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Vodka is tasteless going down, but it is memorable coming up.
August 21, 2011 6:50 PM   Subscribe

“When it came to hard liquor .  .  . Americans preferred bourbon whiskey. Vodka was still mysterious, a drink yet to be discovered.” The story of how a colorless, odorless, tasteless spirit became a billion-dollar business in less than fifty years. (SLWeeklyStandard)
posted by spitefulcrow (126 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just don't understand vodka. It's like boring gin.
posted by Buckt at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


I wouldn't call vodka "tasteless". It tastes slightly better than rubbing alcohol.
posted by shii at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The standard of perfection for vodka (no color, no taste, no smell) was expounded to me long ago by the then Estonian consul-general in New York, and it accounts perfectly for the drink’s rising popularity with those who like their alcohol in conjunction with the reassuring tastes of infancy—tomato juice, orange juice, chicken broth. It is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing.
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 PM on August 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Heh, I'm having a martini right now and it is magnificently free of vodka.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:02 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The screwdriver is the drink most likely to be available and least likely to be terrible in exceedingly cheap open-bar parties. For that alone, I'm fond of vodka.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:02 PM on August 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


It is not tasteless. It merely lacks flavor.
posted by graftole at 7:06 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know WTF else you'd sneak into your 7Up when you were way too young to be drinking.

Just saying.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:08 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although I have to say that this is the best defense I can imagine for a vodka martini: A proper martini should almost not be there, it should taste like an iced cloud.

He's wrong, of course, but there's something to be said for a drink that imperceptibly floats through your brain and leaves you a different person.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


What I find odd is postprohibition 1930's movies referring to it as a liqueur....it isn't sweet!
posted by brujita at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2011


I'm sorry, but a 7&7 or a Jack&Coke is the proper go-to at open bars.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]




...it accounts perfectly for the drink’s rising popularity with those who like their alcohol in conjunction with the reassuring tastes of infancy—tomato juice, orange juice, chicken broth.

Vodka and chicken broth?
posted by newpotato at 7:12 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


For all my bourbon love, I do like Vodka. It's cheap and easily infusible, so you can run little experiments - I once made a vodka that lasted exactly like a creamscile using vanilla, cinnamon and crystallized ginger.
posted by The Whelk at 7:13 PM on August 21, 2011


It's also not bad for cleaning mirrors and cooking surfaces, if you're in a pinch.
posted by corey flood at 7:18 PM on August 21, 2011


I want to like gin, but I got so drunk off it when I was 19 that I still can't even smell the stuff.
posted by sweetkid at 7:19 PM on August 21, 2011


Ha, I did the same with a bottle of Beefeater's in college. Couldn't go near a juniper bush for a year.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:22 PM on August 21, 2011


Now I want to dissolve a giant bag of Sour Patch Kids in a bottle of vodka. That's versatility.

Gin, however, is just Pine Drank.
posted by polywomp at 7:22 PM on August 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I want to like gin, but I got so drunk off it when I was 19 that I still can't even smell the stuff.


I haven't been able to drink tequila since an ill-fated open bar when I was 19 at a goth club in DC where I was basically getting tequila sun-rises and going to the back of the line for refills as soon as I got them.

It's 15 years since then and the smell still makes me nauseous.
posted by empath at 7:23 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think everyone has one drink like that. Mine was the screwdriver, actually, so it's not such a "reassuring taste" in my book after all.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:23 PM on August 21, 2011


I had a similar experience at 19 with Southern Comfort. 20+ years later and the small still causes me to gag.
posted by COD at 7:23 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


For me, tequila = hanging from the rafters by the knees while "My Aim is True" played over and over at top volume. Equal parts pain and joy from that night.

Vodka has absolutely no allure I'm afraid.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:27 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


19 was a great year eh?
posted by sweetkid at 7:28 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now I want to dissolve a giant bag of Sour Patch Kids in a bottle of vodka. That's versatility.

I just made a batch of "hot shot" vodka with cinnamon Jolly Ranchers.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:28 PM on August 21, 2011


For me it was red wine. I woke up the next day covered in vomit to my driving instructor ringing the doorbell. The day I got my license, oddly enough.
posted by mannequito at 7:32 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't know vodka and chicken broth was a good idea for a drink, but now I need to experiment with adding alcohol to soup. Too bad I don't like making soup.

