How did boring old vodka become the spirit of the age?
Its appeal, of course, lies in its blandness.
I’m not much of a vodka drinker.
My student days of swilling Smirnoff and Red Bull are long gone and I can’t remember the last time that I ordered something as pedestrian as a vodka and Coke at the bar.
That’s surely a drink for someone with no imagination; normcore in a glass. (OK, it didn’t take long to realise that I actually drink a fair amount of the stuff; it’s just dressed up in things such as Espresso Martinis and Bloody Marys.)
But apparently the whole country is guzzling vodka like a bunch of Russian farmers in mid-winter.
It has recently been announced that vodka is to overtake whisky as Britain’s favourite spirit for the first time. I’m horrified. How did something that tastes so dull get so popular? It’s the celery of the drinks cabinet. And it’s so… uncool.
Its appeal, of course, lies in its blandness. A study by Nielsen for The Grocer suggests that younger drinkers found vodka more “palatable”, which is surely just another way of saying that they can mask the taste of booze if they pair a triple Kirov with some Fanta Orange and they’ll be trolleyed within the hour.
They also think that its higher marketing profile has led to more people buying voddie. They’re not wrong about its visibility. Just this week it was announced that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space mission was partnering with Grey Goose, an unsettling collaboration if ever I heard one. Or maybe it’s not that strange. I’d certainly want to be a bit pissed if I were on the maiden commercial voyage into the cosmos.
The other reason behind vodka’s ascent is its alleged health benefits, of which there aren’t any.
It’s just seen as less bad than other hooch because the hangover will supposedly be less severe, and, if you pair it with soda and fresh lime, it won’t give you a gut.
So I am fairly dismissive of vodka. But maybe I’m in the wrong; am I missing out?
A quick ask around proves that there’s a lot more to vodka these days than a bottle of Glen’s and a carton of Ocean Spray. There has even been a rise in – shiver – craft vodkas.
David Beatty, an ambassador for Ketel One, insists that vodka has been given a personality.
“While some vodkas have always been character-driven, there has certainly been a rise in the number of vodkas being produced in this way now,” he says. “Where previously consumers only saw neutrality, they can now see a greater depth in character, texture and how they feel in the mouth, making these craft vodkas a more sip-able and enjoyable spirit.”
Although I can’t see myself swigging neat vodka any time soon, there are some crazy new concoctions that I might try, the most interesting-sounding of which is Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka. Distilled in West Dorset, it is made entirely from the milk of grass-grazed cows, and its creamy end note has secured fans in Heston Blumenthal and Daniel Craig.
But, I doubt that whisky will ever be swapped for vodka in my affections.
Give me the stubbornness and adventure of a single malt over the easy-to-please vodka any day.