A good friend of mine recently asked for a simple cocktail suggestion that she could offer to family and friends for Thanksgiving to round out her holiday beverage offerings. Knowing that she lives in a state that has limited liquor available, and that she would like something that is simple (not a lot of cocktail shaking, lemon zesting, ice crushing etc), approachable (for guests who don't normally drink gin martinis and Sazeracs), and festive, I set aside my penchant for snobbery and complexity, and instead looked towards the simple option of mixing a flavored vodka with a sparkling juice.
I know that many classic cocktailers tend to turn up their noses at the word vodka, but in my individual opinion, well-made (i.e. Charbay, Square One, Hangar One) flavor infused vodkas can play a role in making a delicious yet simple drink that anyone can enjoy (if pretensions are laid aside).
Now that I've worked through my defensiveness, let's move on to the drink itself. For the sparkling juice, Trader Joe's sparkling Pomegranate, Blueberry, and Cranberry are great, flavorful, inexpensive options. When I first tested various flavor combinations I was surprised to find that like doesn't always mix well with like. For example, cranberry vodka mixed with cranberry sparkling juice is not delicious, but if you use pomegranate or blueberry juice, you've got a winner. I'm sure that some of the better sparkling apple ciders and grape juices would also work well with a well-made fruit vodka. Use your imagination, and don't forget the garnish. For those who aren't so adventurous, I'll recommend the following combination as an example:
1 oz Charbay Pomegranate vodka in a champagne flute
top with Trader Joe's sparkling Cranberry juice
drop a fresh cranberry in the glass
Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation
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