Let’s Hear It for Vodka, the Spirit For All Seasons

Autumn 2011 is nearly a month old, falling leaves, chilly nights and all. My spirits-loving friends can’t help themselves from commenting on the advent of whisky season, with its attendant tumblers filled with the warming gold liquid, to be consumed in front of a crackling fire (bearskin rug optional). For those who follow the spirits calendar, it’s time to put away the rums and tequilas of summer and shift to the fortifying flavors of bourbon, Scotch, and rye. Yet I can’t help but wonder which spirit remains appropriate regardless of the season. The answer, of course, is clear: vodka.

Perhaps it makes sense that the most neutral of all spirits – one that is supposedly odorless, colorless, and tasteless – is the year-round crowd pleaser. Vodka has no polarizing flavors that can be shunted into seasonal categories. Agave and sugar cane scream sunshine and sultry breezes, while grain and oak suggest slate skies and wool sweaters. And yet vodka’s universality comes not because it shirks from any battles, but because it has a way of satisfying the desires of summer, winter, and the shoulder seasons in equal measure.

Take my drink of choice: an extra dry vodka martini, up, with olives. Provided it’s made right, I’d be equally happy to sip a Belvedere martini on Christmas, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, or Halloween. It has the crispness and astringency to slake a summer thirst, as well as the character and strength to warm winter’s coldest bones. It just works.

If you want to dress it up for the season, get it on ice with some tonic and lime for beachside sipping at La Côte in Miami Beach, or sip a Black Russian while counting the snowflakes out the window of Montreal’s Blizzarts. But at its heart, vodka is a 365-day spirit. So if you’re ever confused about what season it is, or what hemisphere you’re currently in, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself at the bar, just order a vodka martini and relax. And one for me too, please.

[Image via Las Vegas Sun/Leila Navidi]

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