Also, here's my "why I am not fond of gin" story: as restless_nomad pointed out, "The screwdriver is the drink most likely to be available and least likely to be terrible in exceedingly cheap open-bar parties." As someone who went to such parties in college, I ordered a lot of screwdrivers. At one such party they had forgotten to buy vodka, but whoever was tending bar liked me, so they made me screwdrivers with gin. And they explicitly made up to me for the fact that they didn't have vodka by using about twice as much gin as they probably should have.

Since my mathematical abilities only extend to counting, I was counting how many drinks I was having, but was not realizing that these were stronger drinks than I was used to. So I didn't realize how drunk I was until I got back to my room and threw up. And since I'd been snacking on baby carrots before going to the party, my vomit was bright orange.

After that I didn't drink gin for another seven years or so. Actually, it was Pimm's, which is not gin but is based on gin. I'd like to thank metafilter for this, as it was a mefite who had a picnic who gave it to me. Apparently it's not gin that makes me throw up, but large amounts of alcohol.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:32 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I just don't understand vodka. It's like boring gin.

Like Christmas without a pine tree salad.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:33 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


va-kuh/good
posted by clavdivs at 7:33 PM on August 21, 2011


I just made a batch of "hot shot" vodka with cinnamon Jolly Ranchers.

Ooh, I could really go for that. I have occasionally mixed vodka with Frank's Redhot. It was not as good as I had hoped.
posted by polywomp at 7:34 PM on August 21, 2011


You guys saying that vodka 'lacks flavour' or is 'tasteless' are just drinking the wrong vodka, or drinking it wrong.
Ice-cold Stolichnaya for example is delicious. It certainly does have flavour, and a lovely viscous consistency.
posted by Flashman at 7:34 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hangar One meet-up, Bayareans?
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:36 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]



You guys saying that vodka 'lacks flavour' or is 'tasteless' are just drinking the wrong vodka, or drinking it wrong.


No. The point of vodka is generally to be as flavorless as possible. More expensive vodkas are usually just filtered more.

Not a vodka fan. I'm of the opinion that most vodka based drinks can be made better with gin.
posted by WhitenoisE at 7:41 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka and chicken broth?

I recovered from having my wisdom teeth out by drinking bourbon and home made chicken broth.

It's better than you think. Rich, boozy, satisfying.

There are at least a few old cocktail recipes that require broth of some kind - I saw them in one of those giant books o' cocktails.
posted by device55 at 7:42 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I recovered from having my wisdom teeth out by drinking bourbon and home made chicken broth.

I've been sick today and this sounds amazing.
posted by sweetkid at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2011


Add a squeeze of lemon to fight the scurvy.
posted by device55 at 7:47 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hard alcohol itself seems to taste like burning unless I'm really drunk so if you don't count the alcohol then Vodka is flavorless.
posted by dibblda at 7:56 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka and chicken broth?

This is hilarious. I was just at a bar having a conversation about vodka and chicken broth. I happily chimed in calling it a Dirty Rooster.
posted by Octoparrot at 7:57 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


No. The point of vodka is generally to be as flavorless as possible. More expensive vodkas are usually just filtered more.

Depends on the vodka. It was not originally a flavorless neurtral spirit -- that's just the way Americans prefer it because we apparently all overinduldged on some liquor with flavor when we were teenagers ans can't get over it.

A lot of Eastern European vodkas have flavor, and are meant to be drunk as a shot.

I do appreciate the fact that Americans have realized they have accidentally favored a liquor that isn't especially flavorful, and so have taken to making all sorts of flavored vodkas, accidentally reiventing schnappes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:58 PM on August 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


The New York Times wine critic seems quite embarrassed.

Smirnoff also won our blind taste test Vodka party, pretty much hands down.
posted by Brian B. at 8:00 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka and beef broth reduction is a "Bullshot"
posted by deadmessenger at 8:03 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a sharp-edged memory of (at my 19th birthday party) inventing the 'Russian Roulette': a small tray with six shots, five of vodka and one of straight gin, to be passed around and enjoyed as a group.

That is the last memory I have of the evening. Or for that matter much of the morning after.

"I'm of the opinion that most vodka based drinks can be made better with gin."

