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Dazed & Infused
Monday, February 26, 2007

From fruity to spicy, the crystal-clear and most versatile liquor is undergoing more costume changes than Ellen Degeneres at the Oscars. Whether you like vodka neat, straight up, on the rocks, shaken, stirred or in a shot glass, this guide to all-the-rage flavors beyond vanilla will get you up to speed faster than you can say cornucopia.

Vodka distilleries are churning out flavored vodkas in droves, and one of the most popular in the cocktail culture is the zesty citrus type—perhaps because it exports us straight to the sunshine state.

Die-hard fruit lovers are lapping up all the available fruit flavors being infused into the nation’s favorite clear liquor…. The berries are not to be outdone, and have been flaunting their stuff in highballs and martini glasses, too.

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Wine Grapes Turn Into Vodka
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Russian vodka is made from grain and if you ask a Russian, it's the best in the world. Never mind the Poles and their potato vodka. It's bad enough that the Swedes and the French started turning out their own brands. And probably even worse that San Francisco's Skyy, distilled from Midwestern grains, hit the market.

But is a vodka made from six varieties of California grapes beyond the pale? Not according to famous sommeliers Larry Stone, of Rutherford's Rubicon Estate winery and Paul Roberts, of Yountville's French Laundry, and some of the state's other top wine experts, who have endorsed Roth California Vodka.

Roth is the brainchild of Ted Simpkins, co-proprietor of Lancaster Estate, a winery in Sonoma County, and an executive with Southern Wine and Spirits, one of the country's leading distributors. To avoid a conflict with the distributing company, Simpkins won't talk about his vodka, a small production of about 72,000 bottles that hit the shelves of California's liquor stores and upscale bars late last year. The suggested retail price for a 750 ml bottle is $30.

Paul Richardson, publisher of Russian Life Magazine based in Vermont and, a Web site for vodka connoisseurs, says there are about 400 varieties of vodka on the market.

"It's the best-selling distilled spirit in the country," says Richardson, adding that vodka made from grapes is "pushing the boundaries" and certainly a novelty.

…Toulon says the Four Seasons' bar features the vodka and has created its own cocktail, the Frostbite Martini, a concoction of Roth, Inniskillin ice wine and white cranberry juice.  Toulon says he supported Roth's concept for the promotion because it's "a fine, luxury vodka made out of grapes."

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Small-Batch, Handcrafted Vodka?
Bien sur! Quelle Bonne Idée!   

Imported from France, and created with the extraordinary craftsmanship developed by generations of the Daucourt family, Jean-Marc™ XO vodka is the world's first small-batch, "handcrafted" vodka. We're not entirely sure how one creates vodka by hand, but we do know that a great deal of care goes into the distillation of this fine vodka. Consider that the average French vodka is produced at the rate of 15,000 bottles per hour and that Daucourt family turns out a mere 200 in the same sixty minutes.

Jean-Marc™ XO vodka is imported by Daucourt Martin Imports LLC, a new venture between Todd Martin, former North America president, Allied Domecq, and Jean-Marc Daucourt. The company specializes in cutting edge, ultra premium French spirits. Its Jean-Marc™ XO vodka is available in select markets in the United States, and is distributed nationwide. Its retail price is approximately $65 per 750ml bottle.

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Modern Spirits

Four years ago, Melkon Khosrovian had a problem. His fiancee, Litty Mathew, detested vodka, the beverage his Armenian family members drink during Sunday dinner and at celebrations.

"They would toast her with vodka," Khosrovian says of their engagement celebration, "but the taste to her was like gasoline."

So Khosrovian, a software company owner, began infusing vodka with fresh, sweet, savory and exotic ingredients in hopes of finding combinations that Mathew, a culinary trained freelance writer, could not only swallow, but enjoy. At the time, his efforts were in the name of marital bliss and not commercial success.

Yet it wasn't long before the couple was creating custom infusions for private clients and events. Friends and family clamored for more, and by November 2004, their Modern Spirits company, in Monrovia (Los Angeles County), sent its first commercial product, chocolate orange flavored vodka, to market. All 200 cases produced were sold in one week.

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Hangar One

 “Screwing around is where all the good ideas come from,” says Lance.  He keeps time free to cruise the produce markets inspiration.  “When you turn fruit into an eau de vie, it’s like writing an ode to it, like Pablo Naruda writing odes to everyday things.  You have to see the fruit for the incredible thing it is.”

Big companies bring out new flavors of vodka base on market trends.  Lance says, “Can you imagine Pablo Naruda going out and asking people what they would like to hear and ode about?  No!  You get inspired, you find something and you inspire other people towards it.”

Lance Winters, St. George Liquors

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