I came across Russian Standard Gold Vodka, and for someone who is not exactly a fan of vodka I was impressed - with extracts of Siberian Golden Root, vanilla, cinnamon, five spices and ginseng it was bound to have an interesting taste. Vodka is one of those drinks: either you enjoy the smoothness of the spirit or you try really hard to hide the taste with juices and soft drinks and occasionally a mix of the two! I am wary of flavoured spirits, but Russian Standard Vodka is a premium brand, so I decided to try it out at the office christmas party.
A Bit About the Celebratory Drink
Now that it's the festive season - what is everyone drinking? Vodka is one of the most popular spirits around the world and many will argue over the true origin of Vodka. It seems most will agree it's either Poland or Russia. However, due to the popularity of the spirit, Vodka is produced in a range of countries now known as the Vodka Belt which includes Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and all Nordic and Baltic countries. Vodka is distilled by using water and pure grain alcohol, which is the process of fermentation of the starch and sugar found in grains. The raw spirit is distilled four times; the more luxurious the vodka, the more stages of distilling it goes through. Once the spirit has distilled, it goes through a period of relaxation before finally being bottled and packaged. Unlike wine, vodka does not mature and should typically be consumed within 12 months from its bottled date.
Customs of Russian Vodka
Russian Vodka has its own unique set of rules arising from old customs. Firstly, contrary to popular belief, vodka should not be kept in the fridge; it is best served at room temperature and should be stored at between 5 and 7 degrees Celsius. Secondly, vodka should not be mixed with anything, not even ice! It is believed that even ice can destroy its delicate flavouring. Vodka is usually drunk as a toast and the entire shot should be downed. It is seen as disrespectful to the person who made the toast not to drain your entire glass of the vodka.
Vodka is also traditionally drunk with food, namely Zakouski (tapas sized appertizers). Vodka is known to bring out the flavours of Russian cuisine, pairing well with caviar. The customary Zakouski mainly consists of salty and acidic foods such as pickles, herring or salted tomatoes which effectively neutralises the effect of Vodka, allowing one to drink large quantities without slipping under the table after 3 shots.
The Vodka of Choice
My choice for the cold festive season is the Russian Standard Gold. With added Siberian Ginseng it gives the vodka a herbal hint and spice to its aroma, and a slightly warmer taste than other vodkas. Although traditionally vodka should not be mixed, the added flavours of cinnamon and vanilla contribute perfectly to a Christmas cocktail! I for one cannot deny myself a delicious cocktail, and when the Russian Standard Gold vodka comes so beautifully packaged with an embossed gold foiled label and one-of-a-kind gift box, it becomes the spirit of choice to complement spicy and exotic mixers. Having only been on the market for a couple of months, it retails at Selfridges for £20 and will make a great Christmas gift. Russian Standard make their vodka according to the exacting standards of chemist Dimitri Mendeleev's 1894 formula for authentic vodka. Apart from Vodka, Russian Standard have businesses in banking and insurance, and are said to provide Russians with a sense of pride and personal freedom. It ticks my box for being authentic Russian vodka: made in Russia, bottled in Russia!
If you like cocktails as much as I do, try this scrumptious cocktail recipe I recently stumbled upon:
1 Part Vodka
2 Parts cherry juice
1 Part peppermint liquor
1 Part heavy cream
Shake it all up with ice and strain into glasses, decorate with either a sprig of mint or a cherry.