The Return of Vodka
Friday, February 25, 2011 2 Comments
I’m a whiskey guy. Or a whisky guy. I guess it depends on what I’m drinking. I always have been and always will be.
As I get older, however, I’ll admit that I can’t pound down shots of well dive bar toilette water or Jack Daniels like I used to. My palate has become a little too sophisticated for that. Would you call me a booze snob? Yes. Or I’ve turned into a complete wuss. You be the judge.
Due to this recent development (a shameful one in the eyes of my closest friends), I’ve turned my attention to Vodka over the last year. Yes, Vodka. I know for most of you in your twenties, Vodka conjures up images of throwing up and crying late night while partying with friends in High school. It has the reputation for fueling hormones in the worst way possible and it’s safe to say that we’ve all had a bad experience with good ol’ Mr. V. As a consequence, many of us haven’t allowed it to touch or lips straight in many years.
Well, I’m here to declare that there is nothing to fear about it. And in fact, there is some damn good Vodka out there (none of which are called Smirnoff, Skyy, or Absolut).
The main inspiration for writing this review was to showcase a Vodka that I have been absolutely enamored by lately: Hangar One. I first had it with dinner at Metro Lafayette in Lafayette and I was completely blown away and have been in love ever since.
Hangar One is is a craft distillery located in Alameda, CA, which is local to most of us who read this blog (EAST BAY REPRESENT!) They started in 2001 with the aspiration to create great craft Vodka they could actually sell at a premium price. The word “craft” has been booming in the Bay Area lately, especially in the world of beer. Well, now you can insert spirits into that conversation.
Where do I begin with the awesomeness that is Hangar One? This is not the flavorless, odorless, rubbing alcohol that comes to mind when you think of Vodka. No, this stuff is so damn good I can drink it straight on the rocks. Hangar One has taken a unique approach to their Vodka as it is made by blending a more traditional wheat-crafted vodka with one made from Viognier grapes (the same used for wines in the Rhone region of southern France). Being someone who works in the wine industry, I think this is awesome.
Believe it or not, I’m sitting here at 10:30AM with a dram of Hangar One for the the purpose of describing it to you. Yes, it’s hard work but somebody has to do it.
On the nose, the Viognier really stands out and you get a subtle fruitiness that plays well with the alcohol. Like most high quality Vodka, Hangar One is beautifully clear and beckons you with an intensely refreshing gaze. Let’s take a sip.
On entry, it is smooth as silk. No harsh alcohol found here, but beautiful notes of raisin, caramel, and fresh spring water. There is a playfully peppery finish on the end of the palate. It’s a well rounded vodka with a medium to full bodied mouth-feel.
Seriously, go out and give this stuff a try if you get a chance. You can find it for $35 for a 750ml bottle usually. Although I always feel bad mixing something this good with anything else, it makes for an incredible Martini or Vodka Tonic (with a light squeeze of lemon).
OTHER VODKAS YOU NEED TO TRY
- Ketel One – Bold, crisp, refreshing, and always my go-to brand when I’m at a bar.
- Tito’s Handmade Vodka – A craft Vodka made in Texas of all places. It’s incredible and very affordable at just $20 a bottle.
- Chopin – Made in the traditional style from potatoes (it’s Polish, duh). I think it’s better than Grey Goose.
- Svedka – If you MUST get a cheaper Vodka, then pick this one over anything else in the $12.99 range. It’s five times distilled and makes for a quality mixer.
So what’s your poison? Do you have a Vodka or craft spirit to recommend? We’d love to hear about it!