By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer
When you think of quality vodka the big players in the business usually come to mind first. And that’s too bad because there are a handful of products that really catch my eye- and my palate. These brands I’ve written about in the past and they fill a necessary place on my bar. Each exemplifies a quality that I find beguiling and pleasurable. There may be the flavor of a whisper in your ear, pursed lips against whiffs of citrus, wet stones and freshly fallen snow. The flavor of the surf in Maine comes to mind. Encapsulated and profound is the metaphor for this product. And what vodka is this one? What makes it stand aside of the pack? Perhaps it is the water or the hard winter wheat? Who makes such a lovely product that is in the process of whetting your appetite? Making you thirst?
The 86 Company makes such vodka. It’s gorgeous stuff and as a rule I don’t really care for vodka. When I opened the broad neck of the Aylesbury Duck– more about this later- I experienced the flavor of the surf crashing upon the cliffs surrounding the lighthouse at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. The foam of the seaweed mixed with the froth of the ice cold waters, combines with the falling snow. That is the duck. Quack. Yes the Aylesbury Duck. It is a real duck breed. A large duck with a pronounced pink bill, orange legs and feet, the Aylesbury Duck has been the brunt of jokes for eons. But this vodka is no joke. It is seriously accurate! It tastes like toasted bread! Find me bread that tastes like this and I’ll want to slather it in sweet butter!
Aylesbury Duck is pure and gorgeous in a glass. It mixes like a dream and is perfectly content over ice with just a splash of seltzer water and a twist of grapefruit. To me at least, the real vodka is the one that has no flavorings or colorings. It is not candy scented, nor is it flavored after a type of cake.
Real vodka is at most at home mixed with juices or woven into a land of mystique and balance. I’m torn in my life between the classic Russian style of potato vodka and the harder edged wheat versions of vodka. Some producers are using raw honey yet others use rye grains. Some even use corn! That’s moonshine to me- certainly not vodka. But the Aylesbury Duck is pure form and motion. The essence of citrus is tucked in the back, the lick of salt water- the burn of fire.
I want some now.
Tangerine soda syrup from Fruitations in Massachusetts makes this vodka even more sensual and lush. The aromatics of the tangerine zest jumps out at your palate with flashes of color and light from the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water. Bursts of sunshine- salt and pepper are enrobed in the zest of the citrus fruits. Yum. The bitters that I choose, Bitter Truth in lemon give this drink balance, harmony and depth. Try them with seltzer as a mocktail!
Jane Bowles Summer House- the summer pavilion on Tennessee William’s home on Key West is an unlikely name for a cocktail. But after a few in the soft breeze of the summer, you will find the ability to be a poet as well as a drinker.
3 oz. (yes) Aylesbury Duck Vodka from the 86Company.
1 oz. Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup
½ Ruby Red Grapefruit sprinkled with sugar, and then broiled until crusty, scoop and cool
Hand cut ice
3 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in lemon
4 shakes Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
To a Boston Shaker:
Add the ½ broiled sweetened grapefruit, muddle a bit
Add the Aylesbury Duck
Add the Fruitations Syrup
Muddle a bit
Pour over the other cocktail shaker filled ¾ with ice and shake hard for a minute
Strain into a Collins Glass with one spear of hand cut ice
Add the Perrier Sparkling Water
Add the bitters over the top
Garnish with a bit of the broiled grapefruit and a colorful straw
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.