Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Shaken (Up), Not Stirred

If you are a Faux News sort of person and despise National Public Radio (NPR) on principle as a leftist commie pinko waste of the broadcast spectrum, you would have missed this March 1st report on NPR's Planet Money show: Is There Really A Difference Between Expensive Vodka And Cheap Vodka? As it happens, my poison of choice is gin*, but we do have a few bottles of vodka of various flavors in the freezer for special occasions, like thirst, and so my ears perked up when this report came on.

If you don't care to read the transcript of the show (linked above), here's the key point: There is actually a federal law - 27 CFR 5.22(a)(1)** - that requires all vodkas to be more or less identical. The text of the law reads,

“'Vodka' is neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color."

"Without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color." What this means, of course, is we consumers pay a very hefty price for a super-premium brand-name vodka that - by law - is virtually indistinguishable from the cheapest bottle on the lowest shelf at your local spirits store.

Who knew?

When I first met Agnes and was trying to impress her with my worldliness and savoir faire, it didn't take her long to realize that I was selecting wines based on the attractiveness of the label ... if it had a picture of a castle or a few naked ladies cavorting with bunches of grapes, it had to be good, right? She soon straightened me out on that. But here we are, 36 years later, horrified to discover that the elegant, frosted-glass bottles of premium vodka prominently displayed at our bar are ... well ... pretty much the same as the cheap stuff, particularly when mixed with other ingredients.

I need a drink.

Of course, the distillers of the super-premium vodkas like Grey Goose, Belvedere, Skyy, and so on see things differently, particularly for their flavored vodkas. But if you're living on a tight budget and trying to economize ... if, for instance, you're a school teacher wondering how you're going to afford the gun and ammunition the NRA and the GOP want you to bring to your classroom on top of everything else ... isn't it good to know that plain old bottom-shelf vodka offers you a chance to save money without compromising your standards?

Bottoms up!

Have a good day, and drink responsibly (and cheaply, where possible). More thoughts tomorrow.


* I have made my own gin at home, using a kit my daughter bought for me at a local cooking store and, as the base liquid - plain, cheap vodka. It was actually pretty good, too.

** Here's how to read the whole citation: 27 CFR 5.22 = Title 27 (Alcohol, Tobacco Products, and Firearms) of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter I (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Department of the Treasury), Subchapter A (Alcohol), Part 5 (Labeling and Advertising of Distilled Spirits), Subpart C (Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits), Section 5.22 (The Standards of Identity).


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Morning Bill, your first sentence is sad to me. I miss the old days where Tip O'Neil could throw back a cocktail with Ron Reagan and still be on opposite side of the aisle.

As a celiac, I know that most vodkas in the USA are no longer made from potatoes and most have gluten so I can not drink them. Weird huh? Found that out the hard way.
I then found Tito's which is made the old-fashioned way by a couple of men who missed good ole vodka and began making it in smaller batches and selling it locally in Austin. Now it is huge nationally. And it is good. Better than Grey Goose etc. Who knew right? But I prefer Gin or wine. But gin made from vodka? nope. You liked it huh? :-)

John Hill said...

Nice to know info

eViL pOp TaRt said...

What brand of gin do you recommend?

Bilbo said...

Peggy - the homemade gin turned out pretty well. The recipe directions said to use the cheapest plain vodka available, as it has the correct proof and is tasteless, so that it picks up the flavors from the botanicals. I thought it turned out fine, although I still prefer Bombay Sapphire.

Angel - my favorite gin is Bombay Sapphire, which is very smooth and has just the right flavor. Most of my friends who drink gin swear by Hendricks, but I think it's overpriced and not as good as Bombay Sapphire. My son-in-law bought me a bottle of locally-producted gin called "Imagination," which is quite good, although I still prefer my favorite. As an aside, I also use gin in a folk remedy for arthritis (which I have in my neck): you steep a box of golden raisins in ordinary, inexpensive gin (I use Seagrams) for 10 days, then eat one teaspoon full of the raisins every day. You can laugh, but it has helped a lot with the pain.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Bilbo, I must tell Rick about this remedy for his arthritis. I think he would like this one over all others he's tried. Do you know I returned Bombay S. to the store? I couldn't drink it, just really disliked it. They always say you can return it but I would just laugh because who does that? Apparently me. When I returned it they asked why I was not happy with it. I told them it tasted how I would assume Aqua Velva tastes. He laughed and allowed me to get my Tanqueray for a more dollars. :-)

Mike said...

Nothing goes better together around here than old ladies and grocery store brand vodka.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I guess Gordon's gin passes muster for making G & Ts.

allenwoodhaven said...

G & Ts are my siblings' perfect summer drink. I preferrer rum when I imbibe.

In college we made Kahula from vodka. We enjoyed the process and were proud to serve it, but, looking back, It wasn't very good.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Thank you, Bilbo. Bombay is the one with Queen Victoria on its label. I'll try it sometime.