The continued success of the craft drinks movement – highlighted in our recent feature on gin cocktails – has long since spilled over from beer to spirits. According to global research company Mintel, the market for white spirits is set to hit £4.7 billion in the UK alone by 2018. Much of this growth can be attributed to a thriving cocktail scene, the rise of new, boutique distilleries and the creative bartenders and specialist importers who support them.
Vodka in vogue
Small batch vodka, like gin, is in the throes of a sales boom. Multiple new labels have arrived in the marketplace, and in common with other phenomenons like craft beer and the Slow Food movement, the focus is on provenance and heritage. Premium spirit brands who are able to demonstrate and – more importantly – make a feature of where and how they source their ingredients are gaining the most from this opportunity.
High-end retailers and bars continue to drive the craft vodka trend. The quest to acquaint discerning customers with new brands motivates them to seek out ever more cutting edge products. Those distillers who can bring something innovative to market, that not only tastes great but has an interesting story behind it are best able to stand out from the crowd.
The new breed
As a spirit, vodka has benefited from a surge of craft distillers who’ve shunned the traditional neutral grain spirit base in favour of different raw materials and modes of production. Don’t be surprised to find out that your drink is distilled from grapes, milk, virgin potatoes or even 100% pure honey. Classic vodka cocktails like the Moscow Mule, Cosmopolitan, Vodka Collins or Bloody Mary can all be given a new lease of life when made in combination with today’s new breed of vodkas, or ask your Constance bartender to recommend or mix something to suit your own palette.
Some of the key brands making waves in the craft vodka market include:
Located on England’s West Dorset coast, Black Cow produce the world’s only vodka made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows. After the milk is separated into curds and whey, the curds are used to make cheese and the whey to make ‘milk beer’ which is then distilled and treated to a secret blending process.
Named after an elusive, semi-feral Polish horse breed, this premium small batch vodka is made in accordance with 600 year old traditions and distilled from three different grains: ancient spelt, golden rye and early winter wheat. Produced in a column still, the vodka is filtered through silver birch charcoal from the Bialowieza forest; a World Heritage site and last remaining primeval forest in Poland.
Produced entirely from seed to bottle on the family farm in Herefordshire, UK, Chase Vodka is a super premium spirit made from potatoes – grown, mashed, fermented, stripped and distilled on site. Also available in other flavours including marmalade, rhubarb, apple and smoked.
Icelandic brand Reyka is made from wheat, barley and arctic spring water naturally filtered through a 4,000 year old lava field. Each distillation takes six hours to produce 255 small cases, and uses sustainable energy from geothermal heat in the process.
Over in the major wine-producing region of California, Hanson of Sonoma are producing a grape-based vodka that’s been scooping up awards over the past few years. Sold in six varieties – one straight, five flavoured with infusions – the collection has been a massive hit with mixologists.
- Bee Vodka
On the opposite side of the country, Hidden Marsh Distillery hand produces a vodka made from 100% pure honey in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Triple distilled in individual batches for a smooth and flawless finish, the taste has just a hint of honey and although sweet on the nose, the palate is dry.
- Learn the art of mixology with a cocktail master class at Constance Halaveli
- Shake it up: classic cocktails with a modern twist
- Discover some of our bartenders’ favourite summer cocktails.
Photos: Black Cow, Chase, Hanson