Annual surveys by folks who care what we imbibe always show that West Virginia’s drink of choice — at least when it comes to high-octane refreshment — is vodka. We Mountaineers purchase (and, presumably, consume) more of that crisp, clear liquor than we do whiskey, bourbon, scotch or what have you.
I do enjoy the occassional vodka martini (Ketel One, up, dusty, bleu-cheese olives) so you’ll get no argument from me now that the people have spoken.
And if you’d like to learn some of the more civilized ways to sip, savor and appreciate this popular libation, the folks at Iceberg Vodka (now available across the state) offer this bit of information and advice:
Vodka 101: Steps to becoming a Vodka Connoisseur
The word vodka comes from the Russian word for water (“voda”) and means literally “little water.” With so many different brands of “little water” on the market, how do you know which one’s for you?
“Generally, the purer the water used to make the vodka, the better the taste,” says Frank Heaps, CEO of the Newfoundland-based distiller. “There is a wide range of vodka brands on the market, all distilled differently, and people should taste test them, as they would wine, to understand and appreciate the differences.
“The secret is to take the time to savor and enjoy vodka, not just as a shot or in a mixed drink. Knowing how to taste vodka and discovering a personal favorite can mean the difference between mixing an okay drink and an amazing drink.”
His five steps to becoming a vodka connoisseur?
1. First and foremost, use a chilled glass. Sipping vodka that has been slightly chilled brings out the natural flavours and “nose” and allows you to savor the taste. Don’t just chug it back, tempting as that is, instead sip slowly in small swallows. The purer the vodka, the easier it will go down and its lack of hard edge will be very noticeable. Keep the vodka bottle in the fridge so it remains cold. Note: A square bottle sits better on the shelf, takes up less room and won’t roll over onto the leftover meatloaf. Never store vodka in the freezer. Extreme cold can ruin the “nose” and taste.
2. Before taking a drink, put the glass to your nose and breathe in. A pure, high-quality vodka will have a subtle aroma of fruit, grain or spice and identifying these will ensure that you are drinking superior vodka.
3. Now have a drink! Depending on what it is distilled from, you should be able to identify the differences in flavor and craftsmanship of the vodka, much like with a fine wine. Corn, potatoes, rye and wheat are used for distilling vodka. Try to taste the difference!
4. Forget about your mixer. The only way to taste vodka’s true characteristics is to drink it straight up!
5. Pour another and enjoy your next sip! Experts became experts by practicing! (EDITOR’S NOTE: Within reason, of course.)