Vodka stays the world's favourite white spirit
I haven’t seen any numbers recently, but surely vodka ranks up there as the world’s favourite white spirit, yes? And it keeps on coming, in amazing numbers.
Summer seems the season for it, and is it my imagination, or have there been more new vodkas to hit our government stores this year than other years, the relative tardiness of summer notwithstanding? The current product guide lists 103, of which the majority are Canadian-made, with Sweden and the U.S. tied for second spot. And that’s not counting these newcomers.
360 Vodka ($49.99) is so utterly ecocorrect that consuming it is practically a socioreligious experience, starting with the wrapper over the cork: “Paper processed chlorine free”, “100% post-consumer waste”, “100% recycled content”. By which I assume they mean the glass, not the contents of the bottle.
There’s an environmental-benefits statement from the producer, Earth Friendly Distilling Company, a division of Weston, Missouri–based McCormick Distilling Company, which claims to have saved the following resources in the production of 360 Vodka’s labels alone: 113 fully grown trees, 48,371 gallons of water, 81 million BTUs of energy, 5,409 pounds of solid waste, and 10,550 pounds of greenhouse gases.
I don’t know how they figured all of this out, but it’s right there in the mission statement and on the label. Do your part: get out there and start sipping the stuff!
There’s also the fact that it’s four times distilled—from American grain, of course—and five times filtered. Don’t disdain the bottle, which is made from 85-percent recycled glass (70-percent postconsumer glass). I’ve always liked the closure they’re using; there must be some industry term for it. It’s the same one Grolsch beer bottles have—you know, the white-porcelain one with the red-rubber ring on the bottom and the flip-up wire cage holding it on. Surprise—it doesn’t leak laying on its side in the freezer.
One more bonus with this product (about which the marketese says, “Vodka with a green state of mind”; do we think of Missouri as a “green state”?) : there’s a little prepaid envelope attached that instructs you on how to return the bottle for reuse and have a dollar donated to a local environmental organization.
It’s being presented as “the world’s first eco-friendly luxury vodka”. At a preliminary showing here in Vancouver at the EPIC sustainable-living expo in April, tasters were very excited about it, comparing it to other premium luxury brands but giving it the extra thumbs-up because, as one person put it, “I can help save the planet while drinking!” Who among us doesn’t want to do that? Both the drinking and the saving.
Okay, okay, what does it taste like? There’s a hint of something pleasantly medicinal—that’s the only way I can describe it, and it’s meant entirely positively. With a lightly oily texture, it has a totally clear and clean taste, and considerable smoothness—guess that’s the quadruple distillation/quintuple filtration talking—and lacks a lot of the bite many vodkas currently in favour show, and that’s a good thing. Great for mixing, shooting, and even cooking.
If you feel like a Greentini, take two parts 360 and one-and-a-half parts melon liqueur, shake well, strain, and garnish with lime—that’s Earth Friendly’s recipe.
I have another idea: the next time you feel like a Bunny Mother, take 1.5 ounces of 360 Vodka; 1.5 tablespoons each of lemon juice, orange juice, and sugar syrup; and one teaspoon each of Cointreau and grenadine. Combine all, except the Cointreau, and shake with ice. Strain and add more ice, float the Cointreau on top, and decorate with a slice of orange and a cherry. Oh yes—help save the planet too.
Bunny Mother sounds all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? Your bartender will think you’ve gone off to some fantasy world after all those naughty-named cocktails you’ve been ordering.
Next, Square One Organic Vodka ($54.99) has recently arrived in town, specialty-listed and found at select private stores, as well as various restaurants. It’s the first (and so far the only) certified-organic vodka available hereabouts, made from 100-percent organic American rye. Rye was the initial choice, centuries ago, for Russian vodkas-to-the-czars.
This is the creation of a spirits-industry veteran named Allison Evanow, who bartended her way to an MBA and then founded Square One Organic Spirits. North Dakota rye and Teton mountains water—that’s the total ingredients list. Distilled in Idaho and packed in a dramatic square bottle that will challenge the Frank Gehry–designed one Wyborowa uses for its high-end version (five bucks cheaper, not certified-organic, and likely to sell quickly at your garage sale once it’s empty!).
This one predicates itself on the other argument around distillation: the popular notion that the more distilling goes on, the better the vodka is. The producers of Square One point out—rightly, some think—that, while distillation removes the impurities, it also progressively strips the spirit of its unique flavour personality. So it’s no to multiple passes through the still for this product.
It’s a beauty: crisp, clean, fresh, and light on the tongue, with a lovely soft finish and no aftertaste. As the decades-old ads used to say of another vodka now long gone from our ken: “It takes your breath away.”
I’m hard-pressed to pick one over the other here, so go for both. I mean, if it’s there to be had, you might as well do the organic and green thing. A couple of new flavoured ones from Absolut are on the shelves too. Those will have to wait for another week, but so far the Pears version beats the Mango for my $24.95. Details to come.