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Vodka is one of the simplest but most essential categories for the sophisticated cocktailer. They span a range of mashes, viscosities, and flavors to bring a versatile but mostly neutral spirit to cocktails that feature the complements.
What is vodka?
Vodka is a clear distilled spirit known for its versatility and neutral flavor profile. Made from fermented grains, potatoes, or sometimes sugar cane, vodka is distilled to remove flavor congeners, leaving primarily ethanol and water.
Vodka's purity and mixability make it the basis for some of the world's most popular cocktails. It allows other ingredients to shine through in drinks like the Moscow Mule, Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, and countless others.
What are the different types?
While most strive for neutrality, there are some variations:
- Grain - Made from wheat, rye, corn, or a blend.
- Potato - Made from potatoes with a rounder, creamy mouthfeel.
- Flavored - Infused with fruits, herbs, spices, or other botanicals.
Vodkas can also reflect agricultural origin, water source, distillation method, and filtration process. Many artisanal brands highlight their unique production.
How is vodka made?
Production starts with a fermented mash traditionally made from grains like wheat, rye, or corn. Potatoes, grapes, sugar cane and other ingredients may also be used.
The fermented mash is then distilled in a column or combination pot/column still. Distillation removes most flavor congeners, fusel oils and esters, resulting in a neutral spirit of 96% ABV or higher.
This distillate gets diluted with water to reach a bottling proof around 40-50% ABV. Most are then charcoal filtered to remove any remaining impurities and unpleasant flavors. Additional steps like flavoring or further filtering may be used. Simple, straightforward production places the emphasis on ingredient quality and water character rather than complex flavor or aging.
How should vodka be drunk?
It is exceptionally versatile, lending itself to sipping neat, on the rocks, and in a multitude of mixed drinks spanning from tonic to caviar. Good vodka complements other ingredients without overpowering.
Sipping straight allows subtleties between brands to emerge, but is less common. On the rocks opens up notes that may get lost in cocktails. And of course it excels at disappeared into all types of creative mixes.
How does vodka taste, smell and look?
Despite the neutral reputation, delicate aromas and flavors including grain, pepper, minerality, and floral or fruity essences from the base ingredients emerge. Texture ranges from lush and oily to smooth and creamy.
Nosing a quality product reveals touches of milled grains, citrus, grassy herbs, and white pepper. Flavor notes emerge like vanilla wafer, black pepper, stone fruit and slate minerality. Finish is crisp and clean. Clear as water, it refracts light beautifully in a glass. Allowing people to see texture and viscosity provides visual appeal. Top shelf brands tend to have a lush, viscous appearance.
How do I mix vodka into amazing cocktails?
Its neutrality allows other flavors to shine. Here are tips for using it in cocktails:
- Citrus, ginger, mint and bitters make great complements.
- Infuse it with fruits, herbs or spices to layer flavors.
- Use flavored sparingly - it can easily overpower.
- Keep it cold - serve up or on ice - temperature enhances viscosity.
- Layer with liqueurs like St. Germain, Campari or Chartreuse for intrigue.
What is the history of vodka?
Its origins trace back to Medieval Russia and Poland, where abundant rye and potatoes made distilling affordable. Moscow established many early distilleries in the 1400s.
Spreading through Eastern Europe, its lack of distinct character enabled easy drinking. The Russian imperial court adopted it, which they called "bread wine." Its identity merged with national pride as an essentially Russian product. Soviets consolidated production and promoted it as symbolic of the working class.
Global consumption soared after WWII. The Smirnoff brand led awareness, tying it to youth culture and modern cocktailing. Flavor innovations like Absolut captured the 80s. Today it has shed much of its utilitarian image. Small batch brands celebrate artisanal production and terroir transparency. It has proven itself as the ultimate cocktail canvas inspiring boundless creativity.
Why shop Curiada's selection?
We focus on discovering exciting craft brands that break the mold of flavorless industrial bottles. Our selection showcases new twists from old world heartlands like Poland and the Nordics, as well as American vodkas.
All of our vodkas are great for making cocktails. And, although vodka isn't our personal favorite category, no home bar is complete without it.
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