Alex Day is a bartender’s bartender: His New York bar Death & Co is considered one of the world’s top spots for mixology, and yes, he loves creating cocktails with vodka, the spirit often unfairly maligned among certain craft bartenders. The thinking typically goes that vodka doesn’t have enough character to make an interesting drink. Which makes about as much sense as saying white flour can’t produce a good loaf of bread. “Vodka provides a neutral playing field,” says Day. “It’s on that foundation that the rest of a cocktail’s ingredients are given a platform to shine.” Here he shares an original recipe and three variations on classic vodka drinks.
• 1 ripe strawberry
• ½ oz. simple syrup (1 part water to 1 part sugar)
• 1 oz. vodka
• ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
• ½ oz. Amaro Nonino
• ½ oz. Aperol Aperitivo
In a cocktail shaker, muddle strawberry and simple syrup. Add all ingredients (except seltzer), shake and strain into a ollins glass with ice. Top with seltzer. Garnish with a lemon twist and a strawberry.
2 oz. vodka, ginger beer and ½ oz. lime juice over ice: “Use a spicy, high-quality ginger beer such as Bundaberg, and don’t be shy about putting a good half ounce of fresh lime juice in the drink.”
1½ oz. gin, 1 oz. vodka and ¾ oz. Lillet Blanc, served with a lemon twist: “James Bond liked it shaken, but that’s bullshit. Choose a light London dry–style gin (such as Plymouth, even though that’s not how Bond ordered it) and a vodka with some personality, such as Grey Goose.”
FLAME OF LOVE
2½ oz. vodka and ½ oz. fino sherry, served with an orange twist: “This drink is all about subtlety and elegance. Because it’s really only two ingredients, the choice of those is crucial. Make it with La Gitana Manzanilla, and don’t forget the orange twist.”