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The Vodka Cringe

jhopp217 Jun 24, 2010 08:02 AM

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!

  1. l
    lowereastrittenhouse Jun 24, 2010 08:07 AM

    Some swear cheaper brands are more hangover inducing. I've never consumed enough vodka to do a scientific study of that claim.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lowereastrittenhouse
      jhopp217 Jun 24, 2010 10:02 AM

      I have done the research. It's not true, haha!

    2. r
      roro1831 Jun 24, 2010 10:42 AM

      Some people, I know a couple, are actually allergic to cheap booze.

      The others just want to pay more. If I'm mixing with cranberry juice or blood mary mix, I don't care.

      1 Reply
      1. re: roro1831
        jhopp217 Jun 24, 2010 12:43 PM

        That's almost comical, because it's the high end vodkas which have ingredients many are allergic to (celiac's disease in particular). I think it's more a status thing.

      2. a
        AlyshaB2005 Jun 25, 2010 08:44 AM

        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.

        1. WhatThePho Jun 27, 2010 12:13 AM

          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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: WhatThePho
            Oboegal Nov 26, 2010 11:08 AM

            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!

          2. ellaystingray Jun 27, 2010 04:28 PM


            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.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ellaystingray
              WhatThePho Jun 27, 2010 05:34 PM

              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.

            2. r
              Rick Jun 27, 2010 06:41 PM

              Maybe it's just me, but I can definitely tell the difference in a cosmopolitan if I'm using Tito's vs. Svedka for example. The Tito's drink is a whole lot smoother going down.

              21 Replies
              1. re: Rick
                invinotheresverde Jun 29, 2010 09:21 AM

                While I'm not saying you can't taste the difference, I'd be really surprised if you could (assuming the drinks were made the exact same way).

                I'm a sommelier/wine director with a super sensitive pallate and I doubt I'd be able to tell. The "flavor" of the vodka is being masked by orange liquer, lime juice and cranberry.

                1. re: invinotheresverde
                  Rick Jun 29, 2010 11:55 AM

                  Really? A drink made with cheap vodka goes down just as smooth for you as compared to one made with higher end vodka? I wouldn't say I notice a different taste, but it's definitely smoother. Maybe I'm confusing flavor withs smoothness?

                  1. re: Rick
                    WhatThePho Jun 29, 2010 01:27 PM

                    Me too, maybe. I don't really notice much real "taste" in any unflavored vodka. Would have to compare two of similar smoothness side by side to know for sure, I guess.

                    1. re: WhatThePho
                      ellaystingray Jun 29, 2010 07:25 PM

                      Rick and Pho and Invino,

                      Here is my take on this. The drink made with better vodka is not obviously more "vodka-y" not is it clear exactly which vodka might be in it. Moreover, I would also defy anyone to be able to pick the vodka in any given drink with multiple components. However, making a great drink, like making great food, is fully dependent on the ingredients used.

                      For Invino, I'll use the common wine based cooking analogy--if you wouldn't drink it you shouldn't use it in cooking. No one would ever say they could tell which wine was used in a Coq au Vin but using a better quality wine is always going to result in a better product, up to a point. And like with vodka, at higher price points there are diminishing returns. I'll put an even finer point on it. A Coq au Vin made with Gallo Heary Burgundy will taste okay but it won't taste as good as one made with a Bourgogne Rouge. It isn't because you can pick out the wine that was used (like you probably couldn't pick the vodka in a Bloody Mary by name) but it just somehow tastes a little bit better.

                      To me, this comes down to certain characteristics in vodka, namely heat. Like in wine production, certain choices in how you produce vodka can have an effect on how pronounced the alcohol is in the mouthfeel. When Pho and Rick talk about "smoothness," I think it is really alcoholic heat provided by the vodka. Other production factors determine "mixability,' which while a sorta squishy idea, represents how well a product tastes in the final outcome.

                      Again, drink what you like and keep drinking until you find something better.

                      1. re: ellaystingray
                        jhopp217 Jun 30, 2010 09:10 AM

                        So what does one use for Penne Vodka, JK!

                    2. re: Rick
                      invinotheresverde Jun 29, 2010 08:20 PM

                      One covered up by all those other ingredients? It sure does.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                        Rick Jun 30, 2010 09:06 AM

                        Interesting, I absolutely notice a difference when making a drink with cheap vodka vs. a good vodka. So basically all Vodka is the same then from you're saying?

                        1. re: Rick
                          jhopp217 Jun 30, 2010 09:13 AM

                          Rick, I know tons of people who have this same argument. I would guarantee if someone poured a cheaper vodka into a good vodka's bottle and served your mixed drink, you'd be none the wiser.

                          1. re: jhopp217
                            WhatThePho Jun 30, 2010 09:29 AM

                            Disagree. Maybe that's true of a premium and a super premium. But no WAY is that true of a rail vodka versus a Smirnoff or Absolut. It's just not!

