Tony Abou-Ganim, one of America’s elder statesmen of mixology, recently released Vodka Distilled: The Modern Mixologist on Vodka and Vodka Cocktails, a masterpiece on the subject of Vodka. Vodka is America’s most consumed spirit but is largely on the outs with the cocktail crowd. Mr. Abou-Ganim thinks that this is an unfortunate state of affairs, and I happen to agree with him. The same folks that might be guilty of sneering at the Cosmo or Appletini today wouldn’t have known the Old Fashion if it bit them in the butt a decade ago. This was an unhappy time for me as it was and always has been one of my favorite drinks of choice, and I couldn’t get a good one to save my life. You see, the Old Fashion never went out of vogue in my home state of Wisconsin and to this day, lives on proudly at supper clubs throughout the state. I have a feeling that Mr. Abou-Ganim appreciates this sentiment as he started his illustrious career behind the stick at his cousin’s bar in Port Huron, Michigan, a hop, skip and a jump away from Wisconsin and in a place where Rum, not the most fashionable of spirits, has never been out of vogue.
Back from my soapbox (I am a firm proponent that every spirit and every drink has it’s place), Mr. Abou-Ganim is now the author of what maybe the definitive tome on Vodka. And tome should by no means imply that Vodka Distilled is dull. Rather, Mr. Abou-Ganim has found a way to infuse the history and even the distillation process process with his apparent love and appreciation of Vodka. Beyond cocktails (to be addressed later), Mr. Abou-Ganim explores the world of sipping Vodka straight and drinking it with its eternal partner, caviar. To help the reader, Vodka Distilled also provides a primer on how to consume both caviar and Vodka.
As an added bonus, Vodka Distilled provides reviews of 58 Vodkas available that were tasted and rated by Mr. Abou-Ganim, Dale DeGroff, the elder statesman of mixology, Steve Olson, an expert on all things liquid, and Bridget Albert, a star cocktail creator of out Chicago. The guide to Vodkas reviews the base materials, the flavors and aromas, the mouth feel, the character (light to balanced to bold) and the price. These handy reviews are helpful in determining which Vodka is a sipper and which ones to deploy in the book’s wondrous cocktails. For anyone who thinks that all Vodka is created equal or taste the same, these reviews will prove that they do not. Vodka varies greatly based on the it base material, distillation and filtration. For the non-believers out there, compare three of five of these Vodkas and try it yourself. Mr. Abou-Ganim even provides an easy to follow tasting sheet/notes that are similar to ones that we use when judging spirits competitions.
As you can see, Vodka Distilled is a handy reference book that is filled with great tools and tips. But, my favorite part are the amazing cocktail recipes. Like the recipes in his popular The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails, Mr. Abu Ganim’s recipes are straight-forward, easy and delicious. Mr. Abou-Ganim eschews the era’s ten (10) ingredient drinks that requires one to muddle, stir and shake before setting it afire and just keeps it simple. With an emphasis on Vodka and fresh ingredients, the drinks are downright delicious!