Vodka Can Be Interesting



One of the side effects of the recent resurgence in craft cocktails has been the tendency to downgrade vodka, similar to the attitude change toward merlot after the movie Sideways came out. True, many vodkas are utterly forgettable, and in some cases many of them are being made by the same megadistillers that also make ethanol for the gas pumps. But properly crafted and artfully mixed, vodka can be a notable addition to your home liquor cabinet.

A new product that has just arrived in town is Boyd and Blair Vodka, a small batch product that is still made with locally sourced Pennsylvania potatoes. "What? I thought all vodkas were made from potatoes." Not anymore. In fact, you can make vodka out of just about any plant matter that contains starch or sugar to kick off the fermentation process from yeast that naturally occurs in the air. That's why they can make it prison toilets or in Hawkeye and trapper John's tent in M*A*S*H.

Boyd and Blair is so much better than that though. The Spirit Journal has named B&B the top-rated vodka in the world for two years running, and noted liquor journalist Paul Picault gave their Professional Proof 151 five stars, his highest rating. Those are some big scores for a high-proof product that's assumed to be odorless and flavorless. The starchiness of the potatoes used actually provides a creamy mouth-feel that is unexpected in a clear spirit, and you can actually sniff a hint of potato skins on the nose. Served cold as part of a vodka martini, Boyd and Blair makes a wonderful mixer, and local bartenders are beginning to clamor to add it to their top shelves.

The normal 80-proof version is probably more appropriate for the home liquor cabinet and retails for about $30 per bottle. Look for it in your favorite liquor store and give it a try.

Another respected high-end vodka that has begun to make an impact on the local market is Purity Vodka. Purity is made exclusively from natural ingredients including winter wheat and barley in a proprietary pot still made of copper and gold at 13th-century Ellinge Castle in the south of Sweden. The end product is distilled a mind-bending 34 times, where 90 percent of the distillate is lost as they continue to select the purest of the liquid. The resulting spirit is a whopping 192 proof before it is cut with deionized water and natural mineral-rich water to produce a final alcohol level of 80 proof.

Purity maintains a very full-bodied character, especially for a vodka. I first encountered Purity a few years ago at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans where inventive mixologists had set up a "Make your own Bloody Mary" bar, but not the usual layout of bottled mixes, hot sauces and peppers that encourage you to ruin some perfectly good hooch by overseasoning it. Instead, participants added fresh herbs and vegetables to Purity in CO2-charged containers like the kind you make whipped cream or soda water in. Pressurizing the container and shaking it infused the flavors of the greens into the vodka, which was then strained to produce the best Bloody I had ever tasted, much less made.

The producers of Purity are actually promoting the iSi Gourmet Whip Canisters as tools for the home bartender, and were kind enough to share some spooky recipes for your Halloween parties. Pick up a bottle and maybe one of those fancy canisters and try one of these out today. If you happened to also buy some of these, you can really make your party a gas, but proceed at your own risk to your brain cells.

Bloodberry Fizz
  • Bloodberry Fizz
Purity Pumpkin
3 oz of Purity Vodka
1 oz pumpkin puree
.5 oz cinnamon brown sugar syrup (Dissolve equal parts cinnamon sugar and boiling water. Let cool and then strain.)
1 bar spoon lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake into cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with cinnamon brown sugar.

Purity Bloodberry Fizz
3 oz Blood orange-infused Purity Vodka
1 egg white
.25 oz blood orange juice
.25 oz simple syrup
2 oz blackberry soda

Place 2 oz blood orange zest into iSi Gourmet Whip canister with Purity Vodka. Double charge & let sit for two minutes. Rapidly release gas and allow to sit until bubbling subsides. Strain out solids. Add all ingredients except for soda to a shaker and shake hard, without ice, for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again until ice cold. Double strain into an ice-cold highball glass and let sit until egg whites have dried. While highball glass is settling, rinse both halves of shaker tins with blackberry soda, making sure to rinse all of the egg white residue. Let sit. When egg whites have dried, pour blackberry soda from the rinsed tins into the highball glass until the egg whites crown over the top. Using a bar spoon, scoop the foam from the tins onto the top of the drink, stacking it above the rim. No garnish.

The Apparition

3 oz Purity Vodka
.75 oz Cucumber Water (infuse 2 cups diced cucumber in 4 cups of water overnight. Strain and keep chilled.)
.25 Black Pepper Water (infuse 20 black pepper kernels in 1 cup of water overnight. Strain and keep chilled.)

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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