You are basically correct, but you went wrong at 'vodka-based drinks'. Vodka ideally is a drink in itself. Ice-cold shots of Stoli, with yummy bite-sized food in quantity: said ideal. Or, you know, room-temperature slugs from a bottle of Prince Igor and Cheetos.
posted by sixswitch at 8:03 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a girl drink...tastes like candy!
posted by gimonca at 8:06 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


The drink that popularized vodka in America, the Moscow Mule.
posted by Brian B. at 8:09 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka ideally is a drink in itself. Ice-cold shots of Stoli, with yummy bite-sized food in quantity: said ideal

Vodka is like alcoholic salt. It makes other things taste like more like themselves.

So as you describe - a shot of vodka with foods make the foods make the food taste more like the food. This is also why vodka works so well in drinks like Bloody Marys and Lemon drops. It makes the tomato more tomato-y and the lemon more lemony.

Vodka makes a shit martini though.
posted by device55 at 8:10 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


A glass of cold vodka, a glass of cold gin, and a glass of room temperature scotch: these are my favorite drinks in the world. I can't really imagine taking seriously anyone who told me I liked the wrong drinks, or that the drinks I like are somehow inferior to other drinks. I mean I really stinking like them a lot.
posted by jwhite1979 at 8:11 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vodka and beef broth reduction is a "Bullshot"

The Steaming Bull is a tequila and beef bouillon drink that makes my vegetarian skin crawl. It sounded so terrible that we nicknamed the worst bar in town after it when they stiffed us on an all-you-can-drink-for-seven-dollars-what-are-you-kidding special.
posted by chinesefood at 8:14 PM on August 21, 2011


ONE TEQUILA TWO TEQUILA THREE TEQUILA FLOOR!

Damn.. wrong hard alcohol.

N'thing restless nomad. Pretty much the open bar go to.
posted by cavalier at 8:15 PM on August 21, 2011


Just thinking the word gin makes me want to vomit copiously out my nose and into a hedge.
posted by elizardbits at 8:17 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


there are two people in the world, people who can drink tequila and people who are instantly transported to being duct taped to an office chair rolling down a hill in Poughkeepsie, NY at 4am.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 PM on August 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


there are two people in the world, people who can drink tequila and people who are instantly transported to being duct taped to an office chair rolling down a hill in Poughkeepsie, NY at 4am.

Okay. The full story. Now.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:27 PM on August 21, 2011


there are two people in the world

This reminds me of the joke my brother's Arabic teacher would tell when talking about the Taliban. In Dari "taliban" means students, but in Arabic it means two students, so my brother's professor would say, "You know, the Taliban, those two guys who are making so much trouble in Afghanistan."

I guess you had to be there. On the plus side the Taliban would hate being dragged into a vodka thread.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:27 PM on August 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


And the credit for that non sequitur goes to gin!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:28 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, my favorite vodka story is when my parents, my brother, and I played spades after ordering pizza on Thanksgiving because we didn’t feel like doing the whole turkey thing. The rule was one shot of Ketel One per bag taken.





Mom, long known as “the bag queen” when playing spades, fell off the couch after four hands.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:29 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


My boozey Waterloo was grappa. I guess it could have been the rum and brandy and eau de vie that preceded it (maybe it was the hash?), but the grappa came last so it bears the brunt of the blame. For three days afterward I wished I were dead.

(Vodka is useful and I have had some tasty ones, so I'm glad it's around. Also, sometimes a summer day requires a vodka tonic rather than a g&t.)
posted by rtha at 8:29 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka is not tasteless. (Seconding 'slightly better than rubbing alcohol.') The people who drink it. however...
posted by Sys Rq at 8:35 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If vodka didn't have a taste I would be reminded of all the enormous vomiting sessions I've had subsequent to drinking too much vodka every time I have another drink of vodka. I've yet to knock down a shot of Smirnoff and go "Ah, what am I doing with this glass in my hand? What happened?" No, instead I go "Oh yes, that reminds me of the time I ruined the curtains and was crying in a shed for a whole weekend."
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:53 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, other times I go "Ah yes, this reminds me of the time I sanitized my hands."
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:54 PM on August 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Oh. There is one outsanding use for vodka. Replace half the ice water in your pie-dough recipe with vodka and your crust will be much more tender, because the liquid is there to make the dough workable, but the alcohol component evaporates leaving the desired low-moisture content during cooking. Kudos to a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated for that tip.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:58 PM on August 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Okay. The full story. Now.

