So, you think you know Vodka… Well think again! OK, Vodka has traditionally been used as neutral spirit with very little character and flavour, but now, in a similar way to the gin revolution, vodka makers are giving their spirits character that make them stand-out from the crowd. In order to give extra flavour and texture, botanicals are used as well as spices and extracts are often used.
I was able to share my love of vodka recently on ITV’s ‘Love your Weekend’ with Alan Titchmarsh. I got to show Alan, along with actors Adjoa Andoh and Jason Watkins some of my favourite British vodkas and introduce them to some cocktail ideas of mine.
Watch the episode here (I’m in the final part of the show!)
Here are the vodkas, my cocktail recipes and mixers that I featured on the show:
1) The Wasabi Company Wasabi Vodka (Hampshire) made from wasabi. £29
This is 100% Fresh English Wasabi from Hampshire. It captures the character of fresh wasabi with crisp brassica flavours of mustard and radish with a dash of sweetness and a peppery finish. I like to serve it in a Bloody Mary or like a classic vodka martini.
It was watercress that led the makers to wasabi. Watercress has been grown on their Dorset and Hampshire farms since the 1850s. A chef visiting one of their watercress farms in May 2010 remarked how the only other crop he had seen growing in similar conditions was wasabi in Japan. That was enough to plant a seed in their minds and they began looking at what it might take to grow wasabi in the UK.
Wasabi Vodka Martini
A vodka Martini is a great way to appreciate this vodka. I’m serving it with Ostara Vermouth (£28.99). Ostara is the first in a new generation of vermouths which offer a slightly different approach to the traditional ones – it’s easier drinking, less sweet and syrupy, and more versatile. It was born in the countryside of Surrey and is named after the old Pagan word for the spring equinox, in honour of nature and growth. It is made with a blend of English wines (from the South East), infused with countryside botanicals such as nettle, dandelion, oak, and meadowsweet. Thee flavours perfectly complement the heat of the wasabi vodka.
Ingredients for 2 cocktails (in one shaker) served in a Martini glass
A handful of ice
120ml Wasabi Vodka
40ml Ostara Dry Vermouth
2 Stuffed Olives on cocktail sticks
Put all ingredients into a shaker, shake until your hands go cold. Pour into the glass and decorate with a stuffed olive on a cocktail stick.
2) Broken Clock Vodka (Cheshire) made from wheat. £40
The man behind this vodka is Andrew Kuhaewski. Andrew has a passion for history, art/design and classic literature – which can be seen in Broken Clock’s specific fonts and antique bottle design – all of which come from the 18th and 19th centuries. He adheres to time-honoured English ingredients and recipes taken from Georgian-era books based on botanicals found in traditional landscaped English gardens. It gives green, grassy, baked apple flavours. The gardens and parks of the 18th century were a place for slow lingering enjoyment and getting back to the rhythm of nature and that’s what they want to embody with this vodka.
They call it a lingering vodka. Don’t rush it when you sip it! (Imagine the clock is broken!) And in fact, the process isn’t rushed… It’s distilled in Cheshire using a British wheat spirit which is subtly infused with classic botanicals. One very English botanical we include in each batch are some organic windfall apples from a specific garden in North Yorkshire. You can’t rush this!
They use traditional pot still and minimal filtering etc to retain flavour and body. No added sugars or sweetners are added.
This vodka is great with cloudy apple juice and a disc of apple as a garnish. And I’m using the stunning Yorkshire Wolds apple juice, in my opinion, it’s one of the best produced in the UK.
Garden Vodka and Apple Juice
Ingredients for 1 cocktail served in a lowball glass
50ml Broken Clock Vodka
150ml Yorkshire Wolds Cloudy Apple Juice
Put ice in the glass. Pour the vodka in, add the apple juice and stir. Garnish with a disc of apple.
3) Chase Marmalade Vodka (Herefordshire) made from potatoes. £40
The Chase family set up their ‘field to bottle’ distillery, creating luxury spirits from their farm in Herefordshire in 2008.
This vodka is distilled from potatoes. Thick cut marmalade along with Seville and Valencia orange peels are also used in the process. The vodka is then aged for six months in oak barrels for an amazing and unique flavour.
Website: chasedistillery.co.uk (Please excuse that there’s no live link) It keeps corrupting the formatting!!!
I like to serve this vodka in a ‘Marmalade Twist Cosmopolitan’. This is a twist on one of my favourite cocktails and is a great drink. The added magic of Marmalade vodka takes it to the next level. And with clementine juice, you get a vibrant citrus hit. And here’s a tip: Don’t worry about juicing clementines as M&S sell freshly squeezed clementine juice and it is divine – It’s also great in a Bucks Fizz. But do track it down – It’s oodles better than orange juice.
Marmalade Twist Cosmopolitan
Ingredients for two cocktails (in one shaker) served in Martini Glasses
180ml Chase Marmalade Vodka
40 ml Cranberry Juice Drink
40 ml Clementine Juice
The juice of two limes
A handful of ice
2 slices of clementine
Put the ice into the shaker. Add all liquid into the shaker and shake for 20 seconds until the shaker is cold to touch.
Strain into martini glasses and garnish with a thin disc of clementine
4) Chapel Down Chardonnay Vodka (Kent) made from grapes. £30
Chapel Down are famous for their amazing still and sparkling wines (often made from Chardonnay as is their vodka)!
Their vodka is triple-distilled vodka made from Chardonnay grapes with a hint of
citrus, peach and pepper on the palate. Similar notes to drinking a good Chardonnay.
I love to serve it as a Mosco Mule. The stone fruit qualities of the Chardonnay vodka goes beautifully with the hot ginger of Luscombe hot ginger beer. http://www.luscombe.co.uk
Chardonnay Moscow Mule
Ingredients for two cocktails served in copper mugs
A handful of ice
200ml Luscombe hot ginger beer
20ml lime juice
To serve: A sprig of mint and a wedge of lime
Put ice in the copper mugs. Put the vodka, ginger beer and lime juice in a jug, gently stir and pour into the mugs. Decorate with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge.
5) Valt Vodka (Scotland) made from malted barley. £29.50
2 Scots had an idea in a Manhattan bar – Friends Ricky Christie, who started a Whisky business in 1971 & Lawrence Craig saw that premium vodkas were the “in fashion” spirit but most had no genuine USP. They wanted to make vodka using only Scottish malted barley and Scottish mountain water – The first Scottish single malt vodka in the world.
No suitable method of distillation actually existed – an entirely new procedure had to be invented, and a decidedly un-traditional, quintuple micro-distillation technique had to be evolved.
Basically, it needed 5 distillations, therefore the yield was extremely low, less than 20%. The only way this could be commercially viable was to build their own Copper Still in 2010 basically with a Turbocharger attached. The yield went up to 80% and the rest is still history.
Best served like a whisky, neat and over ice in a lowball glass.
6) Thunder Toffee Vodka (London) Made from grain. £19
This Vodka is made in Clapham, London and is made from grains. It doesn’t contain any artificial additives or preservatives. The butterscotch and toffee notes come from caramelised sugar.
Thunder toffee vodka is made from five times distilled wheat grain vodka and then blended with the natural toffee . The whole process takes place at the award-winning distillery Thames distillers in Clapham London . Charles Maxwell (the master distiller ) the managing director of Thames has worked very closely with Thunder drinks to produce this award-winning toffee vodka. The whole process takes at least two full days of carefully mixing and preparing the correct ratios in order to produce the same results time and again.
You can sip this like a dessert wine and it would pair beautifully with a custard tart or a crème caramel. Just sip it neat or over ice.