Vodka Distilled is a relatively new book from bartender, drinks consultant and self-titled “Modern Mixologist” Tony Abou-Ganim. Vodka holds an interesting place in the market. It remains the most consumed spirit — both stateside and abroad — while being generally maligned by serious drinks enthusiasts, cocktail bars and many high-profile bartenders.
In Vodka Distilled, Abou-Ganim attempts to reevaluate vodka and its proper role in the contemporary cocktail scene. In the introduction, the author says:
“The fact that vodka suffers from a misplaced lack of respect was highly motivating for me to write this book. Often passed over as a spirit category of interest, it is at times unjustly given a bad rap within the bartending community. Vodka’s heritage and flavor nuances deserve a measure of reverence, so it deserves a place alongside its spiritous cousins whisky, gin, tequila and so on.”
So there you have it. A fine reason for tackling the subject. And Abou-Ganim does so by first diving into the history of vodka before defining what it actually is. He goes on to break down the spirit by raw ingredients, distillation and production methods before suggesting ways to drink it. His preferred method for fully appreciating any spirit: drink it neat. But we all know vodka’s popularity as a cocktail base, and so does the author, providing 28 recipes ranging from classics like the Vesper and Moscow Mule to some of his own creations.
The book closes by exploring 58 vodkas, one brand at a time. Abou-Ganim offers his own opinions and notes on the lineup of vodkas, and he employs an expert panel (Dale DeGroff, Bridget Albert and Steve Olson) to help compile the tasting notes. The insights into mainstream brands as well as lesser-known options is valuable for industry professionals looking to stock quality vodkas as well as at-home drinkers who want the most bang for their buck. The vodkas included are representative of several regions and broken down by distillate (rye, wheat, potatoes, etc.), and it’s interesting to note that not a single flavored vodka is included. Though with so many to choose from, flavored vodkas could’ve comprised a tome of their own.
Overall, Vodka Distilled is a well-organized and digestible read. The mixture of history and production methods with cocktail recipes and specific brand intel should prove useful to anyone with an interest in vodka.
Vodka Distilled is available for about $15 on Amazon.com.