                            1. re: WhatThePho
                              jhopp217 Jun 30, 2010 10:12 AM

                              So you can tell the difference between rail vodka and Absolut when someone mixes tonic or cranberry or grapefruit juice? I'm a vodka drinker and I can't.

                              1. re: jhopp217
                                WhatThePho Jun 30, 2010 07:19 PM

                                Yes! I can't imagine how much terrible vodka you could hide in a small glass of grapefruit juice and ice. Not too much, I would say. Maybe if it's less stout a drink? Or a better rail? Otherwise how could you miss the difference..?

                            2. re: jhopp217
                              Rick Jun 30, 2010 01:18 PM

                              All I can tell you is I've made vodka drinks with Finlandia Vodka (about around $20/bottle) and Svedka (about $13/bottle) and kind of a cringe just a little when they're going down, so they're not very "smooth.". The one's I make with Tito's ($20/bottle), go down very smooth with no cringe factor. So I'm not saying that I can notice a difference between something like Gray Goose and some bottom basement vodka. Between Vodkas of the nearly the same price range, I find some are definitely smoother going down than others.

                              1. re: Rick
                                jhopp217 Jul 1, 2010 07:38 AM

                                I find the whole argument about smoothness kind of funny, because in my opinion Grey Goose is about as harsh a vodka as there is. Especially when kept in the freezer. To me, I can't tell the difference between Grey Goose and rubbing alcohol. That being said, if I'm drinking vodka on the rocks, with club, or a martini, I like Ketel One, Titos, Stoli, Skyy and if the place doesn't have a good selection I'll settle on Absolut. Sure there are higher end Vodkas which are pricier, but I don't think there is too much difference.

                                1. re: jhopp217
                                  Rick Jul 1, 2010 08:01 AM

                                  You're the first person I've heard or read about to say Grey Goose isn't any good. I've tried it, I thought it was very good. More than I want to spend on a bottle, but good nonetheless. After trying four or five brands, I've settled on Titos. It's well priced, smooth, and American made.

                                  1. re: Rick
                                    jhopp217 Jul 1, 2010 11:04 AM

                                    And I find it odd that of all the people I know who drink Vodka, the only ones who like it are the ones who drinks vodka and cranberry or grapefruit, but they swear it's the best. How would they know?

                                    1. re: jhopp217
                                      Rick Jul 1, 2010 01:51 PM

                                      Obviously you have a far more sophisticated palette than they do.

                                  2. re: jhopp217
                                    JMF Nov 26, 2010 10:10 AM

                                    For those of us in the industry, we laugh at GG. It's mediocre. I get in so many arguments with GG fans. And I have done blind tastings numerous times and the GG ALWAYS places at the bottom of the list. It's all Sydney Franks marketing genius.

                              2. re: Rick
                                invinotheresverde Jun 30, 2010 09:37 AM

                                I don't think all vodka is the same, and there are certainly nuances to notice if it's served neat, but mixed in a cocktail like a Cosmo? They basically all taste the same.

                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                  MartiniGenie Nov 28, 2010 08:15 AM

                                  They may taste similar, but to those of us who are sensitive to the impurities in a minimally filtered vodka, the headache after only two cocktails will tell the truth. I don't care what the name brand is, if it is not filtered at least 5 times, it does not go in my shopping cart or glass.

                                  As to on the rocks, even the filtered vodkas have a different flavor to me. Rain is an organic vodka made in Tennessee - it has a distinct anise flavor, whereas Platinum 7x, made in Kentucky, has almost no flavor.

                                  1. re: MartiniGenie
                                    JMF Dec 9, 2010 12:15 PM

                                    The number of times distilled is basically marketing crap. The 5x or 7x is all theoretical. Unless the vodka is being made in a small artisanal distillery, The vodka is just passing once through the column. It's the number of plates in the column that determine the theoretical distillation. Some distillers say each plate is a distillation, other that each three plates count as a distillation, which technically may be more accurate.

                                    Also, all vodka is filtered, to remove flavor, to remove particulates, and chill filtered to remove oils and particulates that would form when ice and cold water are added to the spirit.

                                    Usually the vodkas that seem smoother than others, do so because of additives like sugar and glycerine. Or what type of still or distillation process. Some of the smoothest of the vodkas without additives, are so because they are actually less distilled, but with a cleaner cut of the heart saved.

                                    I am not a vodka lover, but due to my profession have to study it a bit. (As an aside, I was in a competition earlier this week where I had to blind taste five vodkas and name the brand. I won and got all five correct. Purity, Karlsson, Uluvka, Ketel One, and Belvedere. Except for the Purity, which I had tried a few hours earlier with only one tiny sip, I hadn't tasted any of the others within the past year. I impressed myself with my taste memory, for a product I don't even like.)

