A shift out of neutral

The Alchemist’s tasting panel samples B.C. vodkas for a taste of the province’s most crowd-pleasing spirit

The lineup of vodkas tasted by the panel reflected a range of flavours from clean and neutral to surprisingly lush, fruity, bold and intense. Dan Toulgoet photo

Nazdarovya! With the FIFA World Cup kicking off this month in Russia, our thoughts have turned to vodka. (That and Neymar’s incredible comeback, of course.)

Vodka is often described as a “colourless, odourless, flavourless” spirit, but its clean subtlety is sometimes just what we crave. And so we asked our Alchemist tasting panel comprising some of Vancouver’s top bartenders—Olivia Povarchook of Vij’s Restaurant, Katie Ingram of Toptable Group and Josh Pape of Gooseneck Hospitality (Wildebeest, Bells and Whistles, Bufala, Lucky Taco)—to sample eight artisanal B.C. vodkas, share their thoughts and suggest cocktails to make with them.

Here’s what they had to say.

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Elder Sour

Odd Society’s Elder Sour. Supplied photo.

This refreshing cocktail recipe from Odd Society Spirits makes an ideal patio sipper.

• 1.5 oz Odd Society Elderflower Liqueur
• 1 oz Odd Society East Vancouver vodka
• 1 oz fresh lemon juice
• 0.3 oz simple syrup
• 1 egg white or 1 dash of Ms. Betters Bitters Miraculous Foamer

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True Lies

Chiara Fung’s True Lies. Dan Toulgoet photo

This award-winning cocktail was created by Chiara Fung, premium bartender at H Tasting Lounge at The Westin Bayshore.

• 2 oz Stolichnaya Premium Vodka
• 1.25 oz fresh lemon juice
• 1 oz charred pineapple cordial (see recipe below)
• 1 oz pineapple jam (see recipe below)
• Garnish: dehydrated pineapple slice, pineapple leaves

Shake ingredients with ice and double-strain into a double rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with dehydrated pineapple slice and two pineapple leaves. Serves 1.

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Yuzu Meringue Pie

Yuzu Meringue Pie. Dan Toulgoet photo.

Yuzu (aka. citrus junos) is a rare hybrid citrus fruit popular in Japan that has been historically cultivated as a herbal remedy. Prized by bartenders, the fruit’s aroma and flavour offers a rare and complex blend of lime, lemon, grapefruit and mandarin orange. 

• 1oz of Shin Premium Yuzu Wine
• 1oz Vanilla Vodka
• 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
• 1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
• 1/4 oz Simple Syrup

Shake with ice and serve in a sugar-rimmed martini glass.

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Crow’s Nest Distillery

Rekindling the tradition of his Italian ancestors, Daniel Paolone, along with friend Ian Jarvis, are distilling spirits with local ingredients, starting with vodka and rum.

117-667 Sumas Way, Abbotsford


• Crow’s Nest Vodka
• Crow’s Nest White Rum
• Crow’s Nest Spiced Rum


Crow’s Nest Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Faint vanilla.
FLAVOUR: Cinnamon spice.
FEEL: Clean and crisp.
FINISH: Short and pleasant, light vanilla.
BEST ENJOYED: Vodka soda.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Extraordinarily clean and crisp, true to the essence of vodka as a neutral grain spirit. —Robyn Gray, October 2017


North West Distilling Co.

Using winter wheat, Maple Ridge-based NorthWest creates its signature vodka by distilling it 10 times and cold-filtering eight times through charcoal.

104-20120 Stewart Cres., Maple Ridge


• North West Vodka


North West Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Just alcohol.
FLAVOUR: Sweet. White pepper.
FEEL: Silky and balanced.
FINISH: Short but pleasant.
BEST ENJOYED: Chilled. Minimal dilution. Makes a good Martini. 
THE BOTTOM LINE: Very easy-drinking vodka. —Josh Pape, October 2017


After Dark Distillery

Dean and Louise Perry moved from Alberta to the Shuswap to begin their distilling adventure. They focus on flavoured moonshine, vodkas and whisky, but gin is also in the works.

1201 Shuswap Ave., Sicamous


• Monashee Mountain Mango Peach Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Maple Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Peach Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Mountain Dew Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Ginger & Honey Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Lemonade Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Iced Tea Moonshine
• Monashee Mountain Apple Pie Moonshine
• After Dark Burner Vodka
• Monashee Mountain Vodka
• Monashee Mountain Whiskey


Monashee Mountain Apple Pie Moonshine

FRAGRANCE: Amazing nose of fresh baked cinnamon buns, quince tarte tatin and cream cheese.
FLAVOUR: Apple candy sweetness dominates.
FEEL: Very light viscosity.
FINISH: Sweet finish with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. Astringent, bitter notes.
BEST ENJOYED: In hot apple cider on a fall day.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Could use more viscosity and natural apple flavour. —Shaun Layton, October 2017

Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz

Grey Goose photo

This simple but elegant vodka fizz is a clean canvas for your own experimentation.

• 1.25 oz (35 mL) Grey Goose vodka
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) St. Germain elderflower liqueur
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
• 2.5 oz (75 mL) chilled soda water

Place vodka, elderflower liqueur and lime juice in a cocktail shaker along with some ice. Shake vigorously. Fine strain into a chilled flute or large wine glass and charge with soda water. If you like, add a few cubes of ice and garnish with a slice of lime. Serves 1.

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Cîroc Me Gently, Cîroc Me Slowly

The Cîroc Me Gently, Cîroc Me Slowly. Fred Fung/Royal Dinette photo

This cocktail from Kaitlyn Stewart, World Class Canada 2017 winner and bar manager of Royal Dinette, is a mouthwatering balance of sweet, citrus and spice.

• 1.5 oz (45 mL) Ciroc Vodka
• 0.5 oz (15 mL) Ancho Reyes chili liqueur
• 0.25 oz (7 mL) crème de cacao (chocolate liqueur)
• 0.5 oz (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 2 dashes of Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech bitters

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you like, garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel. Serves 1.

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Lady O’Keefe

The Lady O’Keefe cocktail. Contributed photo

Lily Duong, assistant bar manager at UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar in the Moda Hotel, captures the floral fragrance of elderflower in this refreshing spring cocktail.

• 1 oz (30 mL) vodka
• 0.5 oz (15 mL) St. Germain elderflower liqueur
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) lemon juice
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) Monin jasmine flower syrup
• 2 dashes Bittered Sling Grapefruit & Hops bitters
• 1 egg white

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Once you have created voluminous foam, add ice, and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serves 1.

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