There’s been a lot of talk about the backlash against the backlash against vodka lately. The supposedly odorless and colorless spirit may not be the antitheses to the current cocktail culture Renaissance, after all. So, go ahead and let yourself get excited about a new locally made vodka expected to hit the shelves next month without having to worry about your drinking cred.
Bootlegger Vodka touts itself as a craft product, distilled six times from local and organic ingredients, as much as possible. It’s made at Tuthilltown Spirits in the Hudson Valley, which produces its own line of liquors under a proprietary label. But the distillery has recently branched out, allowing small brands to use its facilities to make absinthe and, now, vodka. Bootlegger hopes to trade on the Prohibition theme pervading the New York bar scene these days, according to founder John Walsh.
“There are 270 bars in the tri-borough area that are Prohibition-themed,” he says. “All the speakeasies are speaking to us. We’ll also go out to L.A. and other primary cities.”
So, why launch a vodka in such an anti-vodka cocktail climate? Walsh isn’t necessarily a romantic about the spirit beloved by Russians and Poles. He says it’s just a “stepping stone” to other spirits. A gateway liquor, so to speak.
“Gin can take a little more time to infuse, bourbon has an aging time, so we would have to wait,” he explains. “I have ambitions for gin, bourbon, rum, and tequila.”
Not for the sex-on-the-beach crowd, his vodka “is not meant to be an Absolut, which is mixing vodka.” He wants it to be used in cocktails best ordered “up.” At about $25 a bottle, it will be cheaper than Ketel One and Grey Goose. Walsh, a former “corporate guy,” as he calls himself, is partnering with charities like Music for Tomorrow rather than investing heavily in advertising.
“I’m 45 years old with a wife and two kids. We’re a standard American family. I left the corporate life a few years back to pursue entrepreneurialism, but I really want to develop products and companies that are more charity driven.”
It’s a smart idea: doesn’t everyone feel a little more charitable after a drink?
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