When drinking spirits or wine, a simple rule applies: The higher the alcohol content, the bigger the body and the richer and fuller the flavor. The same guideline also applies to cocktails, but too much full-flavored booze can take your drink out of balance. So, if you want to increase the weight and mouthfeel of a cocktail without steering its desired character off course, enlist vodka.
The neutral-leaning spirit can boost the oomph in drinks without significantly altering the flavor. See this principle in action with the Cabana Boy, an original cocktail by Will Piquette, the principal bartender at Alcove in Boston. He uses vodka as the dominant spirit to avoid overwhelming the palate, but the cocktail is moderated and given dimension by a quartet of other ingredients.
Oloroso sherry adds nutty depth, homemade coconut-lemongrass syrup adds creamy, tropical sweetness, and fresh orange juice lends acidity and balance. In cocktails like the Caipirinha, rhum agricole brings a potent punch of funky, grassy flavor, but in the Cabana Boy, the rhum is used more sparingly, with its grassy notes complementing the aromatic lemongrass. The constituent parts come together deftly, producing a complex and tasty drink. But that doesn’t happen without vodka there to support the main players.
“Vodka is something that can broaden the flavors that are already present in the cocktail while adding that kick that drinkers are looking for,” says Piquette.
- 1 ounce Reyka vodka
- 1/2 ounce oloroso sherry
- 1/2 ounce rhum agricole
- 1/2 ounce coconut-lemongrass syrup*
- 1/2 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: orange wheel
- Garnish: brandied cherry
Add the vodka, sherry, rhum agricole, coconut-lemongrass syrup and orange juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with an orange wheel and brandied cherry.
*Coconut-lemongrass syrup: Blend 15 oz coconut water, 15 oz coconut cream, 1 7/8 cups sugar and a chopped lemongrass stalk in a blender. Strain solids. Store syrup in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.