THE ULTIMATE DEBATE
VODKA vs WHISKEY

For fun this year, we thought we'd take a closer look at two classic liquors and delve a little deeper into what makes them unique, some of the flavor profiles, and what foods pair best with them. Vodka and whiskey are both liquors that can both be made from the same grains, yet they turn out as completely different final products. How does this happen? The magic is in the process by which each is made. Once the distiller has selected what base they wish to make their liquor from, the hard work starts.

VODKA

The Ultimate Debate

Vodka starts with water, yeast, and selected grains, potatoes, or fruit. The base is fermented to draw out their natural sugars. Next, yeast is added to the remaining liquid to help ferment the new sugars. Following the fermentation process, the liquid is distilled- it is heated to a boil resulting in the alcohol vapors being collected. This collection process happens multiple times, removing impurities each time. We like to think of this as "steaming" out impurities. The final product is a colorless, odorless spirit. Many distillers go an extra step, infusing the vodka with fruity additives or herbs for additional flavor.

VODKA INGREDIENTS AND FLAVOR PROFILES *Note:

The very idea of vodka is to remove flavor, color and impurities. These flavor profiles are slight nuances. Defining fruit vodkas flavor profiles, for example, becomes particularly difficult because grape vodka can taste very different from an apple vodka.

  • Corn - Sweet, gentle finish
  • Rye - Lean, dry, peppery
  • Wheat - Light, crisp, sweet
  • Rice - Soft, round, subtly sweet
  • Sugar Cane - Mineral, grassy
  • Potatoes - Creamy, earthy
  • Fruit - Ethereal, sweet, very viscous
MIX ME

Vodka makes a wonderful base to many cocktails, including some of the most famous classics: Cosmopolitans, Martinis, the list goes on. Vodka is very versatile- pair it with ice and citrus, and you create a bright, refreshing drink. Dessert cocktails like the White Russian and Chocolate Martini completely mask the alcohol in vodka. Or, if you're looking for something that showcases the vodka while highlighting other flavors, a Bloody Mary or Moscow Mule might be right for you.

VODKA: STRAIGHT UP

The most classic way to drink vodka is by itself. If you choose to go this route, we recommended that you chill the vodka before pouring, and pair this neutral spirit with food.

FOOD PAIRINGS

Vodka is considered a food-friendly drink for many in places like Poland or Russia. Smoked, pickled, or herbed foods tend to pair particularly well with vodka's clean flavors.

CAVIAR

The Ultimate DebateCaviar, like this incredible Plaza Osetra Gold from the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea has a rich, creamy, nuttiness that is allowed to prevail through the lean liquor.

DILL HAVARTI

The Ultimate DebateCastello Dill Havarti is vodka's match made in heaven. The slightly salty, buttery cheese blended with the grassy, delicately tangy dill flavor elevates vodka to the next level.

SMOKED SALMON TARTARE

The Ultimate DebateSmokey with a hint of salt and cream, smoked salmon tartare marries perfectly with vodka. The fatty, creamy fish is showcased by the refreshing, clean flavors offered by the vodka.


DID YOU KNOW?

The science of fermentation is known as zymology. Chemist Louis Pasteur was the first zymologist when in 1857 he connected yeast to fermentation. Many foods besides liquor, wine and beer are fermented, including yogurt, milk, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha- the list goes on and on!

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KETEL ONE VODKA

Made with the goal of being a unique, high-quality crafted vodka for the modern palate. Using a combination of traditional copper pot stills and modern distilling techniques, the Nolet Family has been able to create a fresh, crisp vodka with a long finish. This 100% wheat vodka is wonderful by itself, but is brewed with the goal of being the perfect cocktail vodka.

The Ultimate Debate
HUMBOLDT DISTILLERY VODKA

Local Humboldt Distillery counts on the pristine waters of the Redwood forests of Northern California to transform their vodka into the extraordinary. Sugar-cane based and handcrafted in small batches with slow carbon filtering at sea level makes for a crisp, clean taste. Organic, non-GMO and gluten-free.


