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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs

From classic martinis to fancy cocktails, vodka is a great mixer.

Versatile vodka makes mean winter cocktails

Vodka stereotypes suggest that the spirit is usually found inside a Bloody Mary, dirty martini, JELL-O shot, fruity summer drink or small wooden barrel around the neck of a sled dog. However, vodka's versatility continues to evolve, and this season, it's mixed more than ever into a variety of winter cocktails.

"Vodka is definitely a drink to consider in the wintertime. Actually, there are more winter vodka drinks then summer drinks," says Lisa Saeger, brand manager for Effen Vodka.

Vodka, an odorless, flavorless liquor that blends well with just about anything, is the top-selling spirit in the country. Wisconsin is tenth in the nation for vodka consumption, and number five when looked at on a per capita basis.

Because of these facts, Wisconsin is one of Chicago-based Effen's top five markets. In this state, Effen's sales are 70 percent flavored, 30 percent unflavored. Effen vodka comes in regular, black cherry or raspberry, all commonly mixed into winter cocktails.

"We've seen more and more drink menus in bars and restaurants lately, and vodka allows mixologists to get really creative with their cocktails," says Saeger.

DeepBar Vodka Lounge, attached to Decibel, 1905 E. North Ave., opened in Milwaukee earlier this year. The lounge features more than 100 kinds of vodka. This winter, DeepBar features a "sugar plum" martini.

"It is a wonderful winter concoction featuring apricot preserves and highlighted by the new Pearl Plum Vodka," says Drew Deuster, DeepBar Vodka Lounge co-owner.

Great Lakes Distillery, based in Riverwest, is another relatively new addition to Milwaukee's vibrant vodka scene. The small distillery won a silver medal in the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition for its Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Vodka. It features a variety of alternative vodka drinks on its Web site, including the Milwaukee Mule, a mix of vodka, Sprecher ginger ale and a twist of lime.

"Kahlua, coffee and vodka also is damn good and it gives the illusion that it warms you up quickly," says Guy Rehorst, owner of Great Lakes Distillery.

This season, vodka cocktails are the drinks du jour at private parties, too. In early 2007, Effen launched a stylish, countertop Martini Machine that easily dispenses cold vodka.

"Everyone, in a bar or at home, should have the luxury of pouring a great martini with the top-shelf accessories that enable them to do so with ease and style," said Jon Deitelbaum, president and CEO of Planet 10 Spirits.

A flurry of new vodka cocktail recipes popped up for the holidays, including Effen's "Toast of the Town" that puts a twist on the classic New Year's Eve toast. Simply mix raspberry vodka and raspberry liqueur into a shaker, pour into a champagne glass and top with champagne and raspberries.

"The beauty with vodka is it mixes with anything," says Rehorst. "Hot chocolate, whatever. I don't think you'll ever make a bad drink with vodka."


irisheyestwo | Dec. 26, 2007 at 12:43 p.m. (report)

The only way to make a bad vodka drink is to start with bad (cheap) vodka.

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ryangld | Dec. 18, 2007 at 12:30 p.m. (report)

Thanks for the great article! One clarification, The Milwaukee Mule is a combo of Rehorst Vodka and Sprecher Ginger Ale...Everyone have a great holiday season! All 3 of us at Great Lakes Distillery!!!

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