                                    1. re: JMF
                                      WhatThePho Dec 18, 2010 11:44 AM

                                      Very informative, thank you JMF. I've always wanted a better answer for customers who ask the question, "If the $10 vodka is distilled 7x, why isn't it as good as the $20 bottle that's only distilled 3x?"

                                      Not a vodka /lover/ but I use it to add a backbone to mixed drinks a lot, and so all I want is "smoothness" and lack of off-taste/aroma. Just had a vodka martini (don't judge) with rail vodka because I mistakenly assumed my bartender would continue to serve me Stoli products, and it was really terrible. Just erased any self-doubt I had about whether or not a regular schmuck like myself, and not just "vodka-snobs," could detect a difference. ^_^

                      2. Chinon00 Jun 29, 2010 08:40 PM

                        I just hate the fact that since the mid-nineties when one orders a "Martini" he or she will receive a vodka Martini by default. It's like selecting a Miles Davis Quintet tune and instead having Dave Koz come through your earphones.

                        24 Replies
                        1. re: Chinon00
                          The Professor Jul 1, 2010 09:18 PM

                          That always puzzles me as well. A Martini is made with gin. Period.

                          Make it with vodka if you must, but it sure ain't a Martini.

                          1. re: The Professor
                            jhopp217 Jul 2, 2010 06:27 AM

                            Isn't that a gimlet, Professor?

                            1. re: jhopp217
                              tommy Jul 2, 2010 07:39 AM


                              1. re: tommy
                                jhopp217 Jul 2, 2010 09:51 AM

                                Oops, I was thinking Gibson, but I'm wrong on both counts. I don't know too many people who don't call a vodka martini a martini and if you go to most places and ask for one without specifying which you want, you'll get a vodka martini

                                1. re: jhopp217
                                  tommy Jul 2, 2010 10:33 AM

                                  Yeah, the gibson has onions in it. Gimlet has lime juice. Both were traditionally made with gin, but as you say, and as everyone knows, vodka has become the de facto standard for martinis. I don't get too worked up over it. I always end up getting what I want, because I specify. Those who don't just want to be difficult, or haven't opened their eyes to the reality of what bartending has devolved to.

                                  1. re: tommy
                                    jhopp217 Jul 2, 2010 11:55 AM

                                    Well I can't drink GIn, so I'm happy with this de-evolution.

                                    1. re: jhopp217
                                      tommy Jul 2, 2010 12:28 PM

                                      To clarify, I'm not passing judgement on ones choice of vodka or gin. It was a statement more about how the 'martini' has been abused to the extent that they contain chocolate and passion fruit mix.

                                      1. re: tommy
                                        Chinon00 Jul 2, 2010 05:27 PM

                                        I had a girlfriend like ten years ago who was a fan of Martinis. I was and still am a devout beer and wine guy. However I'd try her martinis every now and again and never got it. She always raved about them though. One time however she ordered one and was very disappointed. Curious I gave it a try and enjoyed it. I found it much more interesting this time. So she asked the bartender what kind of vodka he'd used. He responded that he hadn't, he'd used gin.
                                        A good martini tickles the nose before and as you sip. The aroma is half the fun. Vodka does very little in that regard.

                                        1. re: Chinon00
                                          tommy Jul 2, 2010 08:24 PM

                                          To each his own. Plenty of people enjoy vodka, the aroma, the mouthfeel, the nuance of different brands, and that notion is supported in this thread. I'm not passing judgement, and it's my opinion that doing so doesn't advance the dialog, and advancing dialog is what discussion should be about.

                                          I should note that I don't enjoy martinis, with gin or with vodka, but I appreciate both spirits in other applications.

                                          1. re: tommy
                                            Chinon00 Jul 2, 2010 09:00 PM

                                            Could you describe the aroma of vodka?

                                            1. re: Chinon00
                                              tommy Jul 2, 2010 09:05 PM

                                              No, I can't. Others' whose opinions I respect, can. I don't care for vodka, other than in a few cocktails, and I haven't given it too much thought. If you'd like to discuss mouthfeel and aromas, feel free to comment on the others posts in this thread. I'll be here if you need me, being nonjudgemental.

                                        2. re: tommy
                                          MartiniGenie Nov 28, 2010 08:05 AM

                                          In my books, a Martini is made with gin or vodka with optional vermouth and garnished with choice of olive or lemon twist and served on the rocks or up. If it has chocolate and or passion fruit mix, it is a cocktail, not a martini. Calling a cocktail a Martini is a marketing gimmic.

                                          1. re: MartiniGenie
                                            Chinon00 Nov 28, 2010 04:09 PM

                                            What about a vodka martini makes it a good drink in your opinion?

                                            1. re: MartiniGenie
                                              The Professor Nov 28, 2010 08:26 PM

                                              Right...a marketing gimmick with those chocolate and other additions.
                                              But if you leave out the vermouth, or if you use vodka, THAT isn't a Martini either.

