Like it did for so many of us, vodka played a starring role in my early drinking days. It was cheap, it went down easy, and someone always had an older brother with a fake ID who could get a bottle of Popov, no problem. But as with all high school romances, it came to a crashing conclusion one messy summer night at a house party.
Vodka and I avoided each other for a long time after that. And then last summer, we bumped into each other again. Instead of the expected knot in my stomach, I found we easily fell right back into our relationship. And yet it was somehow better than I remembered. This wasn’t the warm, medicinal, rough drink I used to know. This vodka cocktail was ice cold, sweet, creamy and, frankly, very sexy. Instead of hogging the conversation, the vodka sat back and let a group of herbs, syrup and soda do all of the work in the drink, adding a boozy comment here and there that made the entire glass smile.
I wouldn’t say I want to get back together with vodka—I’ve figured out my type, and it’s definitely whiskey—but I enjoy when we occasionally meet up for drinks. Like all great loves from your past, there’s always time to find each other again. And these are three of my new favorite memories with vodka.
Vodka is an extremely versatile spirit, but it really pops to life when paired with the flavors of its homeland. Caraway, dill and horseradish make for a very savory drink, while carrot juice adds a sweet relief without the acid bite of tomato juice. If you’re getting tired of the same old Bloody Mary recipe, it’s time to meet her distant cousin from the East, the Vladimiry.
This drink is delicately pink and 100 percent spa day, which is exactly how I imagine the life and times of Joan Collins. The honey-hibiscus syrup, mixed with lime, cucumber and mint, just begs for a turban, a mud mask and some extra cucumber slices for the eyes.
A big part of August is the melancholy march toward Labor Day, the final chance to squeeze out the last bits of summer before things fall back into their normal routine. But coconut, key lime and cilantro immediately send me somewhere warm and sunny with sparkling waters. So for now, let’s forget about time, deadlines and responsibilities and just enjoy Summer Fridays.