Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wrap Your Lips Around Oval

And, Where Vodka Fits in Today's Mixology...

I got an interesting introduction letter from the person who sent me a sample of Oval. It said that most of her favorite cocktail bloggers aren’t crazy about vodka… which means that TLM probably isn't one of her favorite blogs as I have no problem with vodka. To me, every spirit has its place.

I understand where she’s coming from, though, because there has been a lot of “vodka backlash” over the last couple of years. Not that the vodka market is drying up or new products aren’t hitting the market at 200+ new vodkas per year, in some instances! In case you're not following what I'm talking about here, I’ll put the “vodka conflict” into context for you, in a nutshell…

Prior to vodka, whiskey, rum and gin were the Great American Spirits. Tequila gained popularity during Prohibition (1920’s – 1933) because the hooch from South of the Border was making its way up to thirsty Americans gagging for a drink!

Vodka didn’t hit it big in America until the 1950’s. It surpassed gin’s popularity in 1967. And, it whizzed past all other spirits combined in 1976. Today it makes up nearly 30% of all liquor sales in the U.S. The popularity of the Cosmo in the 1990’s didn’t hurt vodka’s sneaky little take over when bartenders replaced the gin called for in classic cocktail recipes with vodka to suit “pop culture’s” taste. That’s why, when classic cocktails came back in such a big way, some people are now vodka snobs… the whole “anti vodka” thing.

Its like, in the 80’s, when people would wear an Izod shirt just to put a safety pin through the little alligator logo to make a statement… At the end of the day, by slamming the brand, they were still giving it publicity. By dissing a perfectly fine spirit, you’re only drawing more attention to it.

So, back to my Oval vodka post…

With all of the exciting spirits on the market, I admit that vodka is not always my #1 choice. In fact, it rarely is. I’m really into tequila, these days. I’m nuts for pisco, cachaca, vermouth, sherry, wine and Campari. There are more flavorful liquors that get me salivating. However, if I’m going to make a Cosmo for my visiting mother-in-law at Thanksgiving, or oblige a vodka-loving guest who stops by for a cocktail, I must have vodka in my home bar. Every cocktail connoisseur must have vodka in their home bar. Every bar should have it on the shelf. At the end of the day, just because I may be more enchanted with my favorite spirit du jour doesn’t mean that I should impose it on everybody else.

Oval has everything today’s vodka should – a fancy bottle, a vague but plausibly presented method of 11-day “structuring” (essentially, their way of distilling), a market price of around $37. It is 84 proof and they say its made from grain, although its not immediately clear which grain. (I guess they buy raw alcohol and then distill it / structure it, whatever).

Oval claims not to have a “bite” but I do taste a bit of … spice? Tingle? I quite like it. I will definitely use Oval in some cocktails and see how other ingredients impact the spirit. (I always taste new products straight at room temperature, at first.)

When choosing a vodka for your home collection, why not make it Oval? Besides, I’ve just given you a whole mouthful of vodka-related cocktail party chit-chat, to boot.

1 comment:

Sam Harrigan said...

I just wanted to step forward (as the person who sent the introduction letter with OVAL) and say The Liquid Muse is, in fact, one of my favorite blogs and I love the fact that Natalie understands vodka's place in the cocktail world. :) Also I just wanted to let everybody know that the grain used in Oval is italian summer wheat. Thanks!