Everyone knows that vodka is hard liquor's chameleon, able to blend in comfortably with fruit juice, soda, tonic or whatever mixers are around. But the drinks on display at Sunday's Boulder's Best Mixologist event show that vodka is more than a chameleon; it's a master of disguise.
There was a vodka concoction that pretty convincingly mimicked a cherry stout, as well as one that tasted like a mimosa. Versatility was on display, and those in the audience selected SALT's Adrian Sutevski's offering — the "Sunfire," a blood-orange-rosemary vodka infusion with lime juice, agave nectar and club soda garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary — as the best of the bunch.
Coming in second was Hapa's Anthony Hinojos, who enlisted his grandmother to make the almond-hazelnut orgeat syrup used in his selection, the "Bermuda Shipwreck." OAK at Fourteenth's Greg Van Wagner, who sprayed Angostura bitters through a lighter to garnish his entry, the "Colorado Beachfront," took third.
The event highlighted drinks featuring 303 Vodka, a Boulder distillery that sponsored the event. Eight different restaurants sent a mixologist with a different type of vodka drink. For $50, patrons got a shot glass and were able to sample each drink and munch on some finger foods. At the end of the night, the winner was decided by popular vote.
Siobhan Kennedy, from The Kitchen, made perhaps the most creative drink of the night. Her "Homage to Beer" managed to transform vodka into something that tasted very similar to a chocolate-cherry stout. Kennedy used homemade wort, vodka, homemade hops-and-rose-hips syrup and smoked organic cherries to pull it off. It might not have tasted exactly like a beer, but it came way closer than you'd ever expect for a vodka drink.
My favorite drink? The entry from Riffs Urban Fare and drink-mixer Courtney McCreery. Called the "3'o'peo," McCreery infused vodka with jalapeos and kaffir lime leaves and mixed it with a blood-orange-agave syrup, garnishing with a slice of jalapeo and a couple cranks from a pepper grinder filled with coriander, grains of paradise and orange sea salt. Some people scoffed at the jalapeo drinks (the Aji table used jalapeos too), but for me the Riffs drink was a perfectly balanced mixture of spice, citrus and sweets. The spice wasn't overpowering, either. (Can't say the same for the Aji drink.) Overall, the event was not a bad way to spend a few hours on a Sunday evening, if you could afford the cost of admission.