                                              1. re: MartiniGenie
                                                jgg13 Nov 29, 2010 09:30 AM

                                                "with optional vermouth"

                                                If you don't include the vermouth, you're just drinking gin or vodka, not a martini.

                                                1. re: jgg13
                                                  Chinon00 Nov 29, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                  About ten years ago I ordered a gin martini at a restaurant bar. I watched the guy make it w/ no vermouth. I pointed this out to him. He then grabs an atomizer apparently filled with vermouth and sprays it in the vicinity of the glass. WTF?

                                                  1. re: Chinon00
                                                    jgg13 Nov 29, 2010 12:57 PM

                                                    No one has been more responsible for the devastation of a drink than one Sir Winston Churchill.

                                                    I don't often drink martinis, but I do drink a lot of manhattans, which suffer from the same problem. The reactions I get at times telling the bartender I want a hell of a lot more vermouth than what they just put in are interesting.

                                                    1. re: jgg13
                                                      tommy Nov 29, 2010 01:05 PM

                                                      re: manhattans, not to mention bitters. "Oh, you want those?" is the usual response.

                                        3. re: jhopp217
                                          JMF Nov 26, 2010 10:11 AM

                                          The proper name for the cocktail that's presently called a vodka martini is, a Kangaroo.

                                      2. re: jhopp217
                                        slabbit Jul 4, 2010 02:36 PM

                                        Actually the original name for a vodka "Martini" was the Kangaroo Cocktail. I hope it comes back in vogue someday.

                                        1. re: slabbit
                                          EvergreenDan Jul 4, 2010 04:08 PM

                                          Thank you for that very interesting bit of info. The cocktail calls for a reasonable amount of vermouth:

                                          (preparing snarky remarks for my Vodkatini-loving friend....)

                                          1. re: slabbit
                                            jgg13 Jul 6, 2010 10:45 AM

                                            You just saved me a lot of googling, because I was going to say this and couldn't remember the name of the original drink :)

                                      3. re: Chinon00
                                        jgg13 Jul 6, 2010 10:44 AM

                                        I seem to always end up with "vodka up", not "vodka martini". Maybe if I'm lucky they'll spritz a little vermouth or something like that.

                                        1. re: jgg13
                                          The Professor Jul 6, 2010 03:07 PM

                                          If you leave out the vermouth, you don't have a "martini", you have a "shot". LOL

                                      4. ellaystingray Jul 1, 2010 08:43 PM

                                        Okay, since this has some legs, I'll jump in again.

                                        Please, please, please get a couple different vodkas and taste them side by side. Plain. If you can tell no discernable difference between them in terms of taste, mouthfeel (think viscosity and heat) and finish then you have the privilige of never having to order anything other than the cheapest vodka available. Not a bad thing.

                                        If you can tell a difference, then you might want to think about which one you put in a drink. Remember, this is a nuanced discussion of flavor, but it is a real one.

                                        Moreover, let's not forget how many variables are involved in this discussion. I've already discussed the production variables but how about now considering the precise barstool you occupy. What exactly is the well vodka? Is the cranberry (or whatever the mix) coming out of a gun? Is it coming out of a store-n-pour? Is it coming out of a small, individual serving size container? Is your bartender born in the 80's? 70's? 60's? 1939?
                                        What is the ratio of vodka to the rest of the ingredients?

                                        There are really two discussions here: 1. Can you taste the difference between any two vodkas in a cocktail that has other ingredients? 2. How much do you care which vodka you are drinking?

                                        Answer to question #1: Yes, you can. But that depends on the answer to number two.

                                        Answer to question #2: Only you can personally decide how much time and effort you want to spend on this project.

                                        If you spent a day with me tasting vodkas and different vodka cocktails I am confident I could show you that in the end, that the vodka you use has a role in the cocktail you get. But that is a lot of work and you may not want to spend that time, in which case, just freaking drink what feels best to you.

                                        And by the way, if you do want to spend a day doing that, message me and if you are in Southern California, I'll do it for free--as long as you bring the vodka.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ellaystingray
                                          Edward Tyson Nov 25, 2010 04:05 PM

                                          I drink my vodka with water and prefer Tito's. I will usually order a higher end vodka for a martini when dining out. I will order a Titos martini if it is available though it usually is not.

                                        2. MC Slim JB Nov 26, 2010 10:01 AM

                                          I think most super-premium vodkas are strictly for suckers. Many of them are diluting the same ADM ethanol from soybeans with water and spending all their money on packaging and marketing. There are exceptions, but as a rule, you are being sold an image, a brand affiliation more than a differentiated flavor profile. Eric Asimov's famous NY Times taste test speaks volumes: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/26/dining/26wine.html

                                          I think there's a qualitative difference between charcoal-filtered and the bottom-shelf brands -- that cheap stuff will hurt you the next day -- so I use Smirnoff as my cocktail default, and keep some Ketel One around for vodka drinkers who believe there's differentiation above the Smirnoff level. I also have a bottle of Karlsson's on my bar, which I drink neat or with a little ice, but that's more of a potato eau de vie than a proper vodka, and tastes it.


