Appetizers are the overture to dinner, which is why sometimes they can be the most important part of the evening. They set the tone, as do the cocktails you serve with them. But, why always cocktails? For our first dinner party of the season, we’re bringing vodka served neat back into fashion. Just like one can get crafty with their appetizers, they can do so with vodka pairings. Naturally, we picked Hangar 1 Vodka, a premium, American-made vodka (whose packaging we’re slightly obsessed with) made from fresh, local ingredients.
We like a clean, light flavor profile when ushering in spring, so we paired the vodka with some of our favorite foods to start the evening with. Oysters, caviar, marinated olives and cornichons, sweet and spicy roasted nuts…the list goes on. Explore the pairings below to get some ideas on flavor profiles for your next dinner party. Do it neat – it’s the only way to go.
PAIRING 1: Marinated Olives and Cornichons
Hangar 1 Vodka’s crisp edge pairs perfectly with the tangy pickled cornichons and marinated olives. Assorted olives marinated with olive oil, toasted fennel, and orange peels add nice depth to your typical olive platter.
1 1/2 cup Assorted Olives
Strips of Orange Peel from 1/2 an Orange, no pith
1 tablespoon Fennel Seed, toasted
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine all ingredients in an airtight container. Let sit overnight before serving.
PAIRING 2: Fresh Oysters with Shallot Mignonette
The sweet and briny flavors of Beausoleil oysters are complemented by the refreshing taste of Hangar 1 Straight Vodka. Serve cold, on ice, with fresh lemon wedges and a shallot mignonette.
1 Shallot, minced
1/4 cup Sherry Vinegar
Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients together in a bowl.
PAIRING 3: Assorted Cheese and Cured Meat
Hangar 1 Straight Vodka has a neutral versatility that lends itself to pairing with a variety of cheeses and cured meats. We have chosen a tangy Chevre that is a classic match for the Asian pear notes found in the vodka. A pungent blue cheese is balanced by the clean taste of vodka neat. The mellow flavors of creamy sheep’s milk cheeses blend well with salty cured meats and refreshing flavor of a straight vodka.
PAIRING 4: Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts
Hangar 1 Straight Vodka’s honeysuckle notes are complemented by the sweet aspect of cashews and hazelnuts roasted with honey and extra virgin olive oil. Smoked Paprika and Cayenne pepper add a smokey spiciness that vodka neat cuts through for maximum flavor.
1 cup Unsalted Cashews
1 cup Hazelnuts
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl whisk together honey, olive oil, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Toss nuts in the mixture. Pour in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Roast for 8 minutes, stirring once half way during roasting. Season with salt upon removing from the oven. Let cool before serving.
PAIRING 5: Assorted Fruit
Mixing fresh and dried fruits creates a balance between rich and fresh flavors. The honeysuckle notes in Hangar 1 Straight Vodka pairs nicely with succulent darker fruits like plums, fresh figs, cherries, and pomegranates. The richness of dried dates and apricots balance the crisp cold vodka.
PAIRING 6: Wild American Sturgeon Caviar
Hangar 1 Straight Vodka combined with tangy crème fraîche and biting red onions cuts through the salt richness of the caviar for maximum depth in flavor profile. Serve with chives and plain crackers.
Photographed by Alli Shepherd.