[:it]by ELISABETTA LUGLI
In the universe of great spirits, vodka represents a truly special product. Where other famous spirits such as gin, whiskey and all the others stand out for their taste and aromas, vodka is an emblem of purity and neutral taste. If this seems like a flaw, keep in mind that vodka is the best-selling spirit in the world, effectively occupying the 30% of the market.
Its story has its roots in Russia's past: we had the Florentine tell it to us Julian Biondi, one of the best Italian bartenders and founder of BarOmeter, a consultancy company in the beverage sector.
Julian, when and where was vodka born?
A lot has been embroidered on the birth of vodka. Legend even has it that Mendeleev, the creator of the Periodic Table of Elements, invented it. Vodka was formally born in 1895 in Russia, when the Tsar introduced legislation to produce alcohol in the Empire exclusively with column stills and alcohol rectification plates. A choice essentially due to the need to control production and be able to tax it. Previously, alcohol was produced everywhere, from farmers' homes upwards. With the regulations introduced by the Tsar, things changed: it is difficult to get a column still at home! Of course, home production continued, albeit clandestinely. But real vodka was born like this.
What was being distilled in Russia before these rules came into force?
Polugar and Samagon: those who can be defined as the "parents" of vodka. These were spirits that are currently being successfully produced again, and are different from vodka: Polugar, for example, has hints of bread, unlike vodka which tends towards purity and the absence of aromas.
There is a dispute between Russia and Poland over the birth of vodka: both claim paternity. What do you think about it?
Let's cut it short: at the time there was neither Russia nor Poland, there was the great Russian empire. And that's where vodka was born! Then currently there is a slight difference in regulations between the two countries, and while in Russia it is called "vodka", in Poland the name used is "wodka".
What are the factors that define the quality of a vodka?
First of all, the quality of the alcohol used: keep in mind that most of the 2000 existing vodka brands in Russia do not have their own distillery, but purchase industrial alcohol. Then there is the question of essential oils, which in some cases are added and undoubtedly define the personality. And again, the addition of glycerin to make it silkier. Based on these characteristics, one way to understand if a vodka is of quality is certainly the price.
Is there any curiosity about vodka that comes to mind and you want to tell us about it?
Two: the first on its gradation. Do you know why vodka is always 40°? In 19th century Russia, officials who went around distilleries to tax producers had to calibrate taxes based on alcohol content. It was a complication, so they turned to the Ministry who took the decision to have all producers adapt to the same standard, that of 40°. The second makes you understand the particular characteristics of vodka: during my masterclasses I often have an olfactory perception test done by warming a few drops of distillate on the palm of my hand with my finger. By smelling the palm, the aromas of all spirits reach the nose, except in the case of vodka. With vodka you can't taste anything!
How do you judge this particular characteristic of vodka, of having a neutral and pure taste?
Vodka can be defined as a blank canvas, on which anything can be written. In mixing this can be an advantage or a disadvantage, each bartender has his own line of thought on this matter.
Earlier we talked about the "parents" of vodka, Polugar and Samagon, products from the past that are back on the market. Can you give us a recipe for a cocktail to prepare with one of these spirits?
Of course: what follows is the preparation of a cocktail based on Polugar. It is called Pepperoni and is prepared with three products in three equal parts, like the Negroni.
Here she is:
1/3 red vermouth
An orange slice for garnish
Try it at home, have fun!