What goes with vodka? Beer, or at least one of the ingredients from beer, namely hops. I’ve seen vodka made with just about everything, so I’m not surprised to see hops in the mix.
Anchor Distilling president David King had no idea that he was entering the flavored vodka business when he suggested distilling hops, the main flavoring agent of beer.
“It started as a weird curiosity,” he told us. “And then when we actually did it, the resulting product defied categorization; not enough sugar to be a liqueur, not a gin.”
Ultimately, the government decided: When he sent it to the TTB for labeling approval, they deemed it a flavored vodka.
But the spirit, named Hophead ($35 for 750 ml; buy it here), couldn’t be further from the confectionery train wrecks of the same genre.
It’s made with two types of hops, which offer a funky, herbaceous scent that gives way to notes of honeysuckle. Flavors of pine needles and herbs recall gin, while a bitter spine echoes a classic IPA. It is a crossroads for three very different drinking sets: the vodka-eschewing bartender, the gin-fearing drinker and the pint swiller.
Try it first in a Bloody Mary, where the vodka’s savory character augments the tomato and horseradish. Then consider it in a cocktail from Absinthe in San Francisco, where bar manager Matt Conway uses it as the base of a refreshing shandy (see the recipe).
Or do as the brewers at Anchor’s brewery do for double-hop action: Take a shot with an IPA back.