Nobody predicted that Texas would be a powerhouse of vodka-makers, but unless you're fashion-conscious, grabbing a liter of Tito's Handmade Vodka in the liquor store is always the best choice. There's a shelf-load of other Texan vodkas, like Dripping Springs, Lonestar, or Houston's own Dash if you want a different taste or price.
Foreigners have taken note, as the cucumber- and serrano-infused Absolut Texas Vodka is selling like prime smoked brisket at Spec's.
Two flavored vodkas from Texas stand out, both by Deep Eddy in Austin. Sweet Tea is popular, but the award-winning bottle is Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka. It's infused with real Texas grapefruit, and that's exactly what it tastes like.
A Little More Action
The label told me to add a splash of club soda and squeeze of lime. That actually worked pretty well, but it's like drinking vodka and sucking on a lime and a grapefruit peel all at the same time. Nothing wrong with that, but it seemed to have more potential.
The first thing was to ditch the club soda and introduce Topo Chico Mineral Water from Mexico. This bubbly water livens up any cocktail--other than a gin fizz--much better than neutral club soda.
Deep Eddy Grapefruit needed more dilution than just a splash, so I lined up glasses with 3 parts of vodka and different amounts of Topo Chico. The drink with 2 parts of Topo was perfect.
A squeeze of lime was too much, so I just dropped in a wedge of lime (unsqueezed), and banged it around a little with ice. Perfect.
The drink needed one more touch, so I took a cue from Absolut Texas and compared a long strip of serrano pepper with a strip of jalapeno. The serrano was superior, but overly spicy for the drink, so I cut the strip to an inch-long piece. Perfect again.
What's in a Name?
Vodka mixed with grapefruit juice is called a Greyhound, and when the rim of the glass is salted it's called a Salty Dog. Deep Eddy has a similar drink called the Southbound Greyhound, but it sounds too Austin, so I riffed on the dog theme. With the red grapefruit, I thought Red Dog, but that cocktail name was taken. Despite several test drinks beginning to take effect, it was easy enough to say Ruby Red Dog.
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The name rolls off the tongue, and improves with a solid Texas drawl. Better still, the drink tastes great with Tex-Mex food. Thank you, Deep Eddy.
Ruby Red Dog
3 parts (2¼ ounces) Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka 2 parts (1½ ounces) Topo Chico Mineral Water 1 lime wedge A 1-inch strip of serrano pepper
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in the vodka. Add the lime wedge and serrano pepper, and stir briskly with a spoon or chopstick. Pour in the Topo Chico, and serve.