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Premium & Superpremium Vodka: The Topic

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I'm working on a story about premium vodkas made in the United States and was wondering if anyone out there in the ether has any comments to make about them. Are American vodkas all pretty bottles and clever marketing slogans or is there really something to them - something that makes them stand tall with the premium European vodkas out there. Some Connecticut tipplers tell me they think these new USA vodkas are nothing more than a cynical attempt to cash in on the premium vodka vogue going on right now...Any thoughts???

In replying, "real" names would be helpful on this. If you don't want to broadcast your identity in this venue (although I don't know why not, people seem friendly), please feel free to contact me at my e-mail address, daley@courant.com

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Bill, I'm of the opinion that Teton Glacier Potato Vodka is legit.

http://www.glaciervodka.com/

As far as I know it's the only American vodka made from potatoes instead of grain. I have a strong preference for potato vodkas in general, and I think Teton is the best I've tried from anywhere in the world. I'm no vodka expert and I haven't done side-by-side blind tastings, but there are more than a few professional opinions that support mine.

Vodka ultimately is a pretty bland beverage -- that's sort of the whole point. I can't take people too seriously when they get all into it and demand that their mixed drinks will taste like crap if not made with Ketel One or some such nonsense. Grain vodkas are pretty neutral to begin with, and then they quintuple-filter the heck out of them until they really do taste like nothing (imagine a food where the point is to have as little taste as possible; that's basically the premise underlying the premium vodka market). The reason I like the potato vodkas is because they actually taste like something. Teton has definite herbal qualities, and it's also texturally pleasant when you drink it from the freezer. It really coats the tongue and has a luscious mouth feel.

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I love Martinis and have been drinking Vodka for over 20 years.  In College we spent all Sunday having "Country Club" drinking Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers.. but I digress.

I was in NY for Toy Fair several years ago and went to a snobby club and had my first martini with Belvedere Vodka.  The waitress (with nose in air) informed me it was the best Vodka in the world. So I order one and was suitably impressed.

However - I know think that Grey Goose is much better (and slightly cheaper!).  I would love to try other brands and want to hear what others think.  One of my best friends loves Ketel One - but it doesn't come close.  Ablsolut is terrible - unless you do Absolut Citron with Blue Curacoa - ala Blue Martini from Blue Water Cafe in Austin.  

Anxious to hear others opinions....

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Iceberg suits my unrefined palate at about half the price of Grey Goose. OK, I'm cheap.

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Here's a provocative quote from the great A.J. Liebling:

"The standard of perfection for vodka (no color, no taste, no smell) was expounded to me long ago by the then Estonian consul-general in New York, and it accounts perfectly for the drink's rising popularity with those who like their alcohol in conjunction with the reassuring tastes of infancy -- tomato juice, orange juice, chicken broth. It is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he is doing." _Between Meals_, pp.68-9

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In my humble opinion the best vodka in the world is Vox.  Crisp, clean, with no harsh front or aftertaste.  It simply tastes pure.

And by the way, I'm a puritan.  I drink it straight out of the freezer, neat.  Or occasionally with a twist, but never with ice or mixed.

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The standard of perfection for vodka (no color, no taste, no smell) was expounded to me long ago by the then Estonian consul-general in New York.....

I enjoy the fact that the quote was attributed to the consul general of Estonia.  In my brief experience with that country, it became clear to me that Estonians have a love affair with vodka like few others, and the manner in which they drink it aint for children.  Shot after shot until the bottle (or pitcher, or jug) is gone.  However, I also noted a rising appreciation for Jack Daniels, oddly enough.  I left one bar the proud owner of many counterfeit single dollar bills bearing the proud visage of Jack Daniel himself (in lieu of George).  

Anyway, I digress.  Estonia also introduced me to the only vodka I have ever cared for(I generally think of vodka as a vehicle for other flavors), "Russky Standart" .  I dont know if they sell it under that name in the States, or at all, but it was clearly the top, top shelf in Estonia, costing significantly more than Absolut and the like.  The flavor was crisp, clear and not harsh.  If you like your vodka straight, I strongly suggest it.  Dont know how it would go as a mixer.

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I second the preference for the Goose.  I've even come to like Grey Goose orange (GGO, soda and a twist - wonderful summer cocktail).  For martinis, nothing better than Goose from the freezer (extra dry and extra olives please!).

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First, John W. is 100% correct; Vodka should have no color taste or smell.  It is a clear neutral spirit that takes on the flavor of whatever you mix it with.

I find it impossible to tell the diff. between two premium brands or for that matter two economy brands.  I can only tell the diff. between a premium and a "well" or economy brand.  There is one economy brand that is as good as the premiums and was mentioned by Big Bear; Iceberg.  Iceberg came in second place in an international vodka tasting.  First place was Grey Goose.

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Grey Goose is my vodka of choice--I prefer it neat, out of the freezer, too---or if it's not chilled, STIRRED w/ice for a martini.

