Sunday, July 06, 2014

Book Review: 'Vodka' by Victorino Matus

Vodka is the miracle that disinfects, runs automobiles and gets people drunk

By Wayne Curtis, WSJ
June 27, 2014 4:05 p.m. ET

Vodka is America's most popular spirit. It's also the spirit that Americans most love to hate.

Sales statistics will vouchsafe the former. For the latter, well, just walk into a craft cocktail bar, order a vodka tonic and observe the involuntary twitch of the bartender's eyebrow.

The haters insist there's no there there. They make much of the fact that vodka is defined by federal regulators as being "without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color." It's what people drink when they're not sophisticated enough to appreciate the taste of liquor.

By Victorino Matus
Lyons Press, 252 pages, $26.95

Vodka's supporters—who vastly outnumber the detractors—also like to cite the federal definition of vodka . . . as evidence of the government's stupidity. Of course there are differences in vodkas, they tell you. This one has a touch of vanilla; that one's a bit metallic; this one's as clean and sharp as a scalpel.

Maybe. My sympathies lie with the first camp. Sure, I can detect subtle differences, but add a half-jigger of orange juice and the discussion is moot. Vodka, when you get right down to it, is straight ethanol. It's the miracle commodity that disinfects, runs automobiles and gets people drunk. Vodka is, in fact, a component ingredient in all other liquors. But these other spirits also have elements left over from a less intensive distillation process, and barrel aging. These elements can be called "flavor." Vodka is to whiskey what sugar is to cake. Why would I spoon down a bowl of white granules if I could enjoy a fresh baked confection?

(More here.)


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