WHISKEY

The Ultimate Debate

Whiskey also starts with water, yeast, and selected grains. A 'mash' is created with the grain: the big difference is that the mash can be a blend of grains, or made from one type of grain. To further complicate matters, the mash can be made with either regular grains, or 'malted grains,' which means the grain has first germinated before it is fermented. After fermentation, whiskey is distilled just as vodka is. The final step for a whiskey before bottling is aging in a wooden barrel to gain an amber or golden-brown color and mellow its fiery spirit.

WHISKEY INGREDIENTS AND FLAVOR PROFILES *Note:

Most (not all) whiskeys are blends. To be considered a rye whiskey, for example, the whiskey must be made of 51% or more rye. That means many of the flavors in whiskeys are dependent upon the specifics of the distiller and their mash recipe.

  • Corn - Sweet, vanilla, syrup
  • Rye - Super dry, rich, spicy
  • Wheat - Bread-like, honey-flavored
  • Barley - Roasted grains, toffee
  • Millet - Warm, with hints of anise
  • Spelt - Smooth, grassy
  • Oat - Creamy, dense
MIX ME

Just a few drops of water, or an ice cube, can make a huge difference in the way the whiskey in your glass tastes, reducing the heat of the alcohol and bringing forward more subtle and unique flavors. Using whiskey in a cocktail is a whole different ballgame. Chances are, you've heard of Frank Draeger's favorite long drink: Jack and Coke- but the cocktail game with whiskey doesn't end there. The Manhattan has made a huge comeback, as have Whiskey Sours and the Mint Julep.

WHISKEY: NEAT DID YOU KNOW?

Drinking whiskey "neat" means you're enjoying it without water, ice, or any other ingredient. People drink the way they taste wine- swirl, sniff, sip, allowing flavors to wash through your mouth.

FOOD PAIRINGS

Whiskey and food are paired so that neither the whiskey nor the food will overwhelm each other; rather they should complement and help brighten each other in the tasting experience.

STEAK

The Ultimate DebateGrilled steaks and whiskey are a classic combination. If you are in the mood for a rich, fatty steak, you should look for a deep, smoky whiskey. Bourbons are better paired with leaner cuts of meat.

STRONG CHEESES

The Ultimate DebateClawson Huntsman is the perfect cheese to enjoy with a whiskey because it is the best of both: the sharp Double Gloucester cheddar layers are for smokier whiskey while the ring of tangy, salty blue stilton is perfect for spicier whiskey.

PUMPKIN PIE

The Ultimate DebateSmooth, creamy, rich with hints of cinnamon spice... the perfect complement to offset the warm, strong bite of good whiskey. Many consider Bourbon a secret ingredient in their pie, so why not a sip with the final product?


DID YOU KNOW?

Whisky, no 'e' necessary, refers to whiskies made in Scotland, Canada, and Japan. Whiskey spelled with an 'e' denotes that the whiskey being referred to was made in either America or Ireland. Unless, of course, you are Maker's Mark, George Dickel or Old Forester... there are exceptions to every rule!

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SONOMA DISTILLERY DRAEGER'S BARREL WHISKEY

This year, Draeger's has partnered with local Sonoma Distillery to select a barrel of their hand-crafted, small batch-produced whiskey. Draeger's Wine Director Kevin Forsaith selected a barrel of Bourbon (straight whiskey distilled from a mash of at least 51% corn in addition to malt and rye). This means the whiskey we're featuring is sweet, robust and rich.

The Ultimate Debate
FOUR ROSES SMALL BATCH BOURBON WHISKEY

Distilled since 1860, Four Roses Bourbon has held the hearts of the Americans whiskey market for generations. Their passion for quality and pride in hand-crafting award-winning Bourbon is evident in the smooth taste that has become synonymous with their name. In particular, the Four Roses Small Batch whiskeys are mellow, rich and well-balanced with hints of caramel.

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