As the Belvedere Vodka head mixologist Claire Smith sure has one hell of a job. Daily Front Row recently caught up with the cocktail maven to discuss everything from cocktail trends to bar necessities. Here’s a portion of the interview:

How can you tell the difference between top-shelf vodka and bargain-basement dwellers?

The worse the vodka, the colder it’s generally served to mask the bad flavor. Cheaper vodka has a restricted flavor profile—it’s more akin to hairspray or nail polish remover. Belvedere has broad strokes of vanilla, cream, and black pepper. The best temperature to serve vodka is straight out of the refrigerator, like white wine.

What are your favorite summer cocktail trends? It’s all about using fresh, local ingredients. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of tea. A great brunch cocktail is our Pineapple Mary. It’s basically a Bloody Mary using pineapple juice instead of tomato juice, paprika versus pepper, and Belvedere Bloody Mary. You get the sensation of a Bloody Mary without the heaviness.

What ingredients are you obsessed with right now?I’m interested in anything herbal, and I’m moving away from the sweeter flavors. We’ve been experimenting a lot with rosemary, sage, and jasmine. I’m also into spices like ginger, cardamom, and chili. Hot flavors tend to cool the body down.

What’s your ultimate party-planning tip?
Make a great punch and pour it into a beautiful vintage glass bowl, so you’re not the person in the kitchen making cocktails all night long. I always make a punch and leave a couple cocktail ideas on the fridge in case partygoers want to get creative.

What’s an unexpected must-have ingredient everyone should stock behind their bar?
Ginger beer! Other flavors might weaken while you drink, but ginger continues to refresh your palate, which means you can drink for a bit longer.

To read the full interview visit