Food and Drink

It’s Time We Face the Facts; Vodka Isn’t Actually ‘Basic’

There's more than meets the eye.

Courtesy of Grey Goose

I’ll be honest from the get-go; I’ve only recently started drinking vodka with pride.

Vodka suffers from a pretty bad wrap. It’s often known as the “basic bitch” spirit, the spirit you drink if you don’t like the taste of alcohol, or if you don’t have any flavour culture and aren’t into trying new things.

But seeing that today is National Vodka Day, it’s time to debunk the stigma around vodka.

In my hospitality years, vodka was frowned upon more often than not, which meant that I didn’t actually start properly drinking it until I left the ‘bartending world’ just over two years ago.

This definitely has something to do with the reputation that comes with working in hospitality; it’s kind of an ongoing competition of who likes the booziest drinks. But more than that, drinking spirits like tequila and whisky, which have very distinct boozy flavour, seemingly showcases an appreciation for the flavour of alcohol, that bartenders are passionate about sharing. And we can’t blame them; that is their job, I just think that vodka deserves a place at the table.

It started with a bad hangover. I’d consumed one too many dirty gin martini one hot summer’s night, and woke up the next day with a not so nice feeling in my tum. From that moment on, I haven’t been able to enjoy gin martinis the same.

For a while, I went without. I resisted the idea of being that girl, the girl who orders vodka anything.

But then one day, my hankering for a martini was too strong to care about being basic. Maybe I was basic and I was okay with that? I ordered a dry vodka martini with a lemon twist; and my entire idea of vodka changed.

What I tasted, was a beautifully balanced drink that was crisp, refreshing and slightly citrus-y, still with that kick of spirit that signifies a stiff drink. I was overjoyed and pleasantly surprised, that vodka quenched had my thirst so perfectly.

It wasn’t the basic bitch drink I’d envisaged, but actually something quite complex, clean and delicious.

“People absolutely have the perception that vodka is basic,” Grey Goose Ambassador Georgie Mann tells Thrillist AU.

“There’s such a stigma in more upmarket venues too, like CBD cocktail bars that serve a lot of suits, around the customer that doesn’t like booze ordering only vodka,” Georgie says, of her time experiencing the vodka stigma as a manager of high-end cocktail bars in Melbourne.

“But there are a lot of people that still think that all vodkas are the same, with the only differences being different prices and fancy bottles.”

Georgie Mann, sippin’ a martini with style.

“Thinking that all vodka is the same is a foolish train of thought, Georgie assures us; “given that it’s the most simple spirit, its raw ingredients are that much more important.”

When we think about other spirits, such as whiskey and gin, most of them have natural flavours added to them during the distillation and ageing process. For example, a gin is made with botanicals, which are added to the actual alcoholic spirit, and give the gins we know and love their iconic flavour palettes. Similarly, with whisky, different flavours come from choices made such as what kind of barrel they’re left to age in, such as the type of wood and what was in the barrel before. A ‘sherry cask whisky’ has distinct flavours, as does a 10yo whisky compared to a 21yo whisky.

“Everything is vodka before you do something else to it,” Georgie says, explaining that “to understand alcohol generally, you need to understand vodka.”

There’s some history to this. Not only is vodka an incredible base spirit, meaning that it provides unmatched versatility; you can be creative and add flavours to create a cocktail or just drink it on its own, vodka played a massive role in the start of cocktail history.

Back in the early 1900s, there was lots of civil unrest in Russia, which sent a lot of Russian’s packing, moving to London and Paris. And guess what they brought with them? Yep, vodka. In the 1920s, the Prohibition-era saw bartenders come over to Europe, who then met Russian’s living in Europe that introduced them to vodka, which opened up a world of possibilities for American bartenders. Then, when prohibition was over, the Americans took vodka back with them.

“One cocktail that was created and became really popular during this time was called the Gypsy Queen,” Georgie tells us.

“It was made with vodka, don benedictine and bitters, stirred down and served up, like a martini. This is a great example of a cocktail that could never have been made with gin, as the botanicals of the benedictine and bitters would’ve clashed with the gin.”

And so, vodka was born into a category of its own.

It may surprise you, given the rise of gin and tequila in the past few years, but vodka is the most popular spirit of the western world.

9 billion vodka drinks are ordered per year, which is pretty mind-blowing.

Mind-blowing to those that haven’t tasted a good vodka martini.

“There’s nothing like a good vodka martini,” Georgie says. “But also, vodka allows fresh flavours to really play a part in cocktail lists of beloved bars today.”

“There has been a rise in the desire to use fresh local ingredients in cocktails, which add this amazing seasonal element to the creative process; creating a drink for the mood or season and vodka really allows that to happen, acting as a base that doesn’t take over the drink.

“It can also be quite difficult to create with and takes a skilled bartender, because vodka doesn’t give you much to hide behind.”

Melbourne-based bartender Chelsea Catherine has firsthand knowledge of this, often recommending vodka to her customers.

“The cool thing about vodka is it’s stripped back. Whether it’s made from grapes or rye or wheat, you can really taste how different they all are, and you can build on it or strip it back.

“There’s beauty in its simplicity.”

via @chelcath

Chelsea tells us that people are often surprised by how different vodkas actually taste.

“Because vodka is such a simple spirit, with no added ingredients, its base ingredients really come through,” she says.

“People have started doing some pretty incredible things with vodka too, like the yam vodka from Seven Seasons, which is an Indigenous-owned company.

“The yams really come through! It tastes super earthy, which is really cool and sparks inspiration for new drinks and flavours.”

Basically, vodka is a blank canvas. If you get yourself a good vodka, you can do just about anything with it.

To quote Joe McCanta; “Vodka is the only spirit that you can drink at all times of the day.” Just think: a Bloody Mary in the morning, a pornstar martini with lunch, a spritz in the afternoon, a pre-dinner martini and a post-dinner pre-party espresso martini, it’s the perfect all-day cocktail menu.

To help get you started on your vodka journey (and just in case you wanted to trail a vodka drink on National Vodka Day), Georgie has provided us with some premium Grey Goose vodka cocktail recipes below.

Get ready for some new favourites!

Courtesy of Grey Goose

Grey Goose Martini

50ml Grey Goose Original
10ml Noilly Prat Original Dry
1 dash orange bitters

Lemon twist or Sicilian olives

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice.
Stir for approximately 15 seconds.
Strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with a lemon zest or Sicilian olives.

Courtesy of Grey Goose

Fresh Cut Spritz

30ml Grey Goose Original
15ml Noilly Prat
100ml Soda

Ruby Red Grapefruit Slice & Thyme Sprig

Add all ingredients to wine glass and fill with ice.
Garnish with ruby grapefruit slice and thyme sprig.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Food and Drink

Red Rooster Is Serving Free Chicken and Piping Hot Cash This Christmas in July

Get your early dose of festive cheer.

Red Rooster Christmas in July
Instagram / @redrooster_au

The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.

From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.

Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.

Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.

Terms and conditions apply. Visit Red Rooster’s Christmas in July to see all the deals.


Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.