Vodka—What's the Difference?
Colorless and odorless, vodka is one of the most mixable and popular spirits on any bar shelf. Simple yet complex, it’s also a cash cow with more than 66 million cases a year sold in the United States alone. Most often made from distilled fermented grains and filtered water, vodka can also be made from potatoes, fruit and rice. Distilling and filtration methods, along with the quality and type of ingredients, give a vodka its personal flavor profile. Many vodka lovers are vehemently brand loyal, castigating labels they perceive to be nothing short of scorching ethanol. But can they really tell the difference? I put that question to the test with a blind vodka tasting. The bottles we tested were scraped bare and obscured in brown paper bags. The eager panel of eight, ranging from bar professionals and vodka enthusiasts to everyday consumers of spirits, gathered at Twisted Vine Bistro’s new Barrel Room in downtown Fort Myers. With the help of bartender Damon Cockerton, we poured the first round neat and at room temperature. Each was then tasted on the rocks. No mixers allowed. The results were surprising to some; most could not identify their favorite. The seven selections came from around the world. Most were wheat based; one contained potato and one corn. Chopin Vodka ($25), produced in Poland, is made from potatoes. Distilled four times, it smelled and tasted a bit industrial, funky and peppery. This was the least favorite for drinking in a martini or straight up. Use it for a Bloody Mary. Tito’s ($20) is one of the most popular top-shelf vodkas, for, as one professional put it, “offering a filet mignon at a pot roast price.” Hailing from Texas, Tito’s is made from corn, distilled six times and made in a process similar to single-malt scotch. Its taste was spicy and a bit hot, with just a hint of sweetness. Ice smoothed it out some while maintaining its complexity. Even so, Tito’s landed between
A blind tasting reveals the truth