The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2013

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WHAT WE'RE DRINKING Clarke Boyer (left), Innovation Portfolio Manager for William Grant & Sons, and Daniel Brancusi, Reyka Brand Ambassador. Versatility in Your Vodka story and photos by Jonathan Cristaldi HANDCRAFTED REYKA SHINES IN AVANT-GARDE COCKTAILS Thai Boxer by Daniel Brancusi ◗ 1½ oz. pandan-infused Reyka* ◗ ¾ oz. cream of coconut ◗ ½ oz. fresh lime juice ◗ ¼ oz. Bénédictine ◗ Dry-shake and dump into rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with toasted black sesame seeds *For pandan infused Reyka, add 1 cup of chopped pandan leaves to 750 ml. of Reyka in a non-reactive container. Allow to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. Strain, bottle and refrigerate. O n a recent mid-summer evening, THE TASTING PANEL was invited to an intimate soiree holding court in a private backroom at The Little Door, a popular brasserie off West Third Street in Los Angeles. Daniel Brancusi, Reyka Vodka's Brand Ambassador, was whipping up an array of cocktails, as flavorful platters of Mediterranean tapas made their way around a small table. Brancusi rose to craft-bartending fame thanks to his beverage program at Vitae, a New York City restaurant lauded by critics for its innovative Prohibition-era creations. Innovation is the intersection where Brancusi and Reyka meet—the handcrafted small batch vodka was the first to use the rare Carter-Head still (one of six in the world) and lava rock filtration, which provides unique balance in a smooth, fullbodied vodka. From Water to Spirit William Grant & Sons, the independent family distiller behind Reyka, brings all the history and tradition of making brown spirits to making their first vodka. With supremely successful brands such as Glenfiddich and The Balvenie under their belts, for Reyka, the top shelf is anything but the limit. The decision to make a vodka from Iceland was simple, as Brancusi explains: "The spring water in Iceland is amazing," adding that, "the Riback Spring, where Reyka sources its water, contains no impurities—it doesn't need to be filtered." Master Distiller Kristmar Ólafsson distills Reyka, made from a blend of rich wheat and barley, through the Carter-Head still, traditionally used for gin and scotch—and now the only one of its kind used to distill vodka. Natural Icelandic lava rocks filter the spirit. Every batch takes approximately six hours to distill and yields just 250 cases. Cocktail Hour "You need to understand supporting flavors—components that can be accented in cocktails, when working with vodka. Vodka tends to behave like hot water, taking on flavors, and pure flavor in a cocktail will show; whether all the components are in balance or not, depends on the quality of the vodka," says Brancusi. "A cocktail is only as good as the worst ingredient." With Reyka Vodka, Brancusi stresses using fresh ingredients—and a little molecular action if you're up for it. For one drink dubbed "Temperance Society," he infused strawberries with Lillet in a pressurized canister, which in about 30 seconds produces a gorgeous Strawberry-Lillet elixir, perfect for mixing. Showcasing Reyka's versatility, we also sampled a to-die-for Bacon Bloody Mary made with (you guessed it) bacon-infused Reyka, lemon juice and Brancusi's proprietary Bloody-mix. The bacon-infusion was a hit—marrying smoke and a smooth mouthfeel to the already full-bodied vodka, and when blended with the Bloody Mix, was a veritable bloody homerun. We were also enamored of Brancusi's refreshingly divine Thai Boxer, which employs pandan, a green grass that lends a spicy herbal note to the vodka. In Iceland when raising a glass, they say "Skál!" —and for those of us gathered around the table, there was much "Skáling" going on. 52  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2013 TP0913_034-62.indd 52 8/22/13 9:21 PM Tou

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