I’m not the biggest lover of vodka. Most of the time it’s masked by fruity mixers and cordials to create something that tastes more like childhood fruit punch than an adult beverage. I tend to the darker spirits like Scotch, bourbon and aged rum because I like a lot of different flavors in my booze. I like to get notes of wood, or spice, or vanilla caramel, and I don’t tend to get that sensation with vodka, light rum or gin, (though with some of the new, trendy gins I’m reassessing). And that brings me to my point: I like rye vodkas, just as I like rye whiskies, though the rye grain imparts different flavors in the two liquors. What I like is that I can discern a flavor beyond the burn of alcohol, even if charcoal-filtered for smoothness. If I am brutally honest, I have to admit that I like to smell my drinks. It comes from many years of wine tasting, but it’s what I like about Scotch, which has distinct terroirs like a wine and an Islay smells differently than a Speyside.
Recently I revisited a Polish rye vodka, Stanislav which touts its local premium rye grain and that the first distillation of five is in small copper stills, something that has made Texas’ Tito’s Vodka very popular. This manner of distillation gives a delicate smoothness to this “firewater” which is why so many vodka aficionados look for multiple distillations and filtrations. What’s neat about the Stanislav is that spicy, sweet note that rye brings to vodka. A surprisingly delicate nose of burnt marshmallow, banana peal and lime zest hit my nose as my palate gets a sweet spiciness from that 100% rye. The smooth characters on the palate are due to the five times distillation with the first being in small copper stills. This brings an elegance to this vodka that is reminiscent of Belvedere but at a third of the price. Like all vodka there is some heat on the finish, but it’s a mellow heat.
With a more flavorful vodka base I tend to make simpler cocktails, where those flavors can shine and are not masked with lots of sweet additives. A Vodka Tonic or a Vodka Soda would be my ideal cocktails with rye vodkas, and the Vodka Soda is calorie conscious as well. Since there are only a few ingredients, get a good tonic like the Fever Tree, since that will be a major flavor component. Use real citrus rather than juice from concentrate, and use the peel for extra flavor. For the Vodka Soda use the smaller size containers (10oz) of soda water with more carbonation and chill that vodka down in advance. Both of these drinks will let the flavors of the rye vodka sparkle. Cheers!
2 oz Rye Vodka
4 oz Fever Tree Tonic Water
2 Lime Wedges
Large ice cubes
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour rye vodka in and top with tonic water. Squeeze the lime wedges over the drink and drop into glass and gently stir.
2 oz Rye Vodka
Club Soda, for floater
1 Lemon, squeezed
Lemon Peel Strips
Large Ice Cubes
The real trick here is to use large ice cubes rather than shaved ice and to use real lemon to get more punch out of these very few ingredients. In a Collins glass add the rye vodka, fill with ice cubes, top with club soda and squeeze the juice of one lemon using either the wedge or some nice lemon peel strips to garnish.
Daniel Eddy, Wine & Spirits Sales Manager