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Friday, October 22, 2010

Stolichnaya: White Pepper & Madagascar Vanilla Bean Tonic

In a Shot:  Stolichnaya follwed me on Twitter, I promised them a drink and I gave them one ten fold!

When I first turned 21, my older sister gave me an electronic flask shaped cocktail book called "The Bar Master". It was the coolest thing in the world. At the same time, I got a lot of Christmas money and had quite a bit stashed away and decided to collect many different cordials, spirits and flavored varieties to create the ultimate cocktails found in this electric spirit dossier. The first bottle of vodka I chose to buy was Stolychnaya. It was my father's favorite brand and he had a pride behind it. I bought every line available (At that time it was the standard red label, the gold label, Citros, Ohranj, Razberi & Vanil) - At the time I was eagerly making basic cocktails and really sweet mixed drinks. Within three years I started making drinks for a living.

Stolichnaya, lovingly referred to by its fans as simply Stoli, is a Russian vodka with a shroud over its year of origin. With roots from as early as 1901, the first confirmation hits between 1938 and 1948. The label showcases a picture of the unfinished Moscow staple, the place where Stalin onced slept over, the Hotel Moskva located in the "Capital City" and guess what "Stolichnaya" translates to?  Beginning with Samara/Kaliningrad artisanal water and made primarily of wheat, Stoli also benefits from rye and is distilled four times then filtered through quartz, sand, activated charcoal then finally through a woven cloth. The final product is clean with minor citrus notes, wheaty vanilla (Stoli's website describes it as marshmallow), white pepper and its predominant flavor, anise finished with an affirmative rye spice and minerality. Some magazines, adds and websites describe it as a "crispness and palate of a Siberian glacier", though I must be honest, I and no one I know personally have ever tasted one before to compare it to.

One thing for sure though, it's the licorice, vanilla, white pepper, citrus, minerality and the bite that had me fall in love with Stoli in the first place. I loved having it as a martini on the rocks with olives, straight up with a twist. Actually, one of my first after dinner drinks was called The Reflection and was technically Stoli Vanil and Sambuca in a cordial glass with espresso beans lit on fire prior to serving.
Recently, Stoli asked to follow me on Twitter. I didn't come to them, they came to me. I promised them a cocktail and I wanted to make sure I did it in style. In a private event, I delivered with a huge response, a drink that expressed Stolychnaya's amazing adaptation to casual mixing as well as sophistication while brightening up the natural flavors it already expresses.

Served alongside an apple brandy based sparkling cocktail, the Stolichnaya with Madagascar vanilla bean and white pepper tonic cocktail proved skeptic to many believing that sweetness would dominate or that the flavors would be too strong to appreciate. The bite from Stoli naturally cut against the vanilla and white pepper while citrus brightened up the vodka against the third most important ingredient, a high quality tonic water. Throughout the evening I bounced around several different tonic waters I had at my disposal, all of which can be read about by clicking here! The vodka speaks for itself; the tonic speaks for itself so the real test was my own addition to a classic situation. The addition of rose water, lime juice and a simple syrup devised from vanilla beans, white peppercorns and apple peels truly stood up to practice.

Recipe as follows:

Vanilla Bean Syrup Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup white pepper corns
Peel from one honey crisp red apple
1 Madagascar vanilla pod


Using a sauce pan, bring to a boil sugars, water, apple peel and pepper corns. Remove from heat. Take vanilla pod and split in half and cut into quarters. Insert into syrup mixture and let steep for at least 4 hours (or overnight) strain contents and save pepper corns, apple peel and vanilla. Sautee in a pan over medium high heat until very aromatic. Discard apple peels and save vanilla/peppercorns. Crush pepper corns and use as garnish for drink; add to food or around rim of other beverages for a wonderful kick. Refrigerate the syrup and use for up to a month.

For cocktail, in a rocks glass over ice build:

1 1/2 oz Stolychnaya Red Label Vodka
1 oz vanilla/white pepper syrup
Juice from half a lime
Top up with ice
Crack white pepper over top of drink and serve with lime wedge and split vanilla pod (Optional) as garnish.

My vanilla bean and white pepper Stoli tonic drink had aromas of strong vanilla and citrus (strangely enough, grapefruits) with hints of medicinal, minerality and a true Stolichnaya finish and lots of acid and white pepper. The mix takes little effort and the drink is quick to fix, a great part beverage and recommended to any Stoli lover. From one fan to the next.


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