Posts Tagged ‘vodka’
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
By Micah Hanks
Imagine if one could somehow travel back in time to the idealistic purity you’d hope to find in the Garden of Eden, capture the most luscious combination of flavors and fragrances available, and then bottle and distill them into an organic neutral spirit. Recently Culture of Spirits was treated to yet another offering in the fine (and pleasant to say, growing) world of organic and botanical spirits, and I’m glad to tell you that, yes, you can expect “Eden in a bottle” from the wonderful spirits being created by Square One Organic Spirits.
Having sampled three varieties of the delicious spirits these folks provide, I can tell you that not only do their neutral spirits offer a unique bit of color that is often missed with more expensive (typically flavorless) vodkas, but they also manage to do so without creating syrupy, colored liquids that look more appropriate lining the shelves of a coffee shop, rather than a classy bar. Indeed, the Square One spirits are subtle in color, and even mild in taste, offering simple, flavorful beverages without completely forsaking the neutrality one would hope for from a typical vodka. As Jordan Mackay of San Francisco’s Buzzed blog says, Square One Organics are “a spirit of character and not just a flavorless, odorless additive.”
Of all the spirits Square One provided us with (which included the pleasingly simple Square One Organic Original and Square One Cucumber, I must give my very highest endorsement to the lovely Square One Botanical, a rye-distilled spirit flavored with eight different botanical fruits, spices and herbs used for added character. “I mean, what does ‘Botanical’ taste like?” founder Allison Evanow says. “It doesn’t mix like a flavored vodka, nor is it a gin or an aquavit… it’s basically a new twist on what we think will be a new wave of spirits to come.”Indeed, although considered primarily a vodka, when paired alongside rums, gins, and other neutral spirits of similar value on the market, Square One has gone above and beyond, succeeding at providing something truly unique.
Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
Nestled in a cozy corner of my liquor cabinet sits a tall bottle in an insulated black glove. Startling red letters adorn the glove, in an horror-inspired font: BLAVOD.
Black Vodka has become increasingly popular over the past couple years, and typically is only available in stores during the month of October, in order to allow people to prepare for Halloween. Many interesting looking concoctions can be created using this, such as the Halloween Screwdriver, in which you layer Black Vodka and orange juice, to give it the black and orange color scheme of Halloween.
As we all know, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of kinds of season beers, only available during certain parts of the year. Some of them are Wit Biers only available during the summer, special Pale Ales during the spring, Porters and Stouts during the winter, Pumpkin Ales, and most famous of all, Oktoberfest beers typically available during the autumn months.
However, spirits are usually year-round. Except for Black Vodka, the only mass-produced seasonal spirit that I am aware of. Granted, there’s nothing exceptionally special about it; It’s the same as regular vodka, but with black food coloring added to it. There’s a bit of a thrill though, this once a year bottled blend. For cocktail loving Halloween enthusiasts, it’s the perfect opportunity to start mixing unique looking beverages, without having to take a regular spirit and add your own food dye.
Right now, BLAVOD, the originator of Black Vodka, has pretty much cornered the North American market. However, Absolut is trying to make a run at them, by producing their Absolut Black. However, the price difference is the breaking point for me, as they both taste pretty much the same. BLAVOD runs at about $20 for a 750ml bottle, while Absolut is a bit pricier at closer to $30. So, BLAVOD has the market cornered in my opinion, until someone else comes along and competes with them on the price. The one thing Absolut has going for them, is that they offer 100 proof Black Vodka. This could make even more interesting cocktails, such as Flaming Jack o’ Lantern-style shots.
Most of the brands claim that the color alteration doesn’t do anything to the taste, however, some experts dispute this, saying there are indeed minute changes in the otherwise flavorless spirit. There could be something to this, as BLAVOD uses an herb extract to achieve it’s color, and this herb, known as Catechu, is sometimes used in medicines.
Starting over the next several days, we at Culture of Spirits are going to be doing our best, putting hours upon hours of research into creating cocktails for the Halloween season. Stay tuned!
