There is nothing cool about vodka in the high-end cocktail world. Vodka has very little cache as a serious spirit to those mustachioed mixologists popping up at the newest Death Cab for Cutie inspired craft cocktail bar in your neck of the woods. Perhaps dismissive is too strong a word, but some bartenders certainly view vodka as a boring spirit. To be fair, vodka is not necessarily a liquor one seeks out if one is looking for excitement. By definition, vodka is odorless, flavorless, and colorless. Consider it the reverse of a gated subdivision. The bottles may all look different, but inside the houses are the same. There are flavored vodkas worth exploring. However, save for one or two of them, if I want flavored vodka, I'll just ask for gin.
This only tells half the story. Sometimes you want a spirit that isn't going to do much besides bring the alcohol and stay the hell out of the way. A Bloody Mary with any other spirit besides vodka always seems out of balance with the spirit and the heavily spiced mixer fighting like a bunch of freshmen at their first kegger. A refreshing greyhound needs the vodka to allow the bracing sweetness of that perfect citrus orb to shine through. Vodka gets along great with fruit juices, which is one reason why you got lucky in high school. The other reason was the Dave Matthews Band.
I like this drink because it is a liquid expression of a favorite salad of mine. Grapefruit and fennel are a natural combination. Here the vodka does the heavy lifting with a wash of Herbsaint providing just a tiny whisper that springtime, bathing suits, and days of lounging poolside aren't far off. The splash of sparkling water gives just enough effervescence to set the drink alive.
Spring is Coming
3 parts of vodka
2 parts of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
Herbsaint or Pernod
Splash of sparkling mineral water
Grapefruit twist, for garnish
Pour a tablespoon or so of Herbsaint or Pernod into a rocks glass. Swirl it around. Dump it out. Park the Herbsaint rinsed glass in the freezer with a handful of ice placed inside while you assemble the drink.
In a mixing glass combine the vodka and grapefruit. Add ice and shake. Strain into the rocks glass. Top with an ounce or so of sparkling mineral water. Garnish with grapefruit twist.
Pro Tip: This wouldn't be a bad drink to batch for a flask along the parade route this weekend. Just add a tablespoon of Herbsaint or Pernod, mix to combine, and pour into your flask. You can omit the sparkling water.