Tales From ‘Tales’: Get Ready for the Vodka Backlash Backlash


Fork in the Road has hit the cocktail trail at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, from which regular dispatches will be posted this week.

Vodka is dead, or at least has peaked, say the experts.

Among cocktail connoisseurs, poo-pooing vodka has become a popular sport. And, why not, when the spirit gave us such abominations as the Appletini and the Fuzzy Navel.

Now, of all people to stand up for the odorless and flavorless liquid, Jim Meehan–of bacon-infused, bourbon-peddling PDT–says that vodka hating is as passe as many claim vodka itself to be.

“Drinking is like fashion,” according to Meehan. “You might think those stone-washed jeans aren’t that hot now, but just wait until Yves Saint Laurent comes out with a stone-washed miniskirt. Everyone will want it.”

On a recent trip to Sweden, Meehan had the opportunity to experience a different vodka culture, one tied to the food of that place, such as the staples of gravlax and salt cod. With strongly flavored foods, one needs a strong spirit to clean the palate, he explains, and vodka is the ideal pairing for such foods.

“Am I ready to buckle and put vodka cocktails on the menu [at PDT]? Not yet. But I do think we need to bring vodka back into the fold,” Meehan says.

Were he to make that leap, he would likely start with Karlsson GOLD, a Swedish brand that not only distills its vodka just once–as opposed to the multiple distillations touted by other vodka makers–but also makes single-farm, single-variety vintage bottlings (not available for purchase at this time). That means you can drink a 2004 Solist or a 2006 Gammel Svensk Rod (those are potato varieties, by the way). He also likes Sobieski, which costs just $11, much less than most “luxury” brands.

“Vodka doesn’t need my help yet, but when it does,” he says, “I’ll help.”

And to all those vodka haters out there: “If you close yourself off, you become obsolete. You have to stay open-minded. Opinionated and knowledgeable, but open.”