Story implies that linear narrative had anything to do with what happened. As far as I am concerned it is merely a series of a sense memories starting with OH HEY CONGRATS ON YOU MOVING TO JAPAN and ending with TURN YOUR WEIGHT TOWARD THE SIDEWALK! THE SIDEWALK! OH GOD IS THAT A LEXUS
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 PM on August 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


You guys talk funny. It's pronounced "Vodker."
posted by ColdChef at 9:07 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tito's is a nice vodka to drink on the rocks. The diacetyl gives it a nice buttery flavor.
So . . . not exactly flavorless.
But I definitely prefer my liquors brown. Or greenish brown.
posted by Seamus at 9:25 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Must we break out the old routine?

Beer drunk is wandering the streets trying find the most deep fried thing you can shove into your mouth
Gin drunk is throwing up in an alley with someone you don't know very well
Whiskey drunk is singing or fighting or both
Wine drunk is saying let's all hunt dunks! In Kansas! We don't need guns! I'll drive.
Vodka drunk is sitting on the stairs wipth your mascara running going " why doesn't anyone like me?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 PM on August 21, 2011 [25 favorites]


I had a similar experience at 19 with Southern Comfort. 20+ years later and the smell still causes me to gag.

Hell, I've never been drunk on Southern Comfort, and I do the exact same thing. That stuff is vile. Just gross. It's like cough syrup, but about five times more repulsive.

Of course, I'm one of the people for whom cilantro tastes like soap, so maybe I don't taste what everyone else does. But I can't imagine drinking that stuff voluntarily.
posted by Malor at 9:30 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka drunk is sitting on the stairs wipth your mascara running going " why doesn't anyone like me?"

tequila drunk is throwing up in the bushes having an imaginary conversation with a very real seeming beethoven - or at least that's what i saw happen to a friend of mine, many years ago

there's something about that stuff that encourages hallucinations, although i've never experienced them on alcohol

that's what acid is for anyway, right?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:35 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vodka is boring - it's supposed to be. It's basically industrial grain alcohol that's been charcoal filtered X-number of times. Basically any fifth of vodka in the 8-30 dollar range is the same thing. Some of the really pricier ones like Stoli, Skyy or Absolut are basically the same as ten dollar bottle of Gordon's or something.

You can safely buy cheap vodka and filter it yourself in a charcoal water filter. I've seen people do it. If you give it enough passes a $4 bottom of the line possibly distilled from phonebooks wino hooch becomes equal to a $20 bottle known label.

Now, small batch stuff like Tito's or Crater Lake or even true potato vodkas like Monopolowa have some flavor. Grain in the case of Tito's and, well, potato for the potatoes.

But as others have pointed out boring has no flavor, and readily accepts many different kinds of flavors from sweet to salty to savory and even spicy.

But one of the reasons why vodka has become popular isn't just this lack of flavor and easy mixing, but the lack of congeners.

In distillation congeners are technically impurities in the distillation. This is what gives whiskey it's primary flavor, or rum, or tequila.

But it's also part of what gives people a raging hangover when drinking various distilled alcohols. It's the part of gin that makes a man mean, tripped out on absinthe, mellow on scotch, aggro on tequila.

So. Vodka is cheap. Mixes with nearly anything. Leaves you with less of a hangover if you drink enough water yet neatly fulfills the goal of inebriation.
posted by loquacious at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


The first time I had vodka (Grey Goose?) was at a blogging conference, the night before I was to fly home. I got through two large drinks with cranberry juice (I think) then went to the bathroom and realized that what was leaving my body was still mostly vodka, Jesus, ow, and that I had basically gone straight from sober to hungover with very little Yay Happy Drunk in between. I didn't even know you could do that.

I stayed that way all the flight home next day too. Thankfully we were flying on one of those puddlejumper airlines that was about to go out of business so there were extra seats to sprawl on and no waiting for the can.

Still doesn't beat the 2-day hangover I got from drinking mudslides though. Fucking sugary drinks.
posted by emjaybee at 9:37 PM on August 21, 2011


oh, and i had a bad experience with red wine - just seems to make me sick long before beer or liquor will

of course it's been 25 years since i drank enough to make me throw up - you learn ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


We used to run Smirnoff's through a Brita water filter to make it better. Mythbusters claims it doesn't work, but reading their notes it's clear it does improve the taste, just not enough to make it a top brand. Their advice is just to buy a top brand instead of using the filter - obviously they've never been 21 and broke.
posted by winna at 9:39 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell, I've never been drunk on Southern Comfort, and I do the exact same thing. That stuff is vile. Just gross. It's like cough syrup, but about five times more repulsive.