                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                            StriperGuy Nov 26, 2010 09:56 PM

                                            I just googled, do they make ethanol from soy? Not corn?

                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                              JMF Nov 27, 2010 03:31 AM

                                              They can make neutral spirits out of anything, although I haven't specifically heard of Soy neutral spirits. I have heard of neutral spirits made from all the basic grains, and sugarcane and sugar beet. In the US it's mostly corn. Around five years ago "3 vodka" was released, and they said it was the first time in history that soy was distilled. So I am assuming that soy isn't being used in common ethanol neutral spirits distillation.

                                              1. re: JMF
                                                StriperGuy Nov 27, 2010 03:44 AM

                                                You can make ethanol out of anything that has starch or sugar in it.

                                                In soy the carb to protein ratio is about 1 to 1. In corn it is more like 8 to 1.

                                                Thus, soy is a pretty poor choice if you want to make EtOH. Honestly just plain silly.

                                                Don't know what the carb concentration of soy is, but it doesn't seem like a great choice

                                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                                  MC Slim JB Nov 28, 2010 09:26 AM

                                                  Corn or soy, my point is that most of them use the same industrial ethanol from ADM. I picture it being backed up to the Trump or Crystal Skull or Jett or you-name-it $40/bottle vodka plant in giant tanker trucks.


                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                    StriperGuy Nov 28, 2010 11:18 AM

                                                    Yes, that is comes from a giant ADM plant for sure!!!!!

                                                    Part of a much larger food issue, but with corn subsidized by US tax dollars, whether it is corn fed beef, or cheap ethanol, ADM is probably involved, and VERY hard to compete wtih on cost.

                                            2. re: MC Slim JB
                                              JMF Nov 27, 2010 03:33 AM

                                              All the commercial vodkas, and most of the artisanal ones, are filtered through activated charcoal. This includes the bottom shelf ones even more than the premium ones. It's cheaper to charcoal filter, than do conservative distilling and throwing away all the heads and tails.

                                              1. re: JMF
                                                MC Slim JB Nov 28, 2010 09:21 AM

                                                Really: even Popov and Zhenka and their ilk? I can't believe I'm just imagining that these vodkas are more foul-tasting and harsher on the head the next day than the next rung up. I always chalked that up to a lack of charcoal filtering. What else would account for it?


                                                1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                  JMF Nov 29, 2010 09:05 AM

                                                  Charcoal filtering can only do so much. If you start with a cleaner product you get a cleaner product.

                                            3. m
                                              mojoeater Nov 28, 2010 09:38 PM

                                              Our favorite bar in a place we used to live switched their rail vodka and didn't tell anyone. I ordered a Vodka Chronic (vodka, cranberry and tonic) and couldn't drink it. To me it tasted like perfume. It turns out they were trying out a new vodka made with grapes as opposed to the usual Absolut. It was very obvious even with the juice. And not good.

                                              1. sunshine842 Nov 29, 2010 11:20 AM

                                                I was never a big fan of vodka - I liked Cape Cods well enough, and Cosmos, but usually ordered something else...and NEVER thought about drinking it straight up and ice cold.

                                                Then I met a friend from the Ukraine, who brings me gorgeous vodka from her homeland. She made us a fantastic Ukrainian dinner one night, and we drank vodka with the meal.

                                                Wow. Smooth as silk, and a real surprise that vodka can be INCREDIBLY good. Not a choke, grimace, or shudder in the bottle.

                                                40 Replies
                                                1. re: sunshine842
                                                  JMF Nov 30, 2010 05:12 AM

                                                  Almost any vodka that is ice cold from sitting in the freezer will be smooth. Some of the lower end brands that have a high glycerin content are actually smoother this way because the glycerin really becomes almost viscous. I'm not saying that the Ukrainian vodkas were bad. I have had some great ones. Just that ice cold vodka hides most of the negatives.

                                                  1. re: JMF
                                                    MandalayVA Nov 30, 2010 05:31 AM

                                                    Freezing any clear liquor--vodka, rum, gin--improves it. I hate gin (even the high end brands) but I can drink it out of the freezer.

                                                    Some co-workers and I were having the conversation about cheap vs. higher end vodkas and rums. It was a consensus that while you could very clearly tell the difference between vodkas, you really can't with rums. A friend of mine and I decided to do the comparison between Bacardi and Aristocrat (a fifth of Bacardi around here runs about $16, Aristocrat less than half that). We had another friend pour us shots and we did them straight. Both went down smoothly, no weird tastes, so maybe there's something to it.

                                                    1. re: MandalayVA
                                                      StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 07:05 AM

                                                      Uhhhhhh, wrong.

