October 4th is National Vodka Day! And of course, we expect you to celebrate by, of course, drinking a lot of vodka. We chatted with Dave Willis, co-founder of Boston’s Bully Boy Distillers, which makes “vodka flavored vodka” and none of that artificially flavored stuff.
What draws you to vodka? What do you love about vodka?
DW: Vodka is all about subtlety, and I love that. Because you are aiming for neutrality, the actual flavor of vodka doesn’t hit you in the face, but it’s beneath the surface. When done well, there is balance between the mouth feel of the vodka (soft but with some heat) and the flavor of the vodka (a hint of graininess, but it’s modulated…..it’s not too forward).
What makes vodka different from other spirits?
DW: On a very basic level, making vodka is all about the art of extracting flavor, and doing so in a way that leaves something in the vodka that is soft and interesting. With other spirits, like rum and whiskey, it’s all about the art of keeping flavor in the spirit.
Many people want to hide the taste of alcohol in their drinks, why is vodka flavored vodka appealing?
DW: The “taste” of vodka is as much about mouthfeel as it is about actual flavor. The trend in premium vodka is towards softness…….over-refining the spirit such that it loses the warmth, and even the bite, that makes drinking alcohol enjoyable. In this sense, a lot of the premium vodka’s lack balance. Our philosophy is that vodka should taste like vodka, and in doing so it should be gutsy; it should have some heat.
Do you have any recommendations on how to drink vodka for the best taste?
DW: Chilled. The colder temperature tempers the vapor coming off the vodka, which can be a little invasive. I know traditional martini drinkers will cringe, but I actually enjoy vodka with a little vermouth.
What’s your ideal Vodka Day celebration?
DW: Drinking the vodka drink described above!
If drinking straight vodka doesn’t suit your fancy, check out Bully Boy’s vodka cocktails recipes. Cheers!