Serious bartenders may sneer at vodka, but there's plenty of the spirit distilled in Texas - and an enterprising Houston blogger is asking the public to determine which brand's the best.
Seven companies are slated to participate in the Texas Vodka Throwdown in Houston on July 10, including Tito's, Savvy, Famous and DeLos. The event's free, and attendees will select the winner through a blind tasting. Deep Eddy Vodka and Graham's Texas Tea, while not official competitors, will also be pouring samples of their flavored beverages.
Mixologists have lately been reassessing their stance on vodka, a movement that's likely to culminate later this month at Tales of the Cocktail, the leading annual summit on all things liquor. The conference program includes a seminar entitled "I Love Vodka, I Hate Vodka," featuring six speakers engaged in "a lively debate on one of today's most contentious spirit categories." (Lively may be an understatement: At least six drinks are served at each convention session, starting before 10 a.m., so speakers and audience members are usually thoroughly soused.)
One of the speakers on vodka's behalf, Jeremy J. F. Thompson, told Imbibe Magazine earlier this year, "I used to be of the school of thought that vodka was only good for cleaning your apron or disinfecting a wound." But Thompson, now a brand ambassador for Russian Standard Vodka, says he gained a new appreciation for the spirit after marrying a Russian woman.
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Vodka defenders say drink connoisseurs have been misled by marketing campaigns that promote vodka as a flavorless, ready-to-party spirit perfect for sugary concoctions like the "apple martini." (Quotes added in deference to purists' sensibilities.) Vodka, they say, can both amplify delicate cocktail ingredients and stay out of the way of stronger ones.
It's an argument that's swaying a few craft bartenders, including New York's Jim Meehan, who added the first-ever vodka cocktail to the list at the revered PDT bar earlier this year. For folks who aren't seeped in spirits culture, that's akin to Spiral Diner deciding to serve steak.
"Having a good vodka cocktail [on the menu] is kind of a gateway to get people to trust you," Tipsy Texan blogger David Alan told Imbibe.
And since it's impossible to mix a good vodka cocktail without good vodka, the state's bartenders will no doubt be watching closely when Bite Me Texas announces the Throwdown's results.