping the shot glass into the pint of cheap beer is priceless.

                                                                                                      cocktail nation is really so 1996

                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                        Funny, I was offered a Boilermaker by one of the best craft bartenders in Boston. I asked for a gentle eye-opener, something in a long drink, and that was his response. It was clear he'd put some thought and experimentation into it, carefully choosing the combination of whiskey and lager. It was delicious, and exactly to my needs of that moment.

                                                                                                        Cocktail Nation was indeed very 1996, and it was a useful first step in sparking appreciation of serious cocktails among a younger audience, even if some of those dragged along were more in it for the retro style and soundtrack than the drinks. Lumping that moment in with the current, much more substantive craft cocktail revival is, to put it kindly, absurdly shallow and dismissive.


                                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                          Your jumping in provides another chance (I missed one earlier) to post the great Liebling comment on vodka that a man of your breadth ought to appreciate, if not know already. In "Between Meals" he has a great little run on "tastes that know their own minds" and says (from memory something on the order of "The standard of perfection for vodka---no color, no taste, no smell---was expounded to me by the Estonian then-consul to the United Nations and it accounts perfectly for teh drinks rise in popularity. Taken in conjunction with the reassuring tastes of infancy--orange juice, tomato juice, chicken broth---it is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who worries about how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing."

                                                                                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                              Oh my god that is perfect!

                                                                                                              "-it is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who worries about how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing."

                                                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                Glad that both you and MC Slim JB like it. To my way of thinking, you can't go wrong with Joe Liebling.

                                                                                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                  Yep. That's the true reason I drink vodka. I'm worried about my mommy. The secret is out.

                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                    Absolutely. My mommy's been in heaven for almost 40 years so she probably already knew.

                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                      Hmm. So not a single Russian or Eastern European mother knows of or would approve of their offsprings' choice of tipple.

                                                                                                                      What baloney.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        Cause of the HUGE Eastern European populations drinking Grey Goose Appletini's and Vodka with Diet Ginger Ale.

                                                                                                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                          I'm not talking about Eastern European diaspora trying to impress some Tupperware-enhanced bimbo with his BMW keychain and a cheap suit-- I'm talking about Eastern Europeans, where vodka is consumed neat with the meal.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            In a joking way, that was my point. Liebling's comment was really in regard to Western drinking, not Eastern Europe.

                                                                                                                            The one region in the world where vodka is not a "sissy drink" for folks who don't like drinking, is in fact Eastern Europe where it is quite the contrary. And of course as you mentioned it is generally consumed neat.

                                                                                                                            My favorite ritual with regard to drinking vodka with Eastern Europeans is actually opening the bottle:

                                                                                                                            Twist cap with a small flourish, crush cap in hand, dispose of cap. Cause once a bottle is opened, we won't be needing the cap again.

                                                                                                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                              In Farley Mowat's The Boat Who Wouldn't Float" he talks about rum that way. Once you open a bottle, you have to drink it all or the demons (or something equally scary) will get into the bottle. Wouldn't want that to happen, now would we?

                                                                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                >>"Cause once a bottle is opened, we won't be needing the cap again."<<

                                                                                                                                That goes right along with the egg-shaped glasses that won't stand up on their own - if there's anything in it, why would you put it down?

                                                                                                                2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                  Slim JB: but I AM absurd, shallow and dismissive.

                                                                                                                  Cocktail Nation was fun and it is nice that it got people to realize there's a whole world beyond a rumncoke or a frozen margarita. don't get me wrong. my only real gripe is that it invited a crowd of yappy people who want to tag the suffix -tini on everything and later puke on my shoes. maybe I'm being an elitist snot, but it was more fun when you had to hunt it down, someplace that had been open since the dawn of time and nobody knew about it anymore. "they're still there, I thought they burned down or something?" "nope and they make great Rob Roy's but only open on Thursday sometimes"

                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                    I see absolutely zero connection between the X-tini crowd and the craft cocktail revival: the intersection of those two sets is null. I hear what you're saying about great old-school places, but even those joints have been lapped by the new revivalists. I agree that the new craft cocktail bars can only occasionally approximate but never truly recreate the authentic atmosphere of the old-school bars, but I'll sacrifice that flavor for consistency, scholarship, passion, and range from my barman.


