When you think of craft cocktails, a vodka and soda isn't the first drink that comes to mind. You can spritz a little fresh lime in there if you want to pretend you're being adventurous.
But Ben Scott, bar master at Messhall Kitchen in Los Feliz, saw the drink as an opportunity to try something new. At Messhall, he's created a new vodka soda bar devoted to the world's simplest cocktail.
"No matter how hard we try, we as in bartenders, mixologists, etc., there's always going to be a group of people who want the simplest take on a drink," said Scott. "And it never works to try to talk people out of what they want into something else."
Scott decided to make his own riff on the vodka soda using house-made fruity syrups and Fever Tree club soda. On a small portion of the menu now devoted to the bubbly libations, you'll find sour cherry-almond, apricot orange crush, strawberry lemon verbena, cantaloupe and pineapple cake. You can drink a straight soda or add a shot of Green Mark vodka.
Scott took a couple of syrups he was using in other cocktails on the menu and created a few original concoctions for his vodka sodas. The pineapple cake syrup has hints of vanilla, cinnamon and fresh tropical fruit, and the strawberry lemon verbena is a mix of the plant's distinct lemon flavor and sweet summer berries.
And just like any of his more complicated cocktails (the Baby It's Cold Outside involves hot rum, Amaro Montenegro, maple butter and clove marshmallow), Scott approached the vodka sodas with the same attention to detail, meticulously plotting each one's flavor profile.
"One of the things you find when it's just vodka and syrup with no citrus, is you really lose a mid-palate, and it's tough to make it feel like one harmonious arching flavor," explained Scott. "But when you do something with citrus notes in it, like the apricot-orange or strawberry-lemon verbena, those blend better."
Each soda costs $5, or $9 with vodka. The drinks are intended to be a lasting feature on the menu and Scott says he may rotate the flavors a couple of times a year.
"This was a way for the vodka soda drinkers to get what they want, and for us to have more fun with it," said Scott. If you want something really simple, you can have it without having something boring."
4500 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 660-6377, www.messhallkitchen.com.