With flavors like Fruit Loops, Mountain Dew, cotton candy and bubble gum overflowing the shelves, it’s hard to believe flavored vodka is meant for mixing adult beverages. These artificial flavors are a far cry from those that spirits should contain as well as what an adult beverage calls for. Thankfully, Anchor Distilling Company has debuted a hop-flavored vodka, called Hophead, that has changed the way I feel about “flavored” vodkas.
Based out of San Francisco, Anchor Distilling Co. was established in 1993 by Fritz Maytag, of Maytag Home Appliances as well as Maytag Blue Cheese, who was also responsible for some novel cocktail culture advancements before this venture.
In the early 70s, Maytag headed up the craft beer also known as the microbrewery movement. Later on in the 90s, he was the lead during the micro-distilling boom with the release of Old Potrero Rye Whiskey, a style of rye whiskey reminiscent of what our country’s forefathers would have drunk. Currently, they are producing Junipero and Genevieve Gin, and have recently released Hophead Vodka.
While most flavored vodkas on the market use synthetic flavorings to achieve a desired taste, Hophead Vodka is far from your average flavored vodka. It is made by distilling two different types of hops in the pot still, a process very similar to how gin is made. These are the same types of hops used in the production of beer that stabilize and flavor it, as well as impart a bitterness that offsets the sweetness of the beer malt. Another difference is that most flavored vodkas are 35-percent ABV (alcohol by volume), while Hophead is coming in at 45-percent ABV. This extra bit of alcohol gives it a rounder and smoother mouth feel than would lower proof vodka.
As it is a perfectly clear liquid with an intense hop aroma, Hophead Vodka will lead one to feel as if they are drinking a gin because of the piney, grassy and floral notes present; however, there is no juniper. With such an IPA-scented spirit, one would expect some bitterness, like that which is traditionally in an IPA. Although, upon first sip the hops are much gentler than expected and contribute very little bitterness, and instead carry a punch of citrus and floral notes. The flavors stay on the palate for what seems like an eternity and it’s hard not to savor every minute of it.
In addition to these multi-dimensional flavors, Hophead is unique because it is a very versatile spirit that can be served martini style, on the rocks and in any mixed cocktail. This is vodka for the gin lover, beer lover, vodka drinker or anyone who likes a well-crafted, unique and tasty spirit.
Rise & Shine, a cocktail off Crudo’s new brunch menu, highlights Hophead Vodka. The drink is slightly bitter due to the Campari and muddled basil, while fresh lime and grapefruit juice reinforce the hop scent on the palate. The sweetness from the simple syrup and Campari help balance the remaining bitterness, leaving the imbiber with a refreshing and full-flavored cocktail.
Article by Micah Olson
Photos by Devine Images
Originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of AZ Wine Lifestyle.