                                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                      well then we kind of agree. (enough to be friendly anyway) my only real gripe (sorry to use that term again) was about the x-tini types not understanding the work and effort that goes into a hand made infusion. or a basic made the same for the last 40 years (although yes some have become umm a bit lazy).

                                                                                                                      so cheers! and we'll dump the boring philistines somewhere and go someplace good. I'm really good at seemingly innocent abandonment that I can explain away in a day or two. I've gone to really elaborate schemes to do such. (buy somebody a beer and they'll happily impersonate a sherriff's deputy and call your friends as to your whereabouts from 4 hours earlier f'rinstance)

                                                                                                                        1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                                                          you buying? I'll get the next round (I really do want to get to your part of the world one day, but will have to wait until I have the time to do it by tramp freighter)

                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                            My round, I'll even buy a vodka if you want one :D

                                                                                                                            And if you make it to this part of the world I'll buy you a real one. We have everything in my hometown from the great Australian bogan pub (dive bar) to boutique small batch wineries. Good times.

                                                                                                2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                  Being able to be hidden in a stronger flavor is not a drawback. Most people mix stronger-flavored liquor with stronger-flavored mixers (margaritas, gin and tonic, etc). Anyone who mixes anything with alcohol is disguising the taste.

                                                                                                  Drinks based on pretty much everything are available for times when one shouldn't be drinking. There's swill wine, cheap rum, cheap whiskey, etc. You could argue that all cheap, bad-tasting booze is being used in a situation where someone shouldn't be drinking.

                                                                                                  If the taste of a drink were always the most important factor, I don't think alcoholic drinks would exist. You probably have to form a conditioned positive association between the taste and the drug effect before you even start liking the taste. Some drinks taste good, some do a job, and some do both. Have you ever drank a crappy cup of coffee because you were tired, or an old bottle of water you found in your car because you were thirsty? Early in the night, I might drink something I enjoy. Later in the night, I might have an RB&V. Not indicative of mental illness, unless you consider that caffeine dependence has been added to the DSM.

                                                                                                  I don't think I've ever ordered a RB&V from a serious bartender. I don't think I've been smirked at when ordering a dirty vodka martini. Some of them have seemed kind of excited. In any case, I'm not going to order a drink I like less to impress the bartender. I think gin martinis taste like ass.

                                                                                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                    "Anyone who mixes anything with alcohol is disguising the taste. "

                                                                                                    I disagree with you. Mixing two ingredients of any type changes the overall "flavor profile" and is not intended to disguise either. Food or beverage.

                                                                                                    "Later in the night, I might have an RB&V. Not indicative of mental illness, unless you consider that caffeine dependence has been added to the DSM. "

                                                                                                    If I'm out at night and feel so tired or sleepy that caffeine is necessary, I would just go home to bed. Or have the RB w/o V --- you know, a little break from the alcohol.

                                                                                                    "I don't think I've been smirked at when ordering a dirty vodka martini. Some of them have seemed kind of excited. "

                                                                                                    I've never seen a bartender get "excited" about a drink order as mundane as a dirty 'martini.' Maybe I've been hanging out in the wrong kinds of joints :)

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      You might go home and go to bed. Sometimes I might go home and go to bed. But I maintain that sometimes choosing to stay and hang out with a friend and needing caffeine to do so is not indicative of mental illness.

                                                                                                      Or maybe I've been hanging out at the wrong kind of joints, where the bartenders don't often make martinis. In any case, I certainly haven't seen the smirk that might be garnered from a really silly drink generalized to all vodka drinks. I suppose that in some bars you have to order something that tastes awful and pretend to enjoy it in order to garner the barkeep's respect. Perhaps my propensity for being pleasant and tipping well has shielded my from that sort of thing.

                                                                                                      1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                        I've not implied that nor do I think that. But my point was to skip the vodka in that Red Bull. Plenty of people don't drink one alcoholic drink after another and another. And I almost always have a water in addition to my cocktail.

                                                                                                        I do think this thread has informed me as a vodka drinker. As I've said, I drink it with a little water. But then as it melts it has less and less taste so I add a smidge more vodka, then some more water, etc. I think I'm going to try some gin drinks going forward. The flavor gets diluted but never really goes away.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          Although it would be more effective, I think chugging red bull out of the can kind of sends the message that I'm exhausted and don't want to be there, at which point I might as well go home.

                                                                                                    2. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                      Isn't a dirty Vodka Martini simply a sign that there's something lacking?

