Bottoms Up

For this week’s review, we decided to focus on one of the oldest, most utilizable liquors the world has ever seen: vodka. First appearing in the 15th and 16th centuries, vodka is distilled mostly of water and ethanol (we hear there are some Williams students experimenting with the possibility of converting high ethanol content vodka into a viable fuel source), and usually is fermented from potatoes or various grains. The word “vodka” is a derivative of “voda,” meaning water in Russian. Vodka is not merely a socially-consumed beverage; it is a way of life. In Russia, for instance, riots have been triggered by shortages and sudden increases in prices. And don’t think that these riots are things of the past, or even stopped after the Cold War; they were even feared earlier this year after a new law temporarily and abruptly halted vodka production. While it would be impossible to review all vodkas, we figured we’d start with four of our favorites (which we, of course, consider to be the best there is).

As Americans, we know we can do anything just as well as – if not better than – any other country (with the exception of trivial things like playing soccer, having a comprehensive healthcare system or waging effective wars). Vodka, on the other hand, we can do. Skyy Vodka is based in San Francisco, Calif., and, yes, it is hella-good. Its unique cobalt blue bottle is reminiscent of its experience – cool and smooth all the way though. The trendy and classy Skyy is great for trying to look hip in a Haight-Ashbury sort of way, minus the psychedelics. It says, “Yeah, I’m here to have a good time, but I’m really just trying to look cool holding this sweet blue bottle.” As you can guess, this is what we buy when company is coming over. Make yourself a Skyy sea breeze, and imagine the warm California air rushing through your hair. Well, it may take you a couple to start feeling warm, but it’s nice to create some California dreamin’ up in these mountains every now and again. Skyy is also great as a shot, or even straight out of the bottle, though you may lose some classy points once you start swigging fifths (and besides, nobody likes backwashed
vodka). Regardless, Skyy is proof that America can go Soviet, and do it damn well too.

Hailing from France, Grey Goose probably has the most name-brand recognition among vodkas. The sexy bottle itself exerts a seductive appeal, and the artificially frosted look gives the impression that this vodka will be smooth at any temperature. While the bottle does not necessarily lie, it may be a tease. As the elixir runs across your tongue, it shocks your senses and does not leave you feeling refreshed. Though this one is great for mixing, we would recommend the others for shots or sloppy pirate swigs. Remember, don’t be fooled by this cool bottle at parties – it may very well be filled with Popov. We have heard of such trickery used to impress guests with an inexperienced tongue.

There is, however, no way to mistake the sharp and distinctive taste of our next vodka, Ketel One. Certainly the best vodka to come out of Holland, Ketel One demands an experienced and well-seasoned vodka drinker. It has a bitter taste, can sting the tongue and burns the stomach. Yet, we still love this vodka, more than most, actually – you just have to take it in the right way. For instance, this past Sunday morning, we indulged ourselves by having stiff Ketel One Bloody Marys. The spiciness complements the Tabasco and tomato juice very well, and it will wake you up faster than the police knocking at your door early Sunday morning accusing you of something you didn’t do. If you are served Ketel One, you are in the company of someone who likes it rough, yet refined.

Last on our list is Moscow’s best, Stolichnaya Vodka, commonly referred to as “Stoli.” While the bottle for this one looks like it was designed from a run-down Communist controlled region of Siberia, the vodka within it ranks as our number one pick. Stoli could possibly be the most dangerous bottle found in the Spirit Shoppe. It drinks as smooth as water and its taste is hardly overpowering. This could be enjoyed on the rocks or combined with any mixer, but watch out because Stoli is hardly detectable when combined with other beverages. Beware, for we have heard from elder relatives, much better versed in the art of vodka than we, that Stoli seduces you with its smoothness, and then kills you with a hangover the size of Mt. Greylock come morning time. If cost is not a concern and you are looking to make a classy transition from jungle juice to booty juice, then Stoli is defin