All you ever wanted to know about vodka

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In a blind tasting of seven vodkas, turned out my overall favorite is Cîroc, which is grain-free and made from grapes. It's really crisp, clean and bright with citrus aromas and essence that make it a fine choice for making a drink like a Lemon Drop or a Cosmopolitan. 

None of this did I know before attending "The Original Modern Mixologist," Tony Abou-Ganim's excellent and informative vodka presentation and dinner this past Tuesday evening at the Summit at The Broadmoor

As an addition to our media previews of the new Ristorante del Lago and Natural Epicurean, we were treated to this event, where the master mixologist led us through the tasting for roughly an hour, before we all enjoyed a fantastic four-course meal (by chef de cuisine Mark Musial and his team) paired with three vodka cocktails (and one red wine). 

I'll share photos with dish and cocktail descriptions below, and certainly won't try to educate you here on everything we learned (which was quite a bit). Buy Abou-Ganim's book Vodka Distilled for everything you ever wanted to know about vodka, plus a bunch of his best recipes (three of which we had with dinner). 

You can read more about the mixologist at the above link to his website, but just knowing that Steve Wynn picked him to lead the Bellagio's bar program in Las Vegas in the late '90s says enough about his credentials. 

He did gift us a four-page cheat sheet that details vodka's history, production methods and a handy guide to tasting descriptors, which I will share with you here: 0364_001.pdf
That document did assist us through our blind tasting, where we learned tricks to determining such aspects as whether a vodka was made with winter wheat (note the salivary drip on the back sides of your tongue) as Absolut is, or maybe rye (observe the vegetal flavors and long finish) like Belvedere

Due to the 40-percent ABV nature of the spirit, testing the aromas is done with one's nose partly in the glass and inhaling through both the nose and mouth at the same time (as the alcohol vapors coming off the hooch will burn the nose alone, ruining one's abilities to pick out the subtle smells). People around you will make funny faces, and that's part of the fun, we learned. 

Anyway, personally, I've found a whole new appreciation for the spirit, much as I did when I drank scotch with a Scottish master distiller or sampled an abundance of bourbons with a local spirits expert

On to the photos:
"The Original Modern Mixologist" Tony Abou-Ganim. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • "The Original Modern Mixologist" Tony Abou-Ganim.

Not Seven Samurai, but seven spirits for the blind sipping. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Not Seven Samurai, but seven spirits for the blind sipping.
Four of our tasters: Stoli being a wheat/rye blend; Tito's being 100-percent corn; Belvedere 100-percent rye; and Grey Goose comprising fully of a wheat base. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Four of our tasters: Stoli being a wheat/rye blend; Tito's being 100-percent corn; Belvedere 100-percent rye; and Grey Goose comprising fully of a wheat base.
A brilliant chilled avocado soup with Maryland crab, chive oil and Crème fraîche. Paired with the Monkey Shine: Ketel One with Campari, Cointreau, lemon, and pink guava nectar. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A brilliant chilled avocado soup with Maryland crab, chive oil and Crème fraîche. Paired with the Monkey Shine: Ketel One with Campari, Cointreau, lemon, and pink guava nectar.
Abou-Ganim's The Wizard: Belvedere vodka with Cinzano Bianco, yellow Chartreuse and orange bitters. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Abou-Ganim's The Wizard: Belvedere vodka with Cinzano Bianco, yellow Chartreuse and orange bitters.

Pairing with The Wizard: Maine Dayboat scallops with Osetra caviar, English peas, pearl onions and jus. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pairing with The Wizard: Maine Dayboat scallops with Osetra caviar, English peas, pearl onions and jus.
With the wine course: Colorado lamb rack and sweetbreads with Oregon summer truffles, locally grown shallot scapes and white cheddar grits. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • With the wine course: Colorado lamb rack and sweetbreads with Oregon summer truffles, locally grown shallot scapes and white cheddar grits.
A pistachio gratin with raspberries, chocolate financier and raspberry-thyme sorbet. Paired with the Cocoa  Trios: Absolut vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate and egg white. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A pistachio gratin with raspberries, chocolate financier and raspberry-thyme sorbet. Paired with the Cocoa  Trios: Absolut vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate and egg white.

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