Let’s talk martinis, as this staple drink is a frequent go-to for any discerning cocktail lover. While they are traditionally shaken or stirred with gin, vodka has played an important part in their history. So, I want to focus on the vodkas that truly deserve a place in your glass. From Canada to Japan and Sweden to England, there’s a little something for everyone to whet their whistle.
Haku Vodka, £30
If you’re a drinks buff, you’ve probably heard of Suntory, the company that makes iconic Japanese whisky. But what you may not know is that they also produce vodka. Birthed from the same high-quality rice that would make luxury saké, Haku’s journey stems from Kagoshima all the way to Osaka. Three separate distillations and bamboo charcoal filtering give way to this stunningly elegant and floral vodka. An abundant richness and a subtly sweet palate awaits. Side note: The Western world often assumes that white rice is a staple part of every Japanese meal, but this is actually incorrect. To this day, pure white Japanese rice is considered a luxury. It was historically reserved for worship and only for the noble classes like the Imperial Family.
Available at Drinks Spirited.
Recipe No. 1: Classic Dry Martini
- 60ml vodka
- 1 tbsp dry vermouth
- Olive or lemon peel to garnish
Pop the vermouth in your chilled glass, swirl around and discard (this lines the glass with vermouth). Pop your vodka into a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake. Strain into the chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon peel or olive on a cocktail stick.
Crystal Head, £47
Another bottle that will sit on your shelf as a piece of art long after you’ve explored the wonder within. Crystal Head is produced in Canada from local Canadian corn. Distilled four times and filtered seven (three of which are through Herkimer diamonds), your expectations are understandably high, and they aren’t going to be let down. Plus, the addition of Newfoundland water really does make a difference on the taste. Silky, with a kiss of citrus, vanilla and creamy white pepper.
Available at Waitrose.
Belvedere Vodka, £30
What happens when a country makes vodka for 600 years? They get pretty good at it. Belvedere is one of the most iconic expressions deriving from Poland, arguably the vodka capital after Russia. Established in 1910, they are also one of the oldest operating Polish distilleries. Super soft and delicate with a rich velvety texture, you can expect light vanilla notes with a kiss of black pepper, gliding into a clotted cream and nutty finish. Honestly, if you’ve not had a martini with this beauty, you’re missing out!
Available at Amazon.
Recipe No. 2: Dirty Martini
- 70 ml vodka
- 10ml vermouth
- 10-15ml of olive juice / brine (add more to your liking)
- 3 olives for garnish
Pop all of your ingredients into a shaker full of ice and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass, drop one olive into the bottom of the glass and garnish the drink by placing the remaining two olives on a cocktail stick.
Grey Goose, £39
One of the first vodkas I fell in love with and to this day I’m still besotted. In fact, every time I see the bottle, a glistening martini glass with a twirl of lemon is imprinted within my mind. Everything about this beauty screams French. The wheat is grown and distilled in Picardy, it’s filtered in Cognac, and the water used is even filtered through limestone from the Champagne region. Distilled only once because the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves, think sweet creamy toffee, brioche and a mouth-watering texture. A bottle of this should always be in your drinks cabinet, it’s certainly in mine. Side note: Every bottle of Grey Goose is washed with vodka before being properly filled and every cork is soaked with vodka too. They don’t do things by halves!
Available at Tesco.
Absolut Elyx, £35
You’ve heard of Absolut before and this is their emblem release, produced in the south of Sweden from a single estate that has been cultivating wheat since the 1400s. Suffice to say the ‘terroir’ is real. With a further nod to their heritage, all of the liquid is distilled via a vintage copper column that dates back to 1921. Vibrant, sophisticated and rather sexy in design, this smooth sensation offers white chocolate, dry spice and a macadamia, walnut and hazelnut complexity. Count me in.
Available at The Bottle Club.
Recipe No. 3: Gibson Martini
- 70 ml vodka
- 5ml vermouth
- Cocktail onions
Add all of your ingredients to a shaker full of ice and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with two cocktail onions on a cocktail stick. If you want to up the game, lightly fry your cocktail onions in a pan with a little truffle oil, or smother them in truffle oil before using a blow torch to char.