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 confectionary 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.
This vodka is everyone's flavor of the week.