What Ever Happened to the Vodka Stinger?
No, it’s not living in a large but nondescript house in greater Hollywood with its long-suffering handicapped sister, the Moscow Mule (“Butcha are, Mule! Ya are in the dustbin of cocktail history!”). It’s just vanished from the cocktail “in” list the way Fioruccci and Charivari both simply disappeared one day from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Cocktails have fashion lives, just like movie stars and clothing stores. One day it’s Kix then you’re Kix in trash bins; but the planet spins… Some become superstars, as timeless as John Wayne or Bette Davis—the Martini, the Manhattan. Some have short, comet-like lives and burn out in what seems like a matter of moments—Carole Landis, Rory Calhoun.
The vodka stinger is in the flaming comet category. At the time Stephen Sondheim wrote the great, bitter anthem of cosmically empty, wealthy women “The Ladies Who Lunch,” with which Craig cracks up Ed and Dan with his reference to the song, which in reality ends with the word “rise,” but which Craig transforms into “rye,” the vodka stinger was in its zenith. Everybody was ordering them all the time. (Company opened on Broadway in 1970; I don’t know precisely when Sondheim wrote the song.) (Pedant.)
So what, you say? Well, it was mostly a travesty in terms of taste. It’s not that vodka stingers taste bad—they’re a bit overly minty as far as flavor is concerned—but they’re by no means before-dinner drinks. Why not? Think of it this way: they kill the palette as fast as a drink made with Scope.
A decent vodka stinger consists of one part vodka and one part white crème de menthe. As the recipe at the end of this chapter notes, it is a criminal offense to use green crème de menthe; you are not celebrating St. Patrick’s day; you are drinking a great cocktail currently and sadly in reduced circumstances. Think about it. Would you be so tacky as to pop a few Tic-Tacs in your mouth as you enter that gastronomic temple, Per Se? Of course not. They would send such blazingly minty signals to your brain that it wouldn’t recover for the first three courses.
Would you pop a few Chiclets in your mouth before beginning your $400 per person sushi extravaganza at Masa? I thought not.
The why, oh Lord, did drinkers of the 1970s think it oh-so sophisticated to wreck their ensuing meals by demanding vodka stingers all around as they perused their sprouts-ridden menus? Believe me, they did. I was but an impressionable youth at the time, but I was still appalled. I saved my vodka stingers for later, when I craved sweets after engaging in the other ‘70s post-prandial pastime, but even then if there were brownies or M&Ms around, I’d go for those first. Wouldn’t you? Or: Don’t you?