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Vodka Collins and Fizz Variations

Endless variations to celebrate summer!

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Summer is finally here. And I have a lot of vodka on hand. Time to experiment!

The Vodka Collins is the bastard child of the original Tom Collins which is made with gin, and you know how I feel about gin: it’s not fit for human consumption. And a fizz is really just a Collins with other stuff in it, although it often involves egg whites to create more of a foamy head, but I’m not too big on that. What’s fun about creating these variations is that with vodka you can use (or create) endless variations of flavored vodkas along with your own flavored simple syrups and fresh fruit juice to make unique flavor combinations and experiment with new ones. I often add a bit of a flavored liqueur as well to give it an extra punch, while the seltzer helps it go down a bit easier and allows you to also make virgin “mocktail” versions for the kids and tee-toddlers. It’s obviously really more of a summer thing when you can get better quality fresh fruit, but I’ve been experimenting with these all winter in anticipation. So here’s a few basic tips on creating your own plus a few of my own concoctions:

The Rule of Threes: Everything is better in threes – it’s the natural order of things. Same with cocktails. In David Embury’s classic book “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” he refers to three categories of cocktail ingredients: the base, the modifying agent and the special flavor. That’s not exactly what I mean, as his categories are kind of specific and relate to the actual type of ingredients, but it’s the same basic idea. By combining three essential characteristics or flavors together in the right proportions you can get something complex yet balanced. I have found this to be true that the best cocktails tend to work with no more or less than three main components. Of course there are plenty of exceptions, and some “ingredients” are actually composed of dozens of ingredients themselves, such as most herbal liqueurs, but the idea is that you have a main “base” flavor, with a complementary secondary “modifying” flavor and then a third “special” accent flavor. Again, that’s not exactly what Embury means, but that’s how I’m applying the logic. In the case of the Vodka Collins, you have the base of vodka, but I recommend choosing a specific flavor to your vodka as the main “base” flavor. The modifier should be either a liqueur or simple syrup that complements or enhances that base flavor and then a little kicker accent of fruit juice or other flavor agent. Think of combinations of flavors that work well together like berries with other berries, citrus with other citrus, or typical combos like strawberry with kiwi or cranberry and apple. An obvious example would be lemon vodka with lemon simple syrup or Grand Marnier and a squeeze of lemon. Of course you could use all four ingredients too, which brings me to the next point:

Make a specialty Vodka Martini and add seltzer:  That should seem obvious, but it doesn’t always work out. Some martinis need the strength of the original combination to taste good or you end up just drinking a watered down martini. Still, it’s not a bad place to start. You might consider starting with a Lemon Drop or my Pear Blossom or Mapletini and modifying by adding more sweetness or fruit flavor. To be honest, I often add seltzer to my martinis after I’ve had a few to ease myself out of the heavy buzz…

Fruity, Spicy and Floral: I’m a big fan of the more delicate flavors of some of the floral liqueurs such as St. Germain’s elderflower flavor or Créme de Violette and I highly encourage pairing that with a complementary fruit and/or fresh spice. Don’t know what goes well with violet? Do some research and experiment. I’m no epicurean expert, but “I can haz internet” so I just look stuff up and give it a try. Or, just use what you have lying around. Fresh basil and mint taste good with a lot of things – start with that. Don’t have any? Grow some indoors during the winter.

Garnishes, garnishes, garnishes! The Vodka Collins is considered a pretty boring drink, so jazz it up! Try cutting a fancy lemon peel shape or a flower shaped apple slice! This is where you can make it look pretty but also add to the flavor. Plus it’s fun to get creative and think of your drink as a sculpture that is truly Instagram worthy!

Tonic or Seltzer?  I’m not a huge fan of tonic, which probably has something to do with my aversion to gin, and more specifically gin and tonics, but a lot of people don’t like the aftertaste of the quinine. I personally think it’s fine to use seltzer, but in a few cases tonic might be more appropriate to add that little bite to it. I’ve only made one recipe with actual tonic water, and I used some fancy stuff in small bottles to see if I liked it better than the standard stuff. I think in hindsight it’s fine to just use seltzer…

So here are a few recipes I’ve created to start you off, but then let’s see what you can come up with on your own!

Rose Tonic (pictured above)

  • 2 oz. Cucumber vodka

  • 3 oz. tonic water

  • ½ oz. Drillaud’s Rose liqueur

  • ½ oz. fresh squeezed lime

  • 3 muddled mint leaves

  • Mint sprig for garnish

Grapefruit Collins

  • 2 oz. grapefruit infused vodka

  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

  • ½ oz. Aperol

  • 3 oz. seltzer/club soda

Tangerine Melon Collins

  • 2 oz. melon vodka

  • ½ oz. fresh tangerine juice

  • ½ oz. tangerine simple syrup (made with tangerine zest)

  • ½ oz. lemon juice

  • 3 oz. seltzer/club soda

Autumn Vodka Fizz

  • 1½ oz. apple vodka

  • ½ oz. honey/cinnamon simple syrup (made with honey instead of sugar) with cinnamon stick)

  • orange wedge (squeezed for juice and oils from skin)

  • 3 oz. seltzer/club soda

Dark Berry Vodka Fizz

  • 1 ½ oz. lemon vodka

  • ½ oz. Cassis liqueur

  • ½ oz. lingonberry syrup (IKEA, baby!)

  • 1 ½ oz. lemon juice

  • 3 oz. seltzer/club soda

  • Garnish with blackberries and mint leaves

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