But, when with my Russian friends, I usually go with Stoli (and cranberry juice).

We do have a vodka distillery here in Texas: Tito's Handmade vodka,that's not too offensive.

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I like Goose and I like Stolli. But I keep my vodka in the freezer in a stainless steel decanter that Absolut put out around Xmas time two years ago. :raz:

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Thank you for all the Vodka posts!  I never checked last weekend for them and now I have great Vodka's to try.

I will definitely look for Tito's - being a fairly new Texan.  I also want to try Iceberg to save on some moula.

Has anyone been to the really cool bar in the Philadelphia airport that has different iced Vodka bottles all round the bar?  Is it still there?  Can't remember the name of it.

My husband and I had a really fun layover there several years ago and drank Bloody Mary's until we were silly and got on the plane to WV to see my parents.   Unfortunately when we arrived we were quite tipsy and had to go to a restaurant to eat lunch and sober up.  My parents were wondering what happened to us.... oh well.

Cindy G.

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Vodka should have no color taste or smell.  It is a clear neutral spirit that takes on the flavor of whatever you mix it with.  I find it impossible to tell the diff. between two premium brands or for that matter two economy brands.  I can only tell the diff. between a premium and a "well" or economy brand.  

It is true that vodka should have no color, taste or smell.  The difference is in the "mouthfeel."  The difference is in the "burn" and in the texture.  Some vodkas burn more than others, some feel thicker on the tongue, some are longer (like fine wines) etc.

Or so I am told -- I hate vodka.

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I'm not much of a vodka drinker but I do like the Polish brand Zytnia. Interestingly it breaks the rule that vodka should have no taste or smell as the tiny amount of fruit flavouring is definitely discernible if you drink it neat. Other Polish brands - Wyborowa for instance - I find a bit too heavy.

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I recently have acquired some really great vodka from a small producer in california called hangar one. They make a straight vodka and four flavored ones that are made from real fruit and not artificial flavorings. It really shows too. I purchased a bottle of the straight and a bottle of the kaffir lime. Both are really great and opened my eyes to the actual "taste" of vodka. I would highly reccomend them to anyone.

Another interesting vodka that I have only heard about is Ultimat vodka, they claim to be the best vodka in the world (like many others). I would be interested in trying them out for kicks though. Has anybody else tried this vodka?

Here are some links to info on them:

Ultimat Vodka

Hangar One Vodka

Enjoy!

Ben Schielke

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Christina!!!!!!!!! - Absolutley the best!

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Their are so many outstanding vodkas on the market now it's almost imposible to choose only one.

But for me it's Kettle-One,up with an olive or two

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I just tried a great vodka called VAN HOO. It's from Belgium, comes in a rectangular blue bottle.

Very smooth. About $23 a bottle. I use this in alot of my sauces. Best quality for the price.

VOX is also super clean and crisp.

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I like belvedere, will accept ketel one as its cheaper and very good.

Okay, I once bought a bottle of grey goose after it won that distinction of being #1... and found that it had a oily kind of... I don't know how to describe it except to say it tasted Grey! aftertaste. Does anyone else detect this with grey goose? Or did I just get a bad bottle?

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I drink Kettle One, but probably because it was the first "good" vodka that I tried. (Has anyone ever had Cossack, made in Somerville, MA.) I only drink it chilled with a twist, mostly because I don't like vermouth.

I've had Starya Moskova (?) and it's excellent.

I cringe when my friend orders a "dirty" Grey Goose martini. He's rich, but why ruin a good vodka with a splash of olive juice.

When I have a Bloody, I don't much care what vodka they use. It's the hot sauce and horse radish that makes the drink. (Anyone ever dash a little A-1 in a Bloody? Pretty good.)

However, I find rating vodka a little strange, considering that the ultimate goal for the spirit is that it have no taste.

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Bill Daley wrote a good article on this in the Hartford Courant in April. I know the article was good because at the end he quoted me, and I know my quote was good because now I see I agree with my man A.J.:

"Vodka ultimately is a pretty bland beverage -- that's the whole point," said Steven A. Shaw, a New York lawyer, food critic and writer who mans the Fat-Guy.com Web site and is a coordinator of the eGullet.com foodie Web site. "I can't take people too seriously when they get all into it and demand that their mixed drinks will taste (badly) if not made with Ketel One or some such nonsense.

"Imagine a food where the point is to have as little taste as possible; that's basically the premise underlying the premium vodka market," he said.

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As above. Premium brands are precisely that, brands.

Stolichnaya.

Zytnia.

Wyborowa.

On occasion Finlandia & even Smirnoff Blue (though not recently).

And don't even think about it if you're going to piss around with less than 1/2 a bottle, Lightweight.

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Did anybody mention that one from Idaho? Teton Glacier it's called. Great stuff. I won't drink a sex-on-the-beach without it.

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