Monday, August 31st, 2009
After writing the Spirits of the Oval Office article, I realized that I had so much fun doing the research for it, that I wanted to continue writing a series of articles based on that topic. After a couple of weeks stewing on it, trying to figure out where exactly to go with it, I now present to you, the Sophisticated Elite, the next installment: Spirits of the British Empire, which will give us some insight into the drink preferences of some of the most influential and renowned political figures, past and present, of our cousins across the pond.
This list will start with the Queen Mum, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who lived from 1900 to 2002. She was the Queen of England during World War II, and Hitler once described her as being the most dangerous woman in Europe. Always a popular figure in Great Britain, she was well known for her love of gin. Her cocktail of choice was Gin and Dubonnet (according to sources, mixed 3:1, Dubonnet). Dubonnet is a French aperitif, otherwise known as an appetite stimulant. It is a combination of fermented wine, spices, and quinine.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been occupying the throne since 1952, is also a lover of gin. Her cocktail is a Gordon’s gin and tonic, with three slices of lemon. This takes me back to the second article that I wrote, ‘Hold The Lime,’ in which I argued in favor of substituting lemon for lime in vodka tonics. The present Queen of England opts not for the traditional garnish of a lime wedge, and instead goes heavy with three lemon wedges. It sounds delicious.
Saturday, August 1st, 2009
The vodka tonic is one of the simplest, yet demanded drinks at the social bar. Depending on the bartender, the typical vodka tonic will either be made with one part each of vodka and tonic, or one part vodka and three parts tonic. And then, the final deft touch to give it a special taste: A generous lime wedge. The drinker will then, depending on his or her preference, do the deed at the bar, or take it back to their table and have a seat before commencing with the sacred ritual of lime squeezing. This is something that I have done countless times since I started drinking vodka tonics, shortly after my 21st birthday some time back. I never gave it much of a thought, aside from the fact that I considered it an average drink, and by no means one of my top 5 favorite cocktails(coincidentally, subject for a possible feature article). The reason I would order them was that they were quick, easy, cheap, and impossible to mess up. There is also the fact that certain bars in this area have vodka specials once or twice a week, where they can be ordered at half price. That is certainly a good option for anyone who is either on a budget, or loves vodka.
Getting back to the matter at hand; The vodka tonic was an average drink at a cheap price that was quick to obtain from a busy bartender. My view on the beverage was changed this past May, however, when I went on a cruise through the Caribbean with several close friends. One morning(shameless, I know. But it’s a Caribbean cruise!), we were sitting at one of the bars closest to the swimming pool on the sun deck, and we were ordering drinks. I was last in line, and just before me, my dear friend Lauren ordered the vodka tonic. I decided right then and there that I probably would as well, even though the Mimosa was sounding delicious. But then my mind was blown when she added an instruction for the drink: “No lime. Lemon, please.”
This startled me yet sounded oddly thrilling, so I added the same instruction to my drink, while she informed me that she always orders them that way because she prefers the taste of lemon over lime. I commenced with the fruit squeezing and stirring ritual, then took a sip. I quickly concurred with her assessment, that the lemon did indeed add a better flavor to the otherwise bland drink. While I appreciate a good lime in my summer lagers, I have found that I definitely prefer the strong sour taste of a lemon in my vodka tonic, rather than the metallic sweetness of a lime. Break the mold and try it for yourself; Tell the bartender to hold the lime, please.
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
Vodka. It’s the Russian national beverage, and today many Americans would gladly claim it to be theirs just as well. Though virtually tasteless by design, this most neutral of all neutral spirits is not only a beverage worthy of drinking by itself neat (straight) or on the rocks, but is widely becoming the spirit of choice to use as a mixer in its infinite flavored varieties available at your local liquor store (though many would admit that the best flavored vodkas are actually made at home using peppers, vanilla beans, or anything else you’d like to use to add a hint of flavor to your vodka).
In 60′s it was cited by Patrick Gavin Duffy as a spirit which “was quickly gaining popularity” in America, andin the few decades that have lapsed between then and now, vodka is arguably the most popular drink in the country. Cocktails once calling for gin default instead to use the watery stuff, and amazingly it has won its following off of what the government officially describes as “neutral spirits, so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”
So how is it, exactly, that a spirit lacking such definitive characteristics manages to elevate itself to what may be the world’s most popular liquor?