This post is dedicated to Gaelle J, who got me to drink vodka for the first time in a very long time.
I don't really recall a poker night without drinks. Of course that might be why I never got so good, any deep run in a tournament being matched with a deep run in the beer case or another round ordered but nevertheless, getting a drink while playing is as natural as scratching your head while thinking.
Here I'm gonna talk about vodka. This post is going to be the first of a very large family of alcohol related posts and starting with vodka seemed like a good idea. Why ? Because I say so. More seriously, because vodka is one of the most neutral alcohol you can find, you will find it everywhere and unlike good whisky that you'll only get in very leather and cigars smelling clubs, any self respecting bar, club or restaurant will be packing decent vodka.
Normally here, when I get into this kind of discussion I hear "Wait... Decent vodka ? Vodka's vodka ... Clear alcohol, hangover, mixed with tonic and/or fruit juice and that's it. Also it's cheap in supermarket or incredibly expensive in clubs when you buy Belvedere or Grey Goose." Yeah not really. Also talking about vodka is a good excuse to talk about alcohol consequences a.k.a the hangover.
Drink to much, get a headache. That's Partying 101. But why ? First, dehydration, alcohol literally dries you up. And because when you drink too much, you're body is going to feel poisoned by all the toxins that you find in that bottle of clear Russian elixir that tastes like battery acid when you decide to go for the cheap one.
Soooo we go for the expensive one and that's it ? No hangover ? Ha ha. I would love it to be that simple.
Vodka is mainly made from potato, or grains, the second one being in general of higher quality than the potato based one (of course there are exceptions) it's also generally one with a more floral and herbal taste that can come close to dry gin. Nowadays we can find vodka made out of grapes (https://www.ciroc.com/) or corn (http://www.titosvodka.com/) but all in all, it's vodka. What it's from doesn't really make a difference on the hangover you'll be experiencing the next morning.
Here we touch a very sensitive part. Why ? Because a lot of brands target their communication on how many times their vodka was distilled or filtered, putting forward that of course a vodka distilled 6 times is going to be better than your 3 time distilled one. Welll... no. BUT, and it's a big but Sir Mixalot, filtering or distilling your vodka more times will make it more pure, meaning that what we will get less impurities (technical term here : congeners) that are in part other alcohol related molecules that will make your body (who doesn't have a clue of what to do with those) feel poisoned and making your following day shitty as hell.
So just like any other hard alcohol, vodka is distilled (few times) then filtered.
Step two conclusion : Higher number of distilled/filtering pass gives a purer vodka which tends to be better for the body.
Ok, so we go for the good brand, high number of distillation and filtrations and that's it ? Ha ha. I would love it to be that simple.
I already talked about the difference in taste in the introduction, but let's concentrate on it here. I'm not talking about flavored vodka like citrus vodka, caramel vodka or whatever that are mainly used as a highway to get into college girls panties but on what a "classic" vodka should taste like. You will mainly find a difference between the herbal/gin-like taste (I put the Zubrowska vodka in the flavored department, after all, bison grass is a flavor on its own) and the more alcohol like but sweet on the tongue taste and feeling of an Absolut vodka.
The taste question brings her little sister with her (yeah lot of questions, i know) : Dude, are you drinking that straight ??
Of course not. I mean you could, some vodkas are really good just on the rocks, but the main consumption of it goes in mixed drinks. Usually highballs (tall drinks where you mix it with a soft drink. See ? You knew what it was) where vodka is mixed with juice, tonic, soda, whatever fit your style of the moment. While I'm at it, if you're the kind of person to think your drink says something about you, quit the vodka tonic. It looks like you're on the second day of your party and you're clinging to that effervescent advil.
95% of the time though, those cocktail are made when you don't want to feel the alcohol, but just the buzz.
So of course nobody cares about the vodka here. That's why you should use the most neutral tasting one (I'd recommend Absolut) to avoid a weird aftertaste. Yes I'm looking at you again Zubrowska.
After that there's more elaborated cocktails, where you want the taste of the vodka to add something up to the drink. Are you making a vodka based martini variation ? Ketel one(http://www.ketelone.com/). Are you making a cosmo for that pretty lady at the end of the bar ? Tito's vodka (cited early) will have that sweeter taste that going to make you stand out from the crowd of guys who already bought her a drink tonight. Rule is, always call you alcohol in that kind of cocktails. Or trust the bartender if you know him, after all he's supposed to know this sh*t.
Step three conclusion : Grain/herbal vodka in drinks where you want to feel the added value of vodka over any other alcohol, neutral vodka to get wasted without knowing it. Yeah this one was actually simple enough
Now you know what's vodka's made from, what it's good for or in, and why you should avoid the store brand of cheap locally distilled vodka. All the tools are in your hand to go out and try different brands to find out what's your favorite. But as a "let's sum it up" having a bottle of ketel one (basic or flavored, the orange tasting one is quite good in cocktails) a bottle of absolut and one of Tito's will get you covered for every situation.
In any case just remember the consequences of a wrong alcohol choice : Dehydration, headaches, feeling like you're 90 years old on the following day.
"He chose... poorly". - Indiana Jones and the last crusade.