Got a craving for some really good vodka? Check out Crāv Vodka (80 proof, $33), the brain-child of Cleveland-area former corporate guy Thomas Rini. Distilled from Idaho winter wheat, it’s remarkably smooth, clean and elegant with more body and creamy richness than we generally expect from vodka. We can’t imagine diluting this spirit with anything but an olive or a twist.
Smooth Ambler Whitewater Vodka (about $30), from West Virginia, struck us as very unusual and interesting. It almost reminded us of a blanco tequila with fruity aromas of melon and – yes – agave. Its flavor is bright citrus with a smooth texture and a touch of earthiness.
Among the sea of vodkas out there, Hangar 1 Straight Vodka is unique. Pot stilled from Viognier blended into Midwestern wheat vodka, this has an uncommon richness and depth in a smooth, soft body. For a cool twist, try Hangar 1 Kaffir Lime Vodka, made with pungent leaves and fruit from the Kaffir Lime tree, indigenous to Indonesia. (It’s what gives Thai food such a unique character.) This packs plenty of lime flavor without the syrupy sweetness found in some infused vodkas. If classic taste is your style, try Three Olives Naked Vodka, quadruple distilled from English wheat for a clean, fresh flavor.
Fabrizia Limoncello (about $15), though made in the United States instead of Italy, tastes like the real deal. Made with natural ingredients, without any artificial flavoring or coloring, it’s got a bright, sweet-tart lemon-drop flavor that tops off a meal with a sigh of satisfaction. And at 27 percent alcohol, it’s got just the right juice, unlike some watered-down versions on the market. Keep it in the freezer for the perfect temperature.
Oooh, we really liked Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey (about $18). Think Tennessee whiskey richened with a dab of honey and notes of orange and fig. Lush and full flavored but not too sweet, this makes a fine after-dinner sipper.