                                                                                                  2. I think vodka is better in cocktails that contain sweeter liquers with less kick to them. I like cocktails that use curacao, peach snapps, creme de menthe, creme de cacao, Baileys etc, and the ones that aren't creamy are usually diluted with soda water or lemonade/7-up. In those cases, the curacao or peach snapps or whatever have enough flavour but no kick - adding the vodka reminds me "Hey, that's actually quite alcholoic what you're drinking!" Add to that the fact that the herby/juniper berry flavours of Gin don't blend well with everything, and some people dilike the taste of and/or refuse to drink tequila, and your options for mixing go down.

                                                                                                    1. I love vodka and gin, and I frankly don't give a rat's ass what people think about it.

                                                                                                      My current drink of choice is Finlandia vodka with diet tonic. Look ma, no carbs!! :-D To be honest, it's a great drink for the stage.

                                                                                                      Obviously, a g&t will be the more flavorful choice in most cases, but gin tends to make me melodramatic - and vodka doesn't.

                                                                                                      As the great Dylan Moran said "gin is mascara thinner."

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        LOL @ linguafood.

                                                                                                        When at a professional event, I frequently get club soda, 7-Up, or ginger ale in a highball glass with a wedge of lime.

                                                                                                        Looks enough like a cocktail that nobody questions me, and no worries about sticking my foot in my mouth. (well, no more than usual, anyway)

                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                          Nothing wrong with not wanting to booze it up.

                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            Yeah, I start to suffer foot in mouth disease after a few cocktails too.

                                                                                                        2. Nothing wrong with vodka if that's what blows your skirt up. Mrs. O generally prefers it in tonic drinks, though when we have Hendrick's she'll go with gin. I prefer it in Greyhounds and Bloody Marys. And when a friend's father, who was Polish and a bon vivant, came for a visit from New York he brought a bunch of Polish-style charcuterie over, along with a bottle of frozen Polish vodka and a basket of the proper kind of glasses, and got us to do the repetitive vodka-shot routine. I actually enjoyed the flavor - yes, it had plenty - and for some reason did not get hammered as I'd expected to.

                                                                                                          Just PLEASE do not refer to a drink of chilled vodka in a vermouth-washed glass as a "martini".

                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                            I wish all the other martini purists could have been to the original Persian aub Zam Zam in SF. he would serve vodka, but not that way. and he'd probably scoff at the brand of choice. but then he scoffed at everything.

                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                              Could you elaborate on the PaZZ please. I've never heard of it. Thanks, h f.

                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                It's on Haight about 3 blocks east of Hippie Hill. Herb Caen referred to it as the "Holy Shrine of the Dry Martini." I was never there when Bruno was around, but he was apparently quite the character; he'd change your order for you if he thought it could use improvement, then kick you out if you complained.

                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                  you know it alan, part of the fun was getting kicked out, and part was just finding it, some days I could find it some days not, it was sort of a karma thing. "ahh you don't want that it's the worst vodka I've ever had" "I'm sorry we don't make those, I think you'll be happier down the street" "I just made a batch, why the hell didn't you order then? I'm semi retired and I don't need this shit" "hey Bruno it's gonna be you're 50th anniversary this summer, anything special? - (a moment of thought) nah we're closed that night"

                                                                                                                  martinis were $2.50 (small and dirty) and the change came in a 50 cent piece (all his off time was spent in Reno) only women got napkins. (and this was about 1994)

                                                                                                                  the ONLY time he served a vodka drink that some might call a martini was to some guy whose girlfriend had just dumped him, still gave him crap for asking for Absolut, my jaw was in my lap when he went ahead and poured it. I'd witnessed history.

                                                                                                                  fans (bless their hearts) bought it and increased the glass size after his passing, but it just ain't the same.

                                                                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                  Anthony Bourdain visited it in the SF episode of No Reservations; you could rent if you enjoy him and want a sense of it.

                                                                                                              2. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                Ladies like vodka because --
                                                                                                                -- It doesn't stain our clothes when the drink gets spilled
                                                                                                                -- We like to think no one can smell it on our breath

                                                                                                                1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                                  Not staining is an excellent point. I've never thought that one can't smell alcohol. And why would I or any adult care?

                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    on the right man or woman, a little boozy breath can be rather sexy. note the specific phrasing. jmo.

                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                        People might want to drink whatever their little hearts desire. I am a vodka girl myself. And wine, and beer and scotch and gin ...

