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Bottoms up

On a warm summer evening in Delhi, we checked out some of the best flavoured vodkas you can order at five-star lounge bars in India, and survived to tell you the secrets we learnt.

Dhiman Chattopadhyay        Print Edition: June 15, 2008

Let’s get this straight first. This is not for those who only have their vodka straight out of the chiller, on the rocks—a la Vladimir Putin. Flavoured vodkas are in a different class altogether: not a drink for the hardworking Russian peasant but one for the well-heeled socialite and the suave executive.

There are over 50 different kinds of flavoured vodkas marketed worldwide and many more that creative bartenders concoct (we tried one such creation— the raisin vodka at Aura—the Vodka Bar at the Claridges in Delhi and it tasted as exotic as it looked). In India sadly, only very few brands like Absolut and Smirnoff sell flavoured vodkas. But in the best lounges and bars in the five stars, you can lay your hands on the very best in the world.

Use this ready reckoner to figure out the flavour of your choice.

1. Ginseng: Taste: Sweet; it stays on your palate for a while. The yellow colour may be a put-off, though. The German brand, Kamasutra, is one of the very few who makes this vodka.

Brand to buy: Kamasutra

Best had: After dark. Give us a break! You know when. Just go by the brand’s name.

2. Mint: Taste: Overwhelming flavour of mint. A powerful blend with a short aftertaste.

Brand to buy: Belvedere

Best had: In the evening. Make a Mojito with this one.

3. Pineapple: Taste: Very strong presence of vodka. Sweet aftertaste that stays a long time.

Brand to buy: Finlandia

Best had: On a hot afternoon. A summer cooler.

4. Orange: Taste: A little tangy on the mouth. A light vodka that gives you a slight burning sensation, nevertheless, if had on the rocks.

Brand to buy: Stolichnaya, Grey Goose

Best had: On a breezy evening, with soda or orange juice.

5. Peach: Taste: Strong fruity flavour

Brand to buy: Absolut

Best had: A day cocktail. Mix with tonic

6. Pepper: Taste: Spicy. A powerful aftertaste. A favourite with Indians, especially those who can hold their drinks with ease.

Brand to buy: Absolut

Best had: When it’s a little cooler. Not really ideal for summer.

7. Black Currant: Taste: A light vodka with a fruity aftertaste.

Brand to buy: Absolut

Best had: When in a mood to party. Anytime after dark. Avoid mixing with drinks like Red Bull.

8. Raspberry: Taste: Try this if you like the flavour of berries.

Brand to buy: Skyy, Absolut

Best had: At a social do, where you will probably sip one drink the entire evening.

9. Honey: Taste: This is more like a liqueur. Sweet with a long aftertaste

Brand to buy: Krupik

Best had: After a meal, over a chat

10. Korzenia: Taste: It’s a Polish herb. Very intense flavour.

Brand to buy: Polska

Best had: Neat, after a meal.

11. Cherry: Taste: Leaves a long aftertaste. A light vodka but one that has a distinct fruity, cherry flavour.

Brand to buy: Polska

Best had: After dinner while playing bridge or over a game of pool.

12. Vanilla: Taste: Easy on the palate, slightly sweet drink. A young man’s drink.

Brand to buy: Stolichnaya

Best had: Any time of the day

13. Mango: Taste: A summer drink if there ever was one. Leaves a tangy feeling in your mouth.

Brand to buy: Finlandia

Best had: On a warm afternoon. Try this while having a slice of mango.

14. Double Espresso: Taste: Strong and intense, this drink is not for the weak-hearted.

Brand to buy: Vincent Van Gogh

Best had: As a night cap. Before hitting the sack.

15. Chocolate: Taste: Sweet. Tastes, well obviously, like melted chocolate. Traditionally labelled a woman’s drink.

Brand to buy: Vincent Van Gogh

Best had: Mix it with a dash of Bailey’s or any coffee liqueur. Have as an aperitif or after dessert.

 The story behind the alcohol content

Vodka usually has an alcohol content of 35 to 50 per cent by volume. The classic Russian, Lithuanian and Polish vodkas are 40 per cent (80 per cent proof). This can be attributed to the Russian standards for vodka production introduced in 1894 by Czar Alexander III. According to the Vodka Museum in Moscow, Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, found the perfect percentage to be 38. However, since spirits in his time were taxed on their strength, the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation.

The vodka belt

Traditionally, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are known as the Vodka Belt, mainly because people in these countries tend to drink their vodka neat. But the net is now widening. The Big 8 today are undoubtedly Russia (which produces the largest volume of the white spirit), followed by Finland, Poland, the Netherlands, the US, France, Germany and Sweden.

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