Other than a clear bottle that is 60% water*, for me, vodka is a tool more than anything else . To quote myself (the essence of vanity) from a previous blog post:
—–Vodka: an introduction on how to think of it, or Sydney Frank is the Devil*
—–Dallas Taylor said to me once, “It’s really all just flavored vodka.” This is a somewhat true but very Zen approach to tending bar. Sometimes when I’m on my high horse riding around in my ivory tower I say,
—–“Vodka is the greatest marketing scam ever.” Zane Harris, is more accurate and mature when he says, “Vodka is miss-understood.” Here is why we are all correct. Without burdening you with specific measurements and charts,
—–generally speaking, all liquor starts off as vodka. Vodka is by definition a spirit that is intended to have no flavor, a “grain neutral spirit.”
And that is why I find myself using vodka as a learning tool more than anything else. Pick an ethnicity that you stereotype as cheap, understand me as very “insert your racist phrase here,” in that way. I am generous but I hate waste, in the same way Ray Kroc would judge a restaurant by looking at the mop bucket I judge a bar by the fruit basket. Specifically, when I see a gnarly fruit basket with oranges with thin little swipes cut off by, “zesters,” all willy nilly, about 3 cuts to an orange before you have a zig zag cut orange that appears to have been nibbled by rats. I hate seeing this waste. An orange will easily yield 5 giant garnishes before you juice it into a fresh scratch cocktail right? Only if the bartender is trained. Everyone who works for me gets handed a channel knife (anyone that says zester is heavily chastised) on their first shift an I tell them to zest an entire lemon in one piece. When they fail, and everyone does because this is hard, I give them 12 lemons and a bottle of vodka. Their new charge is to fill the vodka bottle with 12 perfectly zested lemons. And then, much like a 10 ten old that has to smoke a whole pack of cigs when caught taking a puff, the rookie tender will never again waste part of a fruit. And by the way, there is only one channel knife in the world, you might have thought there were more, but there aren’t, rosle channel knife, $20 lasts a lifetime and a even sharpen mine.
The other reason I love vodka as a training exercise here is because I think all us bartenders have had to make 12 shots on the fly with not wanting to work. What is better and easier than pulling an ice cold bottle labeled “Amanda-cello, Evan-cello or Iris-cello,” out of the freezer and while pouring point over your shoulder and say, “she made this on her first day.” People eat that shit up. I got a barback starting next Friday who is going to begin a shift making up a batch o’ lime “Simon-cello,” first thing.
Andrew’s Limoncello Recipe
- 1 rookie bartender
- half a bottle of vodka, Monopolowa for crisp or Russian Standard for creamy
- 12 lemons, zested
- say, “hey rookie zest lemons into the bottle, get the oils in there.”
- let it hang out in the fridge for a month
- remove the peels, put the the booze in a better looking bottle
- come up with a humble looking label
- add 150ml 1 to 1 simple syrup
- throw it in the freezer
- charge $8 a shot and thank me
thanks to Felicia’s Speakeasy for hosting this month, and for real recipes of how I use vodka, scroll on down to the Nurse Chapel Cocktail below, under the title: Technique: How to stir a drink and how to please a woman.
*stole that line from Jacob Briars, 42 Below Vodka’s Vodka Professor, who is a vodka fueled fountain of wit