                                                      You've got it completely backward. Taste those vodkas blind and I promise you can't tell the difference between Smirnoff and say Grey Goose. If you can taste some very slight difference, I promise the really pricey vodkas won't come out on top:


                                                      With rums, you are talking crappy mainstream white or amber rums. Those are all bland and boring. However if you try some rums with real character, of which there are hundreds, I promise the difference between them is mindblowing. Start with oh say:
                                                      - Barrilito 3 Star
                                                      - Anything from Barbancourt
                                                      - Lemon Hart
                                                      - Old Monk
                                                      - Pyrat
                                                      - Brugal Anejo or Extra Anejo
                                                      - Goslings
                                                      - High end bottlings from Appleton Estate
                                                      etc. etc. etc.

                                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                                        ncyankee101 Dec 2, 2010 10:01 PM

                                                        Or if you want something REALLY different try Pusser's navy rum - the wooden pot stills give it a very unique taste. I have seen it described as tree sap - I would say butter and dark or even burnt brown sugar - but it is without a doubt the most interesting rum I have had. The 15 yr old is hard to find but is my favorite rum yet, and I always have a bottle of the blue label NAS in my cabinet.

                                                        1. re: ncyankee101
                                                          StriperGuy Dec 3, 2010 06:25 AM

                                                          Love Pussers myself. Never had the 15 year though.

                                                          Try Barrilito 3 Star if you've never had it... pretty amazing stuff from Puerto Rico.

                                                          1. re: StriperGuy
                                                            phantomdoc Dec 3, 2010 06:31 AM

                                                            Love the Barrilito 3 star. Nice note of vanilla.

                                                            1. re: phantomdoc
                                                              Duppie Dec 3, 2010 06:35 AM

                                                              Then you two would like Angostura's 1919 8 year old blended, like a dessert rum.

                                                            2. re: StriperGuy
                                                              ncyankee101 Dec 3, 2010 09:52 AM

                                                              I have heard of Barrilito but it doesn't seem to be the easiest to find - sounds interesting.

                                                              I do have a few unopened bottles of interesting ones to try, so my "favorite" might be changing soon. Seales 10 yo, El Dorado 15, Zaya and Zacapa 23 yr old. ( I've been working my way up through the bottles I brought back on vacation. )

                                                              Also - a very interesting light rum is Oronoco from Brazil. A little pricey but was on sale last month in NC for $25, usually $35. Made from first press cane juice, but not a cachaca because it is blended with molasses based rum. I've been told it is somewhat similar though I have never had a cachaca.

                                                              1. re: ncyankee101
                                                                StriperGuy Dec 3, 2010 10:23 AM

                                                                "First press cane juice" is a nonsensical marketing term.

                                                                They only press cane once period.

                                                                Basic cachaca is great. Lot's of it up here in Boston due to the large Brazilian community. You really taste the grassy flavor of the sugar cane. French caribbean Rhum Agricole is very similar.

                                                                Don't know why you would take a cane rum and then add molasses sort of defeats the purpose cause you would not taste any of the cane notes once the molasses has been added.

                                                                El Dorado, Zaya, and Zacapa are all pretty good stuff.

                                                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                  ncyankee101 Dec 3, 2010 10:50 AM

                                                                  All I know is the Oronoco has a far more distinctive flavor than any other white rum I have had.

                                                                  I would love to try some cachaca but there is none in this state, and PA (where I am heading in a couple weeks) seems to be clearing out their stocks of Seagrams Brazilian rum. I have had barbancourt 5 star and it shares some characteristics with the Oronoco.

                                                                  I've heard Seales isn't bad either. I've had Doorleys XO and was quite impressed, especially given the price - I paid $19 for a bottle. Their Foursquare is an excellent spiced rum I got in FL for $12, haven't been able to find it anywhere else.

                                                                  1. re: ncyankee101
                                                                    StriperGuy Dec 3, 2010 11:23 AM

                                                                    Hmmmm, I'll try the Orinoco if I see it.

                                                                  2. re: StriperGuy
                                                                    JMF Dec 3, 2010 11:51 AM

                                                                    Sorry, but that's not true. In the past, cane was pressed more than once, to get all the juice/sugars out. Nowadays most modern equipment doesn't need a second pressing. But if they are using older equipment, then a second press would be done.

                                                            3. re: StriperGuy
                                                              Rick Dec 3, 2010 09:42 AM

                                                              This NYT article seems to contradict all those posters saying all vodkas taste the same. If they're all the same, then how was Smirnoff the "hands down favorite?"

                                                              1. re: Rick
                                                                alanbarnes Dec 3, 2010 09:49 AM

                                                                "All these posters" aren't saying that all vodkas taste the same. What they've said is that cocktails taste the same regardless of what vodka they're made with. And that's demonstrably true.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                  Rick Dec 3, 2010 09:57 AM

                                                                  If you read down several posts below this one by Beevod, he says "vodka is vodka" and StiperGuy concurs . . .

