Thursday, April 17, 2014

Karlsson's Vodka

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

To the dismay of many of my readers, real vodka is not made from grain.  No, real vodka is distilled from potatoes. 

Potatoes you say?  Yes the very same tuber that graces your plate as a side for roast chicken or tossed into a stir-fry.  They have a rich history of distillation. 

But why aren’t more vodka on the market made with potatoes?   The answer to that is strictly commerce. 

Potatoes are expensive to grow and even more expensive to distill.  Grain is easy to grow and is quite inexpensive to distill.  However grain does not possess the depth of flavor that potato vodka has.  Potatoes just taste differently in the glass.  Enter Karlsson’s Vodka from Sweden.  Karlsson’s is not made from grain; it is made from an individual crop of new potatoes.  New potatoes have a very distinctive flavor and aromatics.  It is completely different in every from the vodka you may have grown up around.

Karlsson’s Vodka is sharply delineated in the mouth.  The flavor is sweet and sour with a healthy underpinning of earth.  The taste of the place is in every sip, and that place is Sweden.  I can almost taste the sea air bursting from the bottle as I open the handsome squat bottle with images of new potatoes emblazoned on the inside of the label.  If you were looking at the bottle, lit from below, all you see are potatoes!

They say seventeen pounds of potatoes goes into each bottle of Karlsson’s Vodka.  I can’t see how they fit it all in there! It’s really gorgeous stuff. 

I’ve been experimenting with Shrubs as of late.  No, these Shrubs are not grown out in your garden; they are
a part of cocktail history.  Shrubs have been used in one form or another since antiquity.  Shrubs are made up of vinegar, fruit or vegetables and sugar.  They can contain herbs or spices as well.  I’m very fond of how a Shrub will unlock flavor from other ingredients.  They offer a sweet/tart injection of flavor into a mixed drink. 

Karlsson’s Vodka with its sumptuous notes of freshly dug new potatoes is just the perfect vehicle for a Shrub.  The flavor of the potatoes wraps its arms around the sweet/sour notes from the vinegar and the sugar.   Whatever you mix with is your business.  For my cocktail I choose to make a cucumber Shrub, knowing that you can do in all in just about a week.  Cucumber is just gorgeous in a Shrub with potato vodka. 

Apple Cider Vinegar is the basis for this Shrub as is Demerara sugar.  Each flavor will exemplify itself with this lush and flavorful Swedish vodka.  There really is nothing else like it on the market unless you are traveling to Poland. 

I’ve taken Karlsson’s Vodka and created a cocktail named A Mysterious Piece of Machinery.

This unique cocktail includes a small portion of cucumber Shrub made of vinegar, sugar and slightly fermented cucumbers.I’m sure you will find this very easy to make.

For the Cucumber Shrub
4 European Cucumbers cut into coins about ½ inch wide
1 cup Demerara sugar
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Cover the cucumber coins in sugar
Let sit at cellar (50-55 degrees) for three days
Cover with Vinegar and let set at 50-55 degrees for another three days
Mash the sugar and vinegar infused “Shrub” through a sieve
Bottle this Shrub and further age in the refrigerator or in a cool place for up to a month

For the Cocktail (A Mysterious Piece of Machinery)
2 oz. Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
1 oz. Cucumber Shrub
1 oz. Sparkling Water
3 drops Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

To a cocktail mixing glass, fill ¾ with ice
Add the Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
Add the Cucumber Shrub
Mix to combine
Strain into a short rocks glass over 1 ice cube only!
Add the Sparkling water
Dot the top with the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

This isn’t your typical flavored vodka made in a science lab!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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