Northern Michigan Vodka & Chandler’s Bartender

Michigan Vodka continues to rise in popularity for lovers of this spirit in Northern Michigan and throughout the state. Read on for a breakdown of some of the local must-try’s and a Q&A with Chandler’s Bartender Christian Colby. Find the original layout in the April 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.


Shaken, stirred or sipped straight up, this crystal elixir is the basis for countless cocktails and bad decisions made in every corner of the drinking world. Vodka’s roots can be traced back to medieval Poland, where it originally existed as a low-alcohol medicinal product. Today’s incarnations are pure, potent distillates of cereal grains like rye or wheat, potatoes, grapes, buffalo grass and, most commonly, good ol’ fashioned ethanol. Whether produced in column stills or copper pots, most distillers large and small aim for an extensively filtered final product free of impurities and cleanly tasteless by definition. Post distillation infusions to flavor vodka are done with every conceivable ingredient from ghost peppers to grapefruit. With artisanal spirits highly valued in our current craft culture zeitgeist, high quality micro-distilleries have been popping up all over the Mitten and making premium vodkas, so read on as we sip some of Michigan’s finest breakfast booze.

 

Coppercraft Distillery, Citrus Vodka

These up and coming hooch artists from Holland are getting serious props for their copper still creations. This well-balanced citrus vodka sees a bright infusion of oranges, lemons and grapefruits that begs for a splash of tonic.

Grand Traverse Distillery, True North Cherry Vodka

Starting with their 37-times distilled True North Vodka, Grand Traverse distillery imparts the essence of local cherries and a kiss of chocolate to this unconscionably delicious libation.

Northern Latitudes Distillery, Apollo Horseradish Vodka

An incendiary infusion of fresh horseradish root gives this crystalline vodka its signature sinus-clearing capabilities. Northern Latitudes advocates you use Apollo to elevate your bloody Mary or splash it over fresh oysters.

Valentine Vodka

Dubbed one of the world’s best vodkas by The Tasting panel, this masterful Motor City spirit with Northern Michigan roots is copper pot–distilled from corn, wheat and barley to the point of disarming smoothness. Drink neat or in a martini.

Northern United Brewing Company, Civilized Vodka

The brainchild of distillers at Northern United Brewing Company, this small- batch, riesling-based vodka bears subtle fruit nuances and a scintillating finish.


 

Christian Colby Bartender, Chandler’s, Petoskey

Laying down his P-town roots in the mid-80s at his family’s summer home in Bay View, Greenville native Christian Colby began running bar at Chandler’s in 2005. His creative cocktails and mad skills with a shaker and swizzle stick draw drinkers from all points North to this chic Petoskey eatery. This month we catch up with Christian to talk vodka cocktails and DIY infusions.

What’s the pro’s perspective on vodka?

It’s hands down our number one selling spirit, and because of its nature as an odorless, tasteless distillate, it really takes to mixing with just about anything. When the weather warms up we love to make Moscow Mules, which is vodka with fresh limejuice, spicy ginger beer and shaved ginger in an ice-cold copper mug.

A lot of your vodka cocktails are built on housemade infusions, how can we re-create these at home?

Vodka infusions are easy and a really cool way to customize your cocktails. Start with a quart glass jar and load it up with fruit or vegetables. We like to use local jalapeños in season, fill the jar with your favorite premium vodka, seal and allow it to macerate in the fridge for two weeks.

Since we’re talking breakfast in this month’s Dining department, what’s your go-to brunch cocktail?

It’s got to be the bloody Mary. We use Michigan McClure’s mix at a ratio of 1/3 vodka, 2/3 mix and then garnish with spicy pickles, olives and a salami straw. I’ve seen people garnish these with everything from shrimp to fried chicken.

 

More Northern Michigan Drinks

Northern Michigan Distilleries

Where to Find the Best Bloody Mary in Northern Michigan

Traverse City Happy Hour Hot Spots

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