G’day guys, and welcome to the annual country-wide sauna. I’m doing something a little different than my usual bottle review articles with some consumer advice and home DIY articles. And I’m kicking it off with this article on cold vodka to beat the heat. Luckily however, December this year in the Wide Bay was mercifully cool. Especially on Christmas Day, which is sometimes the hottest day of the year, or at least as far as you experience outside of air conditioning. Certainly not what I expected, by all accounts this time last year and the one before were hellish sweat-boxes. Not helped by the fact that both my jobs at those times were outdoor laborious ones. Sending me home to cool off with a nice cold drink. Fortunately however the heat has only now turned up the wick. The heat this week, although it has scarcely risen past 30° C, the humidity has risen to a perspiring 60%. With crossed fingers I hope that this heat continues to climb ever so gradually, instead of snapping directly back to your typical Queensland summer that turns an aluminum dinghy into a frying pan. When you’re out at work in the heat, or out in the Sandy Strait sitting in your boat fishing, the heat will eventually get to even the most red-skinned peel-proof Queenslander, and when it does, your mind will immediately go to a nice ice-cold drink.
While you’d probably be safe to say, a refrigerated premix or a Jameson and water with plenty of ice in the comfort of air conditioning would reverse the effects of the harsh climate. But when I say, ice cold, how cold can we get a drink? Let’s find out. What is the best way to cool your drink? Well, I have four methods to explore. So, I bought three mini-bottles of vodka, and some ice. So let’s see.
- On Ice
So we’ll start this one plain and simple with the usual method for some frame of reference. For those of you who’ve read all my earlier articles and have entertained my ramblings of whether or not to use ice with a Scotch or a bourbon and what ice to use, I’m finally letting you in on what ice I use. I have two ice molds I bought online through a professional bartending website, a plain silicone tray that makes your run-of-the-mill square blocks of ice, that you can fit two of in a tumbler. And a more advanced mold that makes ice-spheres, a large circular block of ice that occupies the vast majority of the volume of a tumbler. The ice-spheres under most circumstances are my favored weapon of choice, as they chill a whiskey or a rum and dissolve and dilute far slower than rocks ice. Dissolving ice, waters down spirits and interferes with the taste. Vodka, as a general rule has no taste. So I’ll be using rocks ice, since taste is no concern, and ice, even when it has dissolved is still chilling the drink.
After being allowed to chill the drink to the point it was visible from the condensation of the glass, I tried a sip. Though the dilution of the ice does help smoothen out the harshness of the regular drive-through shop Smirnoff (as it’s intention is to be used as a mixer), the vodka is not actually that cold. A smidge cooler than room temperature maybe, but barely noticeably colder. So there’s something we’ve learnt today, when we put our whiskeys and our spirits on ice, all we’re really doing is taking the edge off. In the case of Scotch it frees up a lot of the nose. Interesting, but not really relevant. Moving on.
- Chilled glass
This is a step up from simply just adding ice to your room-temperature liquor and glass. One of my regular bars keeps glasses in their fridge with their premixes and beers, and other refrigerated whatnot. I can’t honestly say even if I do like this method I could see myself routinely accommodating tumbler glasses inside a fridge, let alone recommend it to others. But let’s say for laughs, that these businesses whose purpose is to serve people alcohol in hot climates know what they’re doing. I’m willing to take a wild stab in the dark and assume people tend to prioritize space in their fridge for food. But hypothetically, you can shift some things round and find space to squeeze in a glass, in such a way that you’re not opening the fridge door slowly in expectation of it falling to the floor with your arm outstretched to catch it (we’ve all done it with something). I myself had to accommodate the glass for the experiment on top of a tub of butter. Having a chilled glass is one of the guidelines for certain cocktails in fact, those of you who like their drinks mixed. So let’s give that a bash.
I’m using ice here again, since we’ve started with that, and I’d expect in any real scenario you’d add it anyway as well to contribute more chill. After being given a few seconds to become a little more familiar with the chilled glass and the ice, the vodka becomes cool to touch. Very pleasant and cold. The frosty texture numbing the harshness of the vodka. The chilled glass prolonging the ice dissolving, fast-forwarding the glass to a cold state the glass inhabits when the ice is then mostly melted. So, should you have some spare space in your fridge to spare for a tumbler, here’s a little trick to make your cold drinks cold longer.
I’ve never actually heard of anybody actually doing this, but foreseeably this would be expected to be a no brainer as a step up from everything else being chilled except the actual drink. Since this would eliminate the need to have a chilled glass, should you too, be using a small fifty milliliter bottle that you can drink directly from if you wanted to. After all, when you drink anything in a can or a bottle, that’s housed inside of the vessel it’s drunk from, it always a little nicer. But for now, we’ll do this the proper way. In a glass.
To be perfectly honest with you all, at first when I opened the refrigerated bottle and poured it into the glass I was a little disappointed. The vodka didn’t feel all that chilled at all. And even after given a while to benefit from the ice, it made no change. The refrigerated vodka gains nothing over a room-temperature vodka chilled with ice. In comparison to the test of the chilled glass, it has actually taken a step backwards. So in hindsight, this does not, as it turns out, make a chilled glass redundant. Confusing, given my base idea, that this was going to be a step forward from everything being chilled except the drink in question.
It’s common knowledge nowadays that hard liquor, spirits, possess too high an alcohol content to be frozen at the temperature maintained by your humble household freezer. But, while you can carelessly toss your Bundaberg rum or one of the Three Wise Men into your freezer, I advise you not. Excepting of course, you had no attachment to it’s taste, as this will be mutilated beyond recognition. Vodka, evidently, is therefore known for being frozen. The Russians, I’ve been told, habitually store their vodka in the freezer. Or, as they call freezers in Siberia – the outside cupboard. But seriously, in some parts of the world, there are indeed vodka bars where the inside temperature is freezing. Vodka then, as the Slavs and the Scandinavians have shown, is insusceptible to any household freezer or frozen landscape, assuming of course life was sustainable there to begin with; Antarctica might do it.
So, I’ve given frozen vodka a try. And cold? Very. Numbing almost. It gave me the similar sensation of cold that gives your teeth pain at times you experience from other cold drinks. This is definitely the best way to drink cold vodka…were it not for the fact that the bottle must be stored in the freezer. It is a big inconvenience to store vodka in the freezer, to take the vodka out of the freezer, unscrew the cap, pour your drink, screw that cap back on top then put it back every time you want a drink. I’ll let you in on something, I’ve drank frozen vodka before. But I couldn’t be bothered to do that again, it was such a hassle ferrying a litre of Russian Standard to and from the freezer. But this is technically the coldest vodka you can get. So as long as you’ve accepted that your vodka is going to have the same preparation as a Coke, you’ve got your drink.
So readers, these are my findings for you all to use as you see fit. For all your drink-mixing, shot-downing, or neat-sipping. Have a Tolstoy Tang or just a real cold vodka. Stay hydrated in this heat and здоровье!