I was in New Orleans and waiting for someone and I see a bottle of Jim Bean red strag cherry bourbon and I m like, I like bourbon! I should they that!

Reader, I should have taken the sad, dejected look of the barman as warning, for the liquid I did lift up high to my everlasting mouth was, in fact, the closest approximation of cherry cough syrup I have ever seen outside of a pediatric ward.
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Some of the really pricier ones like Stoli, Skyy or Absolut are basically the same as ten dollar bottle of Gordon's or something.

If it's called Gordon's I'd just as soon it were gin, old boy.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:44 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


obviously they've never been 21 and broke.

someone i work with was 14 and broke - but he knew someone in the navy who taught him a simple trick

you buy a bottle of listerine and a loaf of french bread and cut the ends off the bread - you pour the listerine into one end of the french bread and drink what comes out of the other end

if you're 14 and broke, that is - or in the navy on a ship where you can't get real booze

never tried it and never will
posted by pyramid termite at 9:44 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


For god sakes I was sixteen and trying to make applejack and I wouldn't have put in listerine. The gods what?
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 PM on August 21, 2011


Vodka's great for making infusions and liqueurs. (current favorite: Ceylon cinnamon liqueur + nigori sake. (1:4 ratio) I call that a Horchata-Plus)

Otherwise, yeah, why not use gin or whiskey or rum or tequila or something.
posted by aubilenon at 9:59 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I might occasionally drink good booze but mostly I prefer what I drink to taste like some kind of candy. I had a pretty good sweet and sour yesterday that tasted exactly like sour patch kids, I think it was with some kind of Stoli flavor. I'm comfortable with this in the same way that I am comfortable with listening to Something Corporate and watching bad anime and reading young adult novels and developing emotional attachments to characters in JRPGs and Bioware games. It's just not worth being ashamed of having bad taste when having bad taste is super fun.
posted by NoraReed at 10:05 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thirty years ago most people weren’t ordering vodkas by name, let alone brand-specific concoctions such as a Grey Goose Cosmo or, as a friend of mine unashamedly orders, Stoli Raz and Sprite.

I think this might be the line that explains the whole story. Postmodern, supposedly upmarket vodkas would seem to bestow upon their imbibers what they believe to be a sort of connoisseurship that hides the shame of not liking the taste of booze. Because if you are drinking "Stoli Raz and Sprite" - and ordering it with a gourmand's specificity - because you believe it to have a certain je ne sais quoi that distinguishes it from a Smirnoff Razzamatastic Cooler or whatever the fuck is eight bucks a six pack at the crappiest Liquor Barn in town, I'm flinging my next empty bottle of armagnac in your general direction.

Note to self: replenish armagnac supply.
posted by gompa at 10:21 PM on August 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I worked in three different liquor stores during my university years. You didn't hear it all the time, but occasionally some cheery bogan about to go on a hot date would come in wanting a bottle of "leg opener."

Luck girl.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:52 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My son makes artisenal vodka--Single Silo vodka at Project V distillery in Woodinville, Washington. You Seattle hipsters get your asses over there. The vodka is a delicious sipping liquor. Straight and at room temperature it is full of grassy, wheaty flavors and sweet notes. It is the opposite of flavorless.
posted by LarryC at 10:52 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


LarryC: tell him to get in touch with Andrew at Liberty, on 15th Ave. They carry Ebb & Flow, DryFly, a few other local liquors, and I'm sure they'd be interested in seeing what he had to offer. Also, they are my favorite bar.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:08 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I quite enjoy Wyborowa, actually. Straight from the freezer. I dunno what you guys are talking about with the "flavorless" business though. That sounds like something the sort to completely saturate sushi in soy sauce and wasabi would say. Subtlety, America!
posted by Hoopo at 11:12 PM on August 21, 2011



So. Vodka is cheap. Mixes with nearly anything. Leaves you with less of a hangover if you drink enough water yet neatly fulfills the goal of inebriation.


I use it to make deodorant.


And unwise decisions.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:14 PM on August 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Zakuski, motherfuckers. You are welcome.
posted by everichon at 11:21 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, rum and coke. I shall never drink you again.