                                                                                                              3. I suppose I'm not a snob of any sort, as I have no hard feelings towards vodka, nor vodka enthusiasts! And in my case, I much more associate rum than vodka with my highschool years, and not in a good way. In fact, the mere smell of rum can sometimes make me quite queasy. But again, to each her own! I like adding a splash of vodka to those fruity girly drinks sometimes.

                                                                                                                1. Last night we ordered our usual anniversary cocktail, vodka martinis with a garnish straight up, and my husband was asking me if I wanted it 'dry' only to be told by the bartender that they don't put vermouth in martinis anymore. WHAT? I am old but not that old! This was in a new and highly thought of restaurant on Boston chowhound board. My drink of choice is usually white wine but it was a 'special occasion' ..... Have I just been drinking chilled vodka all these years on my anniversary and birthday dinners?

                                                                                                                  18 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                                                    tell the bartender that they put what YOU want in your drink, not what they want. and that a shot of vodka is not a martini

                                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                                        The only problem with that is that's going to be some ooooold, nasty vermouth.

                                                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                          Actually, any bar worth its salt has long since figured out that vermouth needs to be cared for as what it is, a fortified wine with a not-unlimited shelf life. But I think the general lack of such care is what accounts for a lot of the enmity towards vermouth. I see a lot of home bars with years-old, half-empty bottles of vermouth: it's no wonder people don't want spoiled wine in their vodka "martinis".


                                                                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                            Unfortunately, the vast majority of bars are not worth their salt, as you say.

                                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                              I think volume at some places covers up for lack of care; an open bottle of vermouth doesn't sit around for very long. But if you're in a place that's not pouring a lot of it, you have to be careful.


                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                I think most places default to the no vermouth martinis now, though (grody). The last two places I worked at (both $$$$) put zero in, even though they knew it wasn't the techinically correct way to make the drink. I nagged and bitched, but they still didn't use vermouth. I'd be scared to know how long those bottles have been open. -Shudder-

                                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                  not proper ? it's less than not proper way to make the drink, it isn't making a drink at all! pouring a shot is not making a drink

                                                                                                                      2. re: Berheenia

                                                                                                                        Let us know what this restaurant is so we know never to go there. If I want a glass of cold gin, I'll ask for it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                                                          It was the new Island Creek Oyster Bar where everyone else was drinking wine. A sign I should have stuck with my regular Sauvignon Blanc I guess. The oysters rocked.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                                                            Umm, the bar manager of Island Creek Oyster Bar, Jackson Cannon, just won a bartender of the year award and is one of the stars of the Boston cocktail scene. So, in other words, ICOB should be a great place for cocktails and probably has multiple fresh vermouths behind the bar.

                                                                                                                            Not sure what happened when you were there, but if you go back, I would think the cocktails are worth another try.

                                                                                                                            1. re: nickls

                                                                                                                              While the drinks at ICOB are good, the bartending staff there seems less trained than the ones at Eastern Standard. It doesn't mean they're poor bartenders, but they seem more green by comparison.

                                                                                                                              1. re: nickls

                                                                                                                                I know who Jackson is and he wasn't in house that night. The oysters were so good we'll go back and stick with beer and wine as is our usual practice. Or maybe a Jameson on the rocks - they can't screw that up!

                                                                                                                              2. re: Berheenia

                                                                                                                                I've had a couple of very strong experiences with the bartending at Island Creek Oyster Bar, and a less-thrilling late-night one at Eastern Standard that made me wonder if there was a talent drain to ICOB. Most recent trip to ESK had the A-team in place, though, the usual stellar performance I expect there.


                                                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                  Ditto the good bar experience at ICOB, I've not been disappointed at any time there. I haven't been enough to have picked a fave bar pro there, but Jackson has established a nice program. As for ESK, I haven't noticed any diminution - then again I'm not there late so maybe I'm missing something.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                    The only drain of talent was Bobby full time and Jackson part time.

                                                                                                                                    I've had occasional less than thrilling nights at Eastern Standard, but I can say the same about No. 9 Park, Drink, etc. Go enough and you'll get an off night most places. Get two in a row or in close succession, and it's time to take it out of the rotation.

                                                                                                                              3. re: Berheenia

                                                                                                                                Tell the bartender that it's not a martini if there's no vermouth. While you're at it, it's not a martini if you're using vodka, it's a kangaroo ;)