Can Ginger Lead You to Love?" wonders the semi-ridiculous copy on the little red booklet that hangs from the neck of the Yazi bottle. They mean ginger root, not Ginger the starlet castaway, and the answer is yes if you serve it with grapefruit juice, or seltzer, or maybe over a single ice cube, or shaken, sure, or straight out of the bottle. And if by love you mean the sexual kind.
"For centuries, ginger has been used as an aphrodisiac," the booklet continues. "It warms the body like a long embrace. Sweet with just a hint of spice. And that's something you might want to share." What the hell are they talking about?
Yazi is ginger-flavored vodka made by an Oregon concern called Hood River Distilleries, in the business for 73 years, veterans who pre-date the many micro-distilleries that have sprouted of late in the Pacific Northwest. Introduced last year, Yazi's a good spirit, distinctive owing not only to the ginger infusion, but to a balanced blend of cayenne and red pepper, orange and lemon essence. Drunk straight, Yazi's got as much flavor as a mild gin, though it hits a different part of the tongue and supplants the sharp flavor of juniper in gin with a distinctive, round, peppery accent.
Ignore the whole marketing campaign surrounding Yazi "In the Far East, it is believed that ginger brings harmony to life as well as love" blah blah blah and look past the rectangular apothecary bottle, and the tattoo-esque etched dragon on the bottle, and the ham-fisted quasi-erotic literature, and the fact that in its press materials it's being "marketed to women." Those will only alienate you, and divert your attention away from the juice itself, which is really quite good, and would probably seem even better if it arrived in a moonshine jug. A spirit this good shouldn't require brainstorming sessions and "branding." The most ridiculous part? The Yazi people, in their campaign, are basically suggesting we're guaranteed easy sex with their ginger vodka, but seem to think we're dumb enough to believe that it's the ginger that'll ensure it when, as every horny loser knows, it's the vodka.
In south city they call the drink a Greyhound: vodka and grapefruit, which technically isn't a cocktail because it only has two ingredients, but who cares? It's fed the appetite of many a hoosier grandma because it's so dang good, whether you call it a cocktail or a malted milkshake. Imagine a Greyhound augmented with ginger and a wee bit of spice, and what you've conjured is something magical, a drink for all occasions that would probably be even better with a lime garnish, if we had one on hand.
What do we call this gem, which we invented a few weeks ago? The Jumbo Poodle, perhaps, because if a Greyhound is sleek and fast, this drink is very large and kinda weird. Where can you order a Jumbo Poodle? For now, only at Drink of the Week HQ, because bartenders have yet to take the initiative. Hopefully someone will start experimenting. Maybe some genius will invent a Yappy Dog, a drink that, like Yazi's marketing campaign, is cute until it opens its mouth.