Potatoes? Passe. Grains? Groan. Vodka producers these days are exploring new horizons – oranges, anyone? – to make unusual and artisanal vodkas.
“A cocktail’s not just a cocktail. It’s an experience now, so that demand has called for anything and everything that can be different,” says Tammy LaNasa, Dallas-based corporate beverage director for Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which includes 20 Sullivan’s Steakhouses and nine Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouses nationwide.
One of the latest entries in the vodka vanguard is 4 Orange, which is distilled directly from oranges, as opposed to other vodkas where flavoring is added.
The vodka is made from orange molasses that remains after oranges have been juiced. Four different varieties of oranges are used, hence the name, and the result is a clear vodka with a distinct tang of orange.
“The response has been fantastic,’ says Timo Sutinen, vice president for marketing and business development at Imperial Brands, Inc., which produces 4 Orange Premium Vodka. “When people hear that 4 Orange is made from Florida oranges, they have to taste it. Once they taste it, we have won them over.”
The distillery is next to the orange juice plant in Florida and, in a green touch, the leftover mash from the distilling process is sold to local farmers for cattle feed. There’s no alcohol in the product but “cows seem to like it,” says Sutinen with a laugh.
The most popular spirit in America, vodka classically is a neutral product made most often from some type of grain.
But it can be made from just about anything starchy or sweet, inspiring distillers’ creative spirit.
“The sky’s kind of the limit for what you can make vodka from,” says Noah Rothbaum, editor-in-chief of liquor.com and author of “The Business of Spirits.”
Some examples – Ciroc Ultra-Premium vodka is made entirely from grapes, Vermont Gold is made from maple sap, and on an equally sweet note, there’s Bee Vodka, triple-distilled from New York State honey at the Hidden Marsh Distillery in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The distillery is owned and operated by the Martin family, who started out as bee keepers more than 30 years ago.
LaNasa expects to see more variations as distillers get in touch with their creative spirit.
“This orange vodka is going along with that fresh ingredient trend that I actually don’t think is a trend,” she says. “I think it’s here to stay.”
GREEN MOUNTAIN MARTINI
This cocktail makes use the best flavors from Vermont – maple syrup and apples.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Maple sugar, to rim the glass
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 ounces maple vodka (such as Vermont Spirits Gold)
2 ounces Calvados (apple cider brandy)
Spill some maple sugar onto a small plate. Wet the rim of a cocktail glass with water or lemon juice. Overturn the glass and set the rim in the maple sugar, moving it slightly to coat with sugar.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the remaining ingredients. Shake, then strain into the cocktail glass.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 320 calories; 0 calories from fat (0 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 0 mg sodium.
(Recipe from Alison Ladman)
Start to finish: 5 minutes
1 ounce grape juice, chilled
2 ounces grape vodka, chilled (such as Ciroc)
4 ounces sparkling grape juice, chilled
In a sparkling wine flute, stir together the grape juice and vodka. Top with sparkling grape juice.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 230 calories; 0 calories from fat (0 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 10 mg sodium.