By Jared Chausow
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Occasionally we're thrown a compliment we don't quite deserve. A PR rep or spirits company mistakes us for a seasoned oenophile or fine-drink connoisseur, and an invite to an intimate tequila tasting or a meal of beer-glazed specialties finds its way into our mailbox. So we'll swirl the $60-a-bottle liquor in the glass, or take a gentle, modest sip vs. the happy-hour whore gulp.
At a vodka-pairing dinner we were recently invited to, it is clear they mistook us for a serious critic. The maker of a new line of infused vodkas, Modern Spirits, had invited us to try his wares with a few select experts and distributors. It was a huge compliment. It was also seven vodkas in a row.
The night's recap:
Grapefruit Honey vodka
Clean, sharp and vivid, grapefruit honey is mildly tart with a hint of bitterness and a touch of sweetness from a dollop of honey.
We walk into the private dining room at the Harrison and take our seat with all the other people invited for the night's eventthe executive editor of Saveur, Wine & Spirits folks, the president of James Beard. The boozing commences with the creator/owner explaining the origins of his companyhe would make special flavored vodkas for his wife to take to family functions, as she found the vodka his Armenian relatives normally drank a bit hard to swallow. A heartwarming tale of the lengths one will go to for love, granted, but clearly not the most aggressive PR: Grapefruit-honey vodka needs a grander marketing scheme. Grapefruit-honey vodka needs Mr. T endorsements.
Celery Peppercorn vodka
The ultimate power drink. The celery's green bouquet is complemented by savory spices and a touch of heat from Malabar peppercorn and dried red chilies.
This is our favorite: We like the peppery kickit's like a bloody mary without tomato juiceand can't help but notice at the end of the party, all the foodie witches snatch away the freebie bottles of this vodka first.
Black Truffle vodka
Infused exclusively during the season, the telltale scents of port, rich soil, pineapple and chocolate make this a first-class libation.
It is around this time that the Wine & Spirits art director next to us instructs us on the "swirl," and why people do it. When you swirl the liquor in a glass, the motion stirs up the oxygen and releases the aroma. It actually works, and then you are supposed to inhale deeply into your drink. Now we feel bad for making fun of the critics who face-dive into their liquor, for there we are, face-diving ourselves. (No. That's a lie. We don't feel bad. It looks dumb.)
We have a hard time comparing the taste to truffle oil, our only prior experience with this mushroom. Truffle oil never seems that memorable to us, beyond the fact that it's expensive presence must be formally announced whenever included in any dish.
Pear Lavender vodka
Combining the lingering sweetness of pears with a light touch of lavender creates an intimate and delicate infusion. It is our ode to poetry.
We miss out on that ode for some reason. Nor can we taste the pear or smell the lavender really. We have a feeling this is no reflection on the liquor but has more to do with the multi-vodka diet we've been on since the night began.
The evening wears on, and several more vodkas are tried: a candied ginger (tastes exactly like ginger), tea (tastes like tea) and even chocolate-orange (like eating a box of Godiva, without feeling like the big fat pig you really are). We become completely wasted, drunkenly catching our chair on the rug and stumbling to the bathroom, almost spilling chocolate-orange vodka on our skirt, pushing past someone to grab our free bottle of booze. We thank the alcohol maker for the compliment of including usthen haul it out of there as fast as we can.