18, Mardi Gras, still hungover from the night before, and it wasn't even noon when we started on the rum and cokes. Good times.
posted by 6550 at 11:25 PM on August 21, 2011


loquacious: "You can safely buy cheap vodka and filter it yourself in a charcoal water filter. I've seen people do it. If you give it enough passes a $4 bottom of the line possibly distilled from phonebooks wino hooch becomes equal to a $20 bottle known label."

See, I'd heard this very thing. So one afternoon – possibly after having had a beer or two – I told my friends we were going to "bring the damned science!" and try it for ourselves. Target gave us the necessary charcoal water filter, and the local liquor store was more than happy to sell us a bunch of bottles of $6 to $25 dollar vodka.

And we filtered. As we filtered, we drank. One filter, two filter, three filter, four filter, five filter, six filter! Six was our first milestone. At that point, blind taste test to people not involved in the filtering.

Verdict? The store-bought charcoal water filter story was bullshit. People could pick the cheap vodka from the smell, let alone the taste.

No worries, we were young and stupid and had time to kill. Keep filtering! We spent the rest of the night filtering and then sampling, and it never got better. I don't know if we didn't buy the right sort of Brita charcoal water filter or what, but the bad medicinal-tasting vodka was still clearly the bad medicinal vodka even after many times through the filter.

Love to know what we screwed up on that one. Needless to say, I stick to buying Stoli rather than trying to filter it myself.
posted by barnacles at 11:30 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also I found it odd that the article focuses so much on America since to my knowledge vodka is not an American drink. You'd think they'd look into some background on say Russian or Polish vodkas instead of just interviewing some Know-it-all bartender.

Also that crystal skull vodka is as good as the movie was. I was pleasantly surprised by Grey Goose though, because the high douche factor of it had lowered my expectations. But it's pretty damned mild so maybe it fits with what they're talking about here.
posted by Hoopo at 11:47 PM on August 21, 2011


I don't get vodka, and my father considers me a disappointment because my whiskey taste is more american than scottish, but can i make a solid argument for rye?
posted by PinkMoose at 12:17 AM on August 22, 2011


Mars Saxman: What's the Dry Fly vodka like? I've tried their gin and found it seriously weird and not very drinkable. Whiskey and salt are not flavours I like in my gin, but maybe they'd have been better without the juniper.
posted by DRMacIver at 12:57 AM on August 22, 2011


winna: "Their advice is just to buy a top brand instead of using the filter - obviously they've never been 21 and broke."

The retail price of a Brita filter is $10 ea. Unless you're stealing them, it makes zero sense to filter cheap vodka, even just on price alone. Plus it's guaranteed you'll do a shitty job (as pointed out by barnacles), and exhaust the filter on a single bottle. I don't know how people got it into their heads that using a filter meant for tap water could possibly be more efficient or cost effective than whatever processes they have set up at an industrial distillery. If you spend just $5 more, instead of a $13 1.75L(!) of Popov you can get the same amount of Smirnoff. You know, the stuff that won the 2005 NYTimes taste test.
posted by danny the boy at 2:38 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "A lot of Eastern European vodkas have flavor, and are meant to be drunk as a shot."

You're saying that this liquor, with all its awesome flavor, is meant to be drunk as quickly as possible in order to... taste all that flavor?
posted by danny the boy at 2:48 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I highly recommend vodka flavored with buffalo grass - zubrowka. It has a refreshing herbal quality that's very pleasant. Drink it chilled.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Vodka became huge thanks to endless hordes of sorority girls looking to get hammered, but without any of that nasty alcohol taste.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:25 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: "I highly recommend vodka flavored with buffalo grass - zubrowka. It has a refreshing herbal quality that's very pleasant. Drink it chilled"

Yes, absolutely! That stuff is wonderful. I can never repay my debt to the Polish Club in Canberra for introducing me to it.
posted by barnacles at 4:25 AM on August 22, 2011


I'm comfortable with this in the same way that I am comfortable with listening to Something Corporate and watching bad anime and reading young adult novels and developing emotional attachments to characters in JRPGs and Bioware games. It's just not worth being ashamed of having bad taste when having bad taste is super fun.

I like you, NoraReed.
posted by newpotato at 4:39 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem with Vodka is that there are no good drinking songs about it. Whiskey, check. Tequila, check, kinda, Beer, check. Gin, well, I'm quite fond of a violin piece I heard called "Gin and milk." (It's actually good, but really weird.) But Vodka? How can you be passionate about something that mixes with juices, sodas and most flavors of gatorade?
posted by Hactar at 5:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting... I just bought vodka for the first time in my life this weekend.

