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Is Absolut Elyx Leading a Vodka Renaissance?

Level2’s Craft at the Cove brings in Lindsay Nader to show what the spirit can do


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Lindsay Nader mixes up an Elyx cocktail at Level2. | Photo by Kelly Davis

When Noble Experiment opened six years ago, igniting San Diego’s craft-cocktail scene, the bar pledged never to serve vodka drinks. Vodka didn’t show up in the U.S. until the 1950s, long after the golden age of cocktails, and it’s generally considered not much of a challenge to work with compared to other spirits.

But vodka remains popular. It’s in the omnipresent Moscow Mule, White Russians, Bloody Marys. 

And it’s in a fancy dirty martini on Noble Experiment’s latest menu.

Wait. What?

When I talked to Noble Experiment general manager Adele Stratton last month, she said they’d made an exception for Absolut Elyx vodka (yes, that Absolut). “It was the first vodka we thought had a strong enough base to work in a cocktail,” Stratton told me.

There are plenty of good vodkas out there, but Elyx is something special. The flavors are subtle—there's just a little hint of sweetness. Rather, with Elyx, it’s more about the texture. It’s velvety. Even though I was drinking it chilled, I jotted down the words “warm” and “comfort booze.” It’s the smoothest vodka I’ve tried. And it makes an amazing martini that’ll have gin martini fans rethinking their drink. (If you’re interested in the distilling process, here’s a good description.)

Elyx isn’t brand new—it’s been around for a few years—but it’s just now starting to show up on bar shelves: in San Diego you can find it in cocktails at Noble Experiment, George’s at the Cove, Sycamore Den, Herb & Wood, Miss B’s Coconut Club (a new Mission Beach spot), Bang Bang, Cowboy Star, and Park & Rec. If you’re looking for a bottle, hit up Central Liquor in Coronado.

Elyx also has a charitable component. Absolut’s partnered with the nonprofit Water for People, which provides safe drinking water to impoverished countries. Every bottle of Elyx sold provides a week’s supply of water.

Helping Elyx gain a foothold is brand ambassador Lindsay Nader. Nader could sell ice to Eskimos, but she’s also got solid bartending cred: she’s worked at Noble Experiment and, in 2014, helped open East Village juice bar Juice Saves. Before that, she was at acclaimed spots like L.A.’s Harvard & Stone and New York’s PDT.

This past Monday, Nader was at Level2 at George’s at the Cove, mixing up Elyx cocktails for the La Jolla bar’s monthly Craft at the Cove series. The menu featured five cocktails: a classic martini; the Copper Cup #1 (Nader’s creation made with Elyx, Fino sherry, and raspberry cordial, topped with champagne); the Fluffy Bunny (Elyx, Aperol, Giffard grapefruit liqueur, and whipped OJ); and an Animal Cracker milk punch (Nader’s creation) spiked with Elyx.

Most popular was the Orchard, served in one of Elyx’s copper pineapples and garnished with a dried lemon that Nader perched on a small stick of pear-vanilla incense. Just before serving, she’d light the incense stick and put the top on the pineapple so that the cocktail got a quick infusion from the incense. It was lovely. Grab yourself a copper pineapple (available for purchase on the Elyx website) and some pear incense and try it at home:

Orchard Cocktail | Photo: absolutelyx.com

Orchard

2 oz. Absolut Elyx
1/2 oz. Calvados
2 1/2 oz. Pear Juice
2 1/2 oz. Lapsang Souchong tea
1oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup

Shake and strain into copper pineapple over cubed ice. Top with crushed ice and garnish with a dried lemon slice.

In between making cocktails, Nader chatted about how she’s won over bartenders wary of vodka or large brands. First comes a blind tasting. “And then they learn Elyx is hand-made, that it comes from one farm and it follows these craft sensibilities that bartenders have kind of been taught to look for—so it makes sense to them.

“Some of the big brands aren’t bad,” she added. “They’re big because they know how to do it right.”


Got suggestions for a future column? Write to 2kellydavis@gmail.com.

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