The goal of most vodka-making is to achieve a completely neutral spirit. The law requires it in fact: vodka must be distilled to a nearly pure alcohol state before it is watered down, and be colorless, flavorless, and odorless. But in reality, there is a lot of leeway.
It would be half-correct to call Karlsson's the "meat and potatoes" of vodka. This brand from Sweden is a blend of the distillates from seven different heirloom potato varietals. And unlike most vodkas, the makers of Karlsson's try to keep as much of the robust flavor of the raw ingredient in the vodka as possible.
To me Karlsson's smells creamy, like when you first mush a skinned, boiled potato with a fork, and it tastes of cocoa, caramel, and pecan, with a hint of saltiness. It has a weighty texture that's terrific in a vodka martini (especially if you like them dirty with added olive brine) and is also noticeable even in drinks where vodka usually blends in unnoticed.
The Poison Ivy is a good example of that. Despite the honey and basil and lemon, you can still taste this distinct vodka through the cocktail. The drink's creator, Kiowa Bryan of Lexington Social in Los Angeles, garnishes the drink with cayenne pepper and smoked sea salt for a pleasant hot and smoky surprise to an otherwise light and friendly cocktail.
In the version of this drink that I made at home, instead of smoked salt I used a colorful sea salt that comes from the same region in Sweden as where Karlsson's potatoes are grown.
The Poison Ivy
Adapted from a recipe by Kiowa Bryan of Lexington Social in Los Angeles
2 fl. oz. Karlsson's Vodka
.75 fl. oz. Honey
.75 fl. oz. Lemon Juice
3 Basil Leaves
Smoked Sea Salt
Add liquids and basil leaves to cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly and fine-strain (to remove the bits of basil) into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Add a pinch of smoked sea salt and cayenne pepper on top of the drink to taste.