                                                                  1. re: Rick
                                                                    alanbarnes Dec 3, 2010 10:22 AM

                                                                    Okay, you're right. I didn't read down far enough. Claims that vodkas are indistinguishable are demonstrably false. It's just when you mix them in cocktails that most folks can't tell the difference.

                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                      jgg13 Dec 3, 2010 10:51 AM

                                                                      There's also the claim that after a certain point (right around the 'smirnoff level') that most of these vodkas are indistinguishable for most people and that the largest difference in the price points is pure marketing.

                                                                      1. re: jgg13
                                                                        alanbarnes Dec 3, 2010 01:09 PM

                                                                        I agree completely that vodka prices are almost completely dependent on marketing. But there are subtle flavor differences at every price point. Most folks can distinguish between Chopin and Grey Goose served neat at room temperature.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                          jgg13 Dec 5, 2010 08:32 PM

                                                                          I'd agree w/ you. But could they pick out the 'better' vodka better than chance would predict? That's much fuzzier. Throw in the ice cold temps that are used and it gets even fuzzier.

                                                                          1. re: jgg13
                                                                            alanbarnes Dec 6, 2010 07:05 AM

                                                                            Well, if by "better" you mean "Grey Goose," then definitely not. It finishes near the bottom of every blind taste test. Sidney Frank is an evil genius.

                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                              StriperGuy Dec 6, 2010 07:19 AM

                                                                              Sidney Frank WAS a marketing genius (may he rest in peace).

                                                                              Not a bad guy from what I've read, but definitely a marketing genius. Before Grey Goose he got millions of imbeciles to pound shots of a bitter tasting concoction they didn't even like or appreciate; he singlehandedly popularized Jagermeister...

                                                                              My favorite quote: "People Want to Pay More!"


                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                                sunshine842 Dec 6, 2010 08:26 AM

                                                                                Ugh. Jaegermeister. Cough syrup at cocktail prices. (makes me shudder just to think about it)

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                  The Professor Dec 6, 2010 08:33 AM

                                                                                  I don't mind Jaegermeister so much though it is a bit too sweet for my tastes. For a bitter liqueur I much prefer UNICUM. Sadly, no longer available in the states...and sadder still, replaced by a rebranded sweeter version.

                                                                                  1. re: The Professor
                                                                                    TheDewster Dec 14, 2010 09:03 AM

                                                                                    available in Canada lcbo.

                                                                                  2. re: sunshine842
                                                                                    alanbarnes Dec 6, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                                                    Hey, it's a perfectly respectable digestif. Right up there with Averna, Fernet Branca, etc. Now why brain-dead college students would want to drink it by the quart is another question entirely...

                                                                                2. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                  jgg13 Dec 6, 2010 10:41 AM

                                                                                  Yeah, sorry ... that was exactly why better was in quotes though. Call it perceived quality vs. actual quality. To what extent can the average vodka drinker pick out the 'better' (as in perceived quality) vodka in a double blind better than chance? I'd wager good money that it is a *hell* of a lot closer to chance than those sorts would claim.

                                                                2. re: MandalayVA
                                                                  invinotheresverde Nov 30, 2010 09:00 AM

                                                                  Freezing alcohol does absolutely nothing to "improve" it. All it does is mask the flavor. If you don't like the flavor of something, why drink it?

                                                                  1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                    JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Dec 1, 2010 02:00 AM

                                                                    This is because you're comparing crummy rum to crummy rum. Bacardi commands its price on reputation alone; the product hasn't been nearly as good since the Bacardi family fled Cuba during the revolution. Try light rums made on other islands; Cruzan from the US Virgin Islands, and Appleton from Jamaica are both good choices. And if you are outside the US, then Havana Club is certainly a good way to go.

                                                                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                                                                      StriperGuy Dec 1, 2010 06:20 AM

                                                                      DonQ is also an excellent light rum / cocktail rum.

                                                                3. re: sunshine842
                                                                  sunshine842 Nov 30, 2010 06:26 AM

                                                                  wasn't frozen - we set it outside in a snowbank while we were making dinner -- so very cold, but not frozen.

                                                                  Even as it warmed in the room, it stayed very smooth and probably FAR too drinkable.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                                    StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 07:05 AM

                                                                    Noone actually freezes alcohol to the point that it is solid. That would be -173 degrees farenheit.

                                                                    If it is sitting in a snow bank, it is below the freezing point of water, which is what most people would consider "frozen."

                                                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                      sunshine842 Nov 30, 2010 08:26 AM

                                                                      not when it's only been there an hour or so.

                                                                      I understand that the freezing point of alcohol is lower than that of water

                                                                      But it wasn't at 32F/0C.

                                                                      (but thanks for assuming I never completed a high-school science class!)

                                                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                        Alcachofa Nov 30, 2010 08:36 AM

                                                                        I want to try this and my freezer is Kelvin. That's around 166 degrees K, right?