I used it to make perfume (works great).
posted by kinnakeet at 5:29 AM on August 22, 2011


for the liquid I did lift up high to my everlasting mouth was, in fact, the closest approximation of cherry cough syrup I have ever seen outside of a pediatric ward.

Oh hell yes. I had the pleasure of introducing a friend of mine to good whiskey over a period of an academic year. Towards the end of it, his wife, trying to be nice, got him a bottle of the stuff. My friend and I each had a shot, spluttered and coughed, and then downed about a whole glass of water followed by a few hits of Maker's.

That was about four years ago. As far as I know, the bottle is just as full now as it was then.

Godawful stuff.
posted by valkyryn at 5:31 AM on August 22, 2011


But Vodka? How can you be passionate about something that mixes with juices, sodas and most flavors of gatorade?

I think this is only hard if you don't speak Russian.
posted by valkyryn at 5:32 AM on August 22, 2011


Their advice is just to buy a top brand instead of using the filter - obviously they've never been 21 and broke.

Actually, the reason is that buying a bottle of the cheap stuff and running it through a filter 1) actually a bit less than a fifth, as filters can soak up a remarkable amount of liquid, and 2) kills the filter. So it winds up costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 a fifth, i.e. more than enough to buy a bottle of something better.
posted by valkyryn at 5:35 AM on August 22, 2011


@Joe in Australia and @barnacles: Yes! Żubrowka is fantastic! I got hooked when I spent a summer in rural Poland, where they sell it in the ice cream display at the gas station...
posted by lily_bart at 5:59 AM on August 22, 2011


I highly recommend vodka made from sugar cane, such as Mad Monk.
posted by heatvision at 6:49 AM on August 22, 2011


At least some of the people who think filtering cheap vodka is a good idea, economically, are college students who have two sources of money:
- whatever small amount they may make from their job;
- money that their parents give them.
Some parents may be more likely to pay for water filters than for vodka, so by filtering the cheap stuff you change which pocket the money comes out of.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2011


I will say that I both love and find it exceedingly weird that vodka has become the go-to liquor in Austin because Tito's is a) local and b) willing to sponsor anything that lets them hang their logo up. (It's also quite good, although I like Dripping Springs, another local, at least as well.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:22 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me it's time for my end of summer berry vodka blend. Think I could get away with dropping in whole cherries? I hate pitting.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on August 22, 2011


(I could cheat and put sugar on them so they macerate but)
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 AM on August 22, 2011


Vodka is good for making cocktails for sorority girls. Grownups drink bourbon and scotch.
posted by jonmc at 8:47 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dude, bloody marys

(the secret is cucumber infused vodka and celery salt)
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Whelk, pit them only so you can add them in and get the full effect of the almondy flavor they add. Un-pitted you lose that flavor that goes so well with cherry flesh.

And man do I love Zubrowka. A Polish Senator came home at the end of the week during which Clinton was in town to invite Poland into NATO and found me, a young American, visiting his family. (My sister was a friend of his daughter. My sister didn't drink much.)
Happy at the whole Poland-America-NATo friendliness thing, he began plying me with Jack Daniels. I had a drink out of politeness (because I hate that shit) and then asked him for something Polish. I spent the next few days in a Zubrowka haze. Mix it with apple juice if you need a breakfast drink. Someone made nice when I got home and bought me a bottle, but it was artificially flavored because the US won't allow you to sell real Zubrowka because it contains coumarin (or something). Have they changed that law yet?
posted by Seamus at 8:55 AM on August 22, 2011


I was in New Orleans and waiting for someone and I see a bottle of Jim Bean red strag cherry bourbon and I m like, I like bourbon!

I have a bottle of this sitting in my liquor cabinet with exactly one drink's worth of liquid missing from the bottle.

I let it stand this way as its own warning to others.
posted by quin at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


my father considers me a disappointment because my whiskey taste is more american than scottish, but can i make a solid argument for rye?

There's no reason to choose between any of the whisk(e)y varities. They all have their individual qualities. I usually have a couple bottles of scotch and some rye, bourbon and Irish whiskey in my cabinet. I have gin for the Mrs. and guests. I also have an unopened fifth of vodka someone gave us as a housewarming present a while back.
posted by spaltavian at 9:25 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


but can i make a solid argument for rye?

