We knocked back our share of Cosmopolitans in the early aughts, to be sure, and for many of us, vodka was our gateway spirit, ushering us into cocktails with its approachable neutrality. Make no mistake, though: vodka’s neutral nature does not mean it isn’t complex. It’s in fact the most difficult spirit to taste, and one brand is virtually indistinguishable from another once chilled. Keep a keen eye on marketing, which attempts to convince buyers to spend more on a product for silly reasons. The cocktails in these pages are anything but neutral, with many from vodka’s spiritual home in Eastern Europe.