To a distiller, vodka offers the ultimate blank slate. There are very few rules about ingredients, so you can distill it from pretty much anything that you can get to ferment into alcohol. And after distillation, you can flavor it with just about whatever you’d like. And with the booze business booming right now, creative distillers around the world are concocting all kinds of interesting new vodkas. These are a few to look for.
This new vodka is made from beets but not those ruby-red roots from the farmers market you’re probably thinking of. These white veggies commonly grow throughout the upper Midwest for processing into sugar. Bēt sources its beets from a co-op of farmers in the Red River Valley along the Minnesota–North Dakota border and turns them into a smooth but rich spirit.
The Spirit Guild opened its distillery in downtown Los Angeles last year, launching with both a vodka and a gin made by fermenting and distilling a very Southern California ingredient: clementine oranges. Many of those fruits are grown on co-founder Miller Duvall’s family farm near Bakersfield, where his ancestors have been harvesting produce for six generations. Vapid doesn’t have any obvious citrus flavor, but there’s a lovely floral-vanilla note that works well in a Martini.
Black Cow Pure Milk ($40)
This British vodka is actually made from milk. West Dorset farmer Jason Barber turns the curds from his cows’ milk into Barber’s 1833 cheddar at his family’s dairy, the oldest cheddar maker in England that’s still in operation, and the whey into vodka, using a special yeast that can convert lactose into alcohol. The resulting spirit has a uniquely creamy mouthfeel.
Absolut Lime ($20)
The newest flavor from the world’s second-best-selling vodka brand, Absolut Lime made its official debut at this year’s Grammy Awards in February. Its lime flavor is subtle and refreshing, especially when combined with ginger ale or club soda. It’s wonderful in a Moscow Mule, of course. Like all of Absolut’s vodkas (now 22 different varieties total), Lime is distilled from 100 percent wheat grown locally to the distillery in southern Sweden.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
The Walter Collective ($33)
The Walter Collective, named for founder Matt Melaik’s grandfather, Walter, isn’t a distillery per se; it plans to partner with various distilleries around the country to produce unique spirits. So far, that has included a gin made by Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend, Ore., and this vodka, made at Skip Rock in Snohomish, Wash. It is distilled from a mix of spelt, an ancient variety of wheat; and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, and retains some of the bready character of both grains.
Straw Boys Irish ($20)
Connacht is Ireland’s newest whiskey distillery, opened by a trio of Irishmen and an American. While its house-distilled whiskey ages, it’s selling this vodka, which is distilled from wheat in Connacht’s copper pot stills. The stills give it a luscious texture and deeper sweetness than typical column-distilled vodka. The name, by the way, comes from an old Irish tradition of pranksters wearing face-covering straw hats to sneak into strangers’ weddings and score free food and drinks—the original wedding crashers.