                                                                        1. re: Alcachofa
                                                                          pthaloearth Nov 30, 2010 09:21 AM

                                                                          K= [(°F-32) / (1.8)] + 273.15

                                                                          the literal freeing point of an alcohol will depend on it's ABV. Everclear freezing at about -110°C. Most others will freeze around -30°C to -40°C.

                                                                          1. re: pthaloearth
                                                                            StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 11:36 AM

                                                                            True, true. The -173 was for pure EtOH.

                                                                            That said even a home use deep freezer typically does not go as low as -30C.

                                                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                              pthaloearth Nov 30, 2010 11:49 AM

                                                                              the only easy way to do it at home would be to get liquid nitrogen. (As if that was easy.)

                                                                              1. re: pthaloearth
                                                                                StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 12:28 PM

                                                                                Nevermind serious danger if you put it in your mouth at that temp.

                                                                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                                  pthaloearth Nov 30, 2010 06:44 PM

                                                                                  actually it warms back up very quickly and acts much like a slushy, there's a few bars around doing it.

                                                                                  1. re: pthaloearth
                                                                                    MandalayVA Dec 1, 2010 03:12 AM

                                                                                    I've never had any sort of alcohol get rock hard or even slushy in the freezer. It's more syrupy.

                                                                                    1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                      pthaloearth Dec 1, 2010 04:24 AM

                                                                                      it won't in a standard freezer, I was meaning with liquid nitrogen, or special lab freezers made to go super low.

                                                                  2. b
                                                                    beevod Nov 30, 2010 06:31 AM

                                                                    Vodka is vodka. Only a chump pays $25.00 for a bottle. Give me Georgi any time.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: beevod
                                                                      sunshine842 Nov 30, 2010 08:26 AM

                                                                      so, you drink Budweiser because beer is beer, and Albertson's rum because rum is rum?

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842
                                                                        StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 08:38 AM

                                                                        beevod is totally correct with regard to vodka. Vodka is essentially colorless flavorless liquid. The rest is marketing. Try tasting your favorite $40 blind against say Smirnoff or even Popov, particularly frozen/chilled which kills almost all taste.

                                                                        For the second time today I will post a link to this NY Times article:


                                                                        Rum however, and many other spirits are a different story entirely.

                                                                        1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                          Duppie Nov 30, 2010 09:36 AM

                                                                          I agree, grew up on rum,even visited distilleries as middle school outings as a child and the variations on styles,aging,blends,distilling, even which crop of cane contribute to a vast range of rums and their nuances.

                                                                    2. alanbarnes Nov 30, 2010 03:00 PM

                                                                      For all those who insist that they can taste the difference between vodkas in cocktails (and I'm talking a Bloody Mary or a Greyhound, not a so-called Martini that's nothing but chilled vodka), I have three words:

                                                                      Blind. Taste. Test.

                                                                      Most people who order Grey Goose and tonic believe that they can taste the difference. Of course they believe that - if they didn't, they'd be fools to pay the premium. But it turns out they're wrong.

                                                                      It's not just that people can't pick their favorite out of a lineup, it's that they can't distinguish between cocktails made with different vodkas. And I'm not talking about Ketel One versus Absolut here, but stuff like Wolfschmidt, Monopolowa, and Smirnoff compared to premium or ultra-premium liquor. The difference when mixed with fruit juice and run through a cocktail shaker is subtle to the point of imperceptibility.

                                                                      Don't believe it? Try it yourself. Do a blind taste test. Better yet, make it a double-blind, where the person mixing the drinks doesn't know what vodka is being used. Mix up half a dozen identically measured cocktails - two with each of three different vodkas. Don't try to figure out which vodka is which, just try to match up the two drinks made with each vodka. Do this with a group, and see how many people get more than one pair right (hint - it won't be very many).

                                                                      Sure, you're more likely to impress the person standing next to you if you belly up to the bar and ask for a Belvedere Cosmopolitan. But the impression is purely based on conspicuous consumption. Be sure to put your Volvo keys on an Aston Martin fob and lay them next to your glass while you're at it. Or not - most people can tell the difference between an S40 and a DB10.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                        StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 04:45 PM


                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                          JMF Nov 30, 2010 07:02 PM

                                                                          I agree. But hey, what do I know. Oh, wait. I do this for a living.

                                                                          1. re: JMF
                                                                            Duppie Nov 30, 2010 07:16 PM

                                                                            All the more reason to perpetuate the myth,and in turn maximize profit....

                                                                          2. re: alanbarnes
                                                                            jgg13 Dec 1, 2010 07:25 AM

                                                                            I was going to say "four words", and add "double" to your blind taste test, but you covered that ;)

                                                                          3. b
                                                                            beevod Dec 1, 2010 06:35 AM

                                                                            I've had "blind" tastings using non- chilled Stoly, Grey Goose, Absolute, and Nikolai. My five "expert" friends were, to be charitable, embarassed by the results.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: beevod
                                                                              StriperGuy Dec 1, 2010 07:37 AM


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