You are not going to catch this guy spending a lot of time sipping on Cosmos or vodka-tonics, or knocking back shots Stolli.
I may have enjoyed a paralyzer or two when I was a young man, but as I’m no longer looking for a sprint to inebriation, generally speaking, I wouldn’t mind finding beer, wine and spirits I can enjoy.
Like Scotch. Or new beer being produced in Alberta and Western Canada.
But give me a vodka that doesn’t taste solely like ethanol and I tend to take notice.
So I was pleasantly surprised with the creamy vanilla notes hitting my palate at a recent tasting of the Belevedere Pure, at new Mission eatery Candela Lounge.
Belvedere, a quadruple-distilled, rye-based spirit, is positioning itself as the premium vodka on the market, and while I’m not what you’d call a vodka expert, taste says a lot.
Offering a base spirit that is more than just neutral, that would add character to a cocktail instead of just alcohol, is something I’m sure would appeal to bartenders in some of Calgary’s trendier nightspots.
And a lot of that comes from what it’s made of, Belvedere’s brand ambassador Allison Dedianko told our assembled group.
While most vodkas on the market are primarily wheat-based (not potato, for those who were wondering), Belvedere is 100% rye. The kind bakers use to make bread.
And it adds supple flavour characteristics you don’t get elsewhere.
“In terms of Western styles, I think that’s what differentiates us from others,” she said.
Rye is the predominant grain in vodkas sold in poland, but any grain can be used to make a vodka.
All that matters is that it’s distilled to 96.5% alcohol before being diluted.
Dedianko says it’s the process and production that sets a premium vodka apart in a crowded market for a spirit that sells four times as much as any other.
“You could make vodka with corn in texas and distill it once, and make vodka with rye in Poland and distill it 4 times and call them both vodka, and there’s no possible way they could be the same thing,” she said.
For people who prefer a little more ease when mixing cocktails, Belvedere offers a handful of flavours, but just don’t let Dedianko hear you say ‘flavoured vodka.’
“One thing we really do that’s different than anything else is maceration. We don’t call it flavouring — we cdon’t want to be lumped in with the key lime pies, the fluffed marshmallow and the fruit loop.”
Instead of extracts and essences, Belvedere infuses its flavours with real fruit, such as lemon and lime, pink grapefruit, orange, black raspberry. They also do a Lemon Tea vodka, and a Bloody Mary infusion, all great for making cocktails such as the Belvedere Citrus-rosemary Gimlet or the Pink Grapefruit V & T we were served at Candela.
Obviously, for some people, premium vodka is not what they’re buying all the time when they go out, or for at home, just like I’m not buying the priciest whisky when my stash runs low.
But there is something to be said for spending that extra few bucks for a special occasion, or to make your party cocktails memorable.
The Belvedere Citrus-rosemary Gimlet
1.5 oz. Belvedere Citrus
3/4 oz. rosemary-infused simple syrup (It’s really not that hard. Just add a few sprigs of rosemary while you’re simmering a mixture of equal parts sugar and water.)
3/4 oz. fresh lime jucie
Toss all that into a shaker with ice, give a little shake and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with some more rosemary. Or some lemon.
The Belvedere Pink Grapefruit V&T
Pour 1.5 oz. Pink Grapefruit over ice in a tall glass
Fill with tonic (If you’re looking for something different than the usual offering at the grocery store, look for Fever Tree Tonic Water at specialty stores around town.)
Garnish with a thin wedge of pink grapefruit.