The Vodka Cringe
Can someone please explain the whole brand name mixed drink phenomenon to me? What does it matter if you have Ketel One or Popov if you're drinking it with cranberry juice. Even sillier is when I hear Absolut Bloody Mary. Congrats, you just doubled the price of your drink to taste tabasco sauce!
There are two reasons for this. The first is that the company created the recipe in order to sell their brands. The second is that the recipe is made with the particular nuances of a single brand in mind. In the case of vodka, it is usually the first because vodka tastes vary very little between brands. But there are some alcohols, like bourbon, which can turn into a completely different drink depending on the brand. If you're not sure, try it once with the more expensive called-for brand, then again with a cheaper version and see if there is a difference in taste.
Bleh... you all don't even taste the harshness of cheaper vodkas? I mean Smirnoff, fine I doubt I could tell the difference in a Mary. I'm not suggesting you drown your Chopin in cranberry, either.
But what about rail vodka? In our area Phillips, UV, Karkov... It tastes.. BAD. Right? Rough. Even with tomato juice. Also, I gotta admit, I do prefer a nicer vodka in most things, because my mixers are usually in small amounts. Splash of sour, splash of cran, etc.
Oh, and this would be strictly my "going out" train of thought. I normally only have Svedka at home at any given time, so that takes the decision outta that.
Agreed. I did Darkeyes back in my college days. Now I won't go any lower than Smirnoff at home, and I drink Grey Goose or Ketel One when I'm out dining. If I'm doing a Bloody Mary, then I usually go to Absolut (Peppar if they have it), but will never go for the well stuff again. Yuck!
There are three points here: 1. Not all vodkas are created equal 2. Vodka price points are primarily a marketing function 3. It is your mouth, put in it what you want.
1. Vodka by (US) definition is to be a colorless, oderless neutral spirit without additives or "distinctive character." As long as the final product meets this criteria, it can legally be distilled from anything. There are no legal limits on how many time it can be distilled. You are also legally allowed to add small amounts of citric acid and sugar--don't ask me how those aren't additives, that is just the law. Also, it must not be distilled at more than 190 proof and cannot be bottled at less than 80 proof. SO, and sorry for the pedantry here, any discussion of impurities i.e. fusel oils, or congeners and their resutling hangovers must include discussion of the ingredient the vodka was made from, the proof at which it came off the still, the number of times it was distilled, the proof at which it is bottled and whether the producer choose to use any citric acid or suger in production and in what quantity. Once we know that, we have to remember that how each person reacts to impurities is different. AND, impurities are not the only thing that cause hangovers. I don't care how bad someones palette may be, if I lined up 10 vodkas, they could at least identify that they were different than each other.
If you don't believe that vodkas can at least be different in terms of production and outcome (I am not saying better than another one, just different) then there is no point in reading further.
If you do, then what vodka you use in a drink becomes important. Not just becuase you may have a reaction to one vodka and not another but when crafting the most delicious drink you can, some vodkas will work better than others. As will food, building a depth of flavor is often done with underlying notes that do not dominate the dish. In the case of the Bloody Mary, vodka is seasoning and like in the kitchen, Kosher salt is different than table salt. Note, I did not say better.
Personally, I believe that the least expensive vodkas do not make particularly awesome drinks. Moreover, I find the places using those particular vodkas don't make particularly awesome drinks in general. To your original post, and I love Tabasco, if a place is making a bloody that only tastes like Tabasco, there's your sign.
2. Let's be perfectly clear, the price point of any vodka is, predominately, a marketing function. Mostly. There are some vodkas that are condiserably more expensive to make than others based on the production decisions e.g. potatoes are more expensive than wheat and distilling 5 times is more expensive than distilling once etc.
While I do believe the least expensive vodkas make for worse drinks, once you get to a certain price point, there are definitely diminishing returns. This being said, which vodka you like and which one agress with you is a personal decision, or reality--you may not have a choice about what agrees with you. But the original post has some validity in that going above certain price points on a vodka becomes sort of silly.
3. Why does anyone else care how anyone else drinks or eats? Okay, ignore for the sake of this discussion sustainability, obesity or any other social concerns you may have about this topic in that sense but, just ask yourself why it matters what the person next to you orders. jhopp217 asks for an explanation of this phenomenon and here it is--we all consume differently. What we eat and drink and drive and wear and are all complicated decisions--I mean spectacularly complicated decisions. Eating and drinking are regularly very experience oriented and that has a lot to do with how much you enjoy something. The $12 Absolut Bloody Mary may taste a lot better to me than the $6 Popov version at the same bar becuase I get some pleasure out of knowing it is made with a premium product. The converse is true. Someone may think the Popov tastes better becuase they know they have saved $6. Sometimes it is just the situation that make things different. I don't crave a Popov Bloody Mary but if I am over at Megan Fox's house and that is all she has, I am sure they'll taste great.
I guess the point of all this is to drink until you find the thing that works for you.
Great post. Agree that different people will enjoy different vodkas in different drinks for different reasons... :) ..
However, and I can't speak for anyone else, I feel like these discussions are definitely food for thought. I wouldn't tell someone else they should order what I like or be wrong, of course. But even though taste is subjective, I will definitely remember this convo and things that were said here next time I order a martini.