We all know wine pairs well with food, but what about vodka? Usually hidden underneath club soda or a fruity mixer, vodka hardly gets the credit it deserves. After an intimate vodka tasting I attended last Wednesday led by Igor Galburt, Global Brand Ambassador for Russian Standard Vodka, I learned that all vodka is NOT created equal, and I discovered that despite it's clear complexion, it's really quite deep…
For example, did you know that if you chase a shot of vodka with a shot of pickle juice (commonly known as picklebacks), it takes away that esophagus-burning bite? Or that Russian Standard vodka bottles are WASHED with vodka so not a drop of water mixes with your liquor? And that vodka used to be primarily the Russian woman's drink of choice? Russian men stuck to brown liquors like whiskey, bourbon, etc. Only in recent decades has vodka become the unisex liquor that it is today. I didn't know that either, but you better believe that I will be serving pickle martinis and cheese at my next cocktail party. Wine and cheese? Sure. Vodka and cheese? Why not?! Below are the vodkas I sampled.
Note to anyone attempting this at home with friends: EAT. We were fortunate enough to have plenty of food on hand during this tasting at The Library Room at the Dream Hotel, but if we didn't, I think we might have learned more about the wood finish on the floor. Maybe this is why people don't generally do vodka parties…alcohol content. It can be tricky business, but if you're a smart host, you know that tastings mean portion control. Drink with caution.
Russian Standard Original: Warm, smooth, grainy with a lingering finish. A good mixing vodka.
Russian Standard Platinum: Very spicy and citrusy with the most bite. A sipping vodka.
Russian Standard Gold: The smoothest vodka (in my opinion), nice silky finish and no harsh bite. This one was my favorite.
Russian Standard Imperia: "The 8th most powerful vodka in the world". What does that mean to you and me? Strong. This one left a long, lingering burning sensation in my throat. It felt like if I held a match up to my mouth and blew air on it, it might have ignited. This is their premium vodka.
Foods that work well with a glass of vodka neat or a vodka martini:
Meat. You need something semi-heavy and packed with protein to balance the strength of sipping straight vodka, so the meatballs we had were a favorite of the crowd.
Beets. The crisp spice in the vodka somehow brought out the sweetness in the beets on this crunchy toast.
Avocado. There were salmon and avocado sandwiches, and while I wasn't wild about the salmon, the buttery avocado was like a calming salve for your mouth after stinging it incessantly with pure alcohol.
Carbs. The tomato and cheese bread with balsamic drizzle was a heavy hitter at this tasting. We all know carbs help absorb alcohol, but if you can't get that fancy with it, just serve some sliced focaccia or plain old Italian bread with olive oil and sea salt. Yum.
Now how about a cocktail? See below for the Russian Standard recipe for a Moscow Mule.
2 oz. Russian Standard Vodka
5 oz. Ginger Beer
Squeeze of lime
Build in a mug over ice.
Cheers! To vodka. Another thing I learned from Igor: the Russians like to make multiple toasts whilst drinking. I think he made a toast with each tasting and each shot. Good thing they were mostly in Russian, because after 5 "tastings", I don't think I would have remembered them anyway.