Cocktail Corner: Cherry Citrus Vodka Cooler

Years ago, shortly after I had graduated from college and moved to New York from California, I found myself in Brighton Beach at a Russian restaurant. My group of friends and I sat at a long table with other diners and listened to a man on a tiny stage playing a keyboard. He was singing “Strangers in the Night” in Russian. We were mystified by the exotic menu, but somehow we managed to place our order. Then the waiter simply asked, “vodka?” My friends and I exchanged uncertain glances and nodded. He came back with a large bottle and glasses for the four of us, as if it were a bottle of water for the table. Little wonder the word “vodka” is derived from the Slavic word for “water.”

Back then there was just plain vodka. A neutral spirit, rather bland, but decent with tonic if you were put off by the herbal nature of gin. Now it comes in every flavor from cucumber to birthday cake. Browsing the vodka aisle at Wineology, I spotted a bottle with a patriotic color scheme, labeled “Red, White & Berry” and thought it might make a fun Fourth of July cocktail. According to the Smirnoff website, it has “the cooling taste of Cherry, Citrus and Sweet Blue Raspberry all combined for a refreshingly delicious taste of freedom.” Perfect!

Since blue raspberry doesn’t exist in nature (that’s a story for another day), I decided to stick with the cherry and citrus profile. I found the vodka flavor added enough sweetness and balanced it with flavored seltzer, but if you prefer a sweeter drink you can top it off with a lemon-lime flavored soda like Sprite, or even pink lemonade.

In a tall glass, mix two ounces of Red, White & Berry vodka, two ounces of black cherry soda (Hannaford has a good store brand), and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Add a spoon of maraschino liquid if you want to boost the red color. Fill the glass with ice and top off with black cherry seltzer. Garnish with fresh or frozen blueberries and a maraschino cherry.

Serve this drink with a long handled spoon to fish out the blueberries.