Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

FOOD SECTION: Feb. 20, 2008 - Screw Fancy Vodka

This week's food section has an article on "premium" Russian vodkas. The article discusses premium Russian vodkas ranging from the $25-$35 range up to $1,200.

I say, leave them all. I am sure there are vodka enthusiasts out there that will naysay me, but vodka is boring. Vodka is a drink that is engineered to be as "smooth" as possible. In other words, the very best vodkas are made to be all but undetectable. What's the fun in that? Why spend lots of money on an invisible drink.

Allow me to present my choice for vodka (if I must): Vodka Monopolowa. You can get it from Trader Joe's for about $10 and it does everything a vodka is supposed to do. Originally a Polish state-created vodka, it is now produced in Austria. It's the best bargain out there. It is award-winning and its austere label conjures up images of everything vodka has ever been. A people's drink, that gets you through the day and night when life is hard.

This is all the vodka you will ever need. No need to spend money on premium vodkas with extra distilling. Once you put it in a cocktail, you won't even notice the difference between Monopolowa and the fancier brands. It is no swill.

If you must spend $30 on vodka, then why not buy local? Hangar One is from San Francisco and is hand-distilled from American wheat using artisanal methods. In other words, it's everythign that gets us food snobs all hot and bothered. But that also means it's good.

Plus, Hangar One comes in intriguing infusions like Buddha's Hand, Kaffir Lime, and Mandarin Blossom. They also have a collector's "Alchemist" series, which consists of limited edition batches of infusions only for the dedicated. Batch 1 was Wasabi, and Batch 2 was Chipotle. See what I mean?

So, seriously, forget expensive Russian vodkas. Unnecessary. Buy cheap (but quality) or buy local. You'll feel ever so much better.


I'm definitely going to check out the TJ's wodka, if only for the packaging alone. Right after I finish the juggs-o-stoli that seem to be multiplying in the cabinet.

said by Demery at 1:47 PM Delete

The TJs up here sells a local vodka called Vodka of the Gods for 10.99/1.75l. I can't taste the difference between it and an expensive bottle...especially after mixing it with coke zero (hehe).

said by Jon at 12:37 AM Delete

I've seen that one! It looks so silly ... but maybe if I'm ever feeling for Olympian than Eastern Bloc, I will go for it.

said by KT at 8:58 PM Delete

I've been bartending for more than six years and have tasted well over 200 types of vodka. My standard drink is vodka with soda and a squeeze of lemon. When I go out, my vodka of choice is Ketel One. It is easily found, moderately priced and doesnt carry the high and mighty stigma of Grey Goose. When it comes to buying vodka by the bottle for myself however... Vodka Monopolowa from Trader Joes is my hands down favorite! Smooth but with enough burn to let you know that you are actually drinkin, incredibly well priced, cool looking label and Trader Joes is only about two blocks from my house. Seriously though it is an incredibly well balanced spirit that definitely carries it's own in the company of much more expensive competitors.

said by bwr1975 at 10:58 AM Delete

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