Wait, are we talking about ryes again? Because I just discovered that Bulleit is making a small batch rye now.

You may now allow this fact to rock your individual world as much as is necessary.
posted by quin at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2011


There are a few good vodka cocktails. The Bloody Mary has been mentioned,. The original vdoka cocktail, the Moscow Mule, is terrific, especially when served in a copper cup. Screwdrivers may be rather plain, but add a teaspoon of Galliano and you have a Harvey Wallbanger, which is a very satisfying highball. The cosmopolitan has been ruined by its association with Sex and the City, but will make a comeback, perhaps in its original form, as the Cape Cod. The veper is, of course, both a gin drink and a vodka drink, as is worth drinking. The White Russian is always welcome.

Anything called a martini that is made with vodka should be flung away with great force. And if it just has -tini appendes to its end, as in flirtini and appletini, whoever ordered it may be due for a long and very uncomfortable shaming
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude, bloody marys

This is a good summary of my weekends.
posted by sweetkid at 10:59 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bloody Mary's are good for breakfast, other wise, nah.
posted by jonmc at 11:53 AM on August 22, 2011


Well, they're an eye opener, a sort of breakfast drink to help with hangovers. Anybody drinking them in the evening must keep a very late schedule.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:47 PM on August 22, 2011


What, no love for the Bloody Caesar? It's like a Bloody Mary, plus clam juice! Wretched, disgusting clam juice!

It's available absolutely everywhere in Canada, but for some strange reason, just hasn't caught on anywhere else.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:54 PM on August 22, 2011


Speaking of eye-openers, anyone else here ever try horseradish vodka?
posted by whuppy at 1:37 PM on August 22, 2011


I was praised for my choice of bourbon and warned that clear liquors come out your nose. This by an accomplished drunk whose advice I have taken.
posted by pianomover at 2:05 PM on August 22, 2011


Bulleit is making a small batch rye now

I was pretty disappointed when I tried the Bulleit rye. Back to Redemption for me.
posted by aubilenon at 2:06 PM on August 22, 2011


MetaFilter: an accomplished drunk whose advice I have taken
posted by Sys Rq at 2:10 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


(the secret is cucumber infused vodka and celery salt)

No. The secret is a fuckload of vodka and a fuckload of tabasco & horseradish. Nobody cares about the rest.
posted by jonmc at 2:10 PM on August 22, 2011


Paprika is also good.
posted by The Whelk at 2:35 PM on August 22, 2011


The best bloody I ever had was mainly so because of the garnishes, which included shrimp.
posted by jonmc at 2:39 PM on August 22, 2011


Bloody Mary overdrive
posted by The Whelk at 2:45 PM on August 22, 2011


I think everyone has one drink like that.

It's vodka for me, after an ill-fated night with shots of Devil's Spring, which is like 160 proof, and an almost-orgy on an air bed that ended up with my buddy stuck in the well of a window.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:29 PM on August 22, 2011


What, no love for the Bloody Caesar?

We have Clamato here (Albuquerque, New Mexico). I vaguely remember seeing billboards for it in Spanish on the sides of town that have lots of ads in Spanish. I like clams, hate tomatoes, and find the whole idea of it disgusting. Not sure why it would be more popular in a city in the middle of a desert a day's drive from anything resembling an ocean, but hey, it must sell.

I think we have Clamato beer too.
posted by NoraReed at 6:34 PM on August 22, 2011


aubilenon: Why were you disappointed in the Bulleit Rye? It is now the standard in this house for the Manhattan. Maybe unlike me though, you aren't comparing it to Old Overcoat, the previous standard. Lower your expectations!
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 6:35 PM on August 22, 2011


I think we have Clamato beer too.

If you're not drinking beer with Clamato then you're missing one of the glories of life -- the michelada. You can even buy them canned at gas stations, in which case they're known as pincheladas (my coinage, tips appreciated.) As my buddy Jonathan Gold said about one variant, "a combination that smells a bit like a barnyard but has a shimmering depth of flavor you would never expect from a marriage of commercial condiments."
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:42 PM on August 22, 2011


I told this story that I told upthread at a party this weekend and it turns out I am not the only person in the history of the world to combine gin, baby carrots, and vomit.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:19 AM on August 30, 2011


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