Somehow, I mistakenly came to the conclusion that there was a limit to what could be distilled and the flavors that any distillate could and should be imbued with. I have recently learned that I was horribly wrong on both counts.
Anything. And I do mean anything with a bit of a sugary profile can be distilled and produce alcohol: cactus, beets, corn, wheat, cherries, maple syrup, bananas, strawberries, etc., etc. All you need is a bit of heat and some yeast to start the process and a dab of patience and there you go. Why, even prisoners in jails can produce alcohol. They call it Pruno and they make it using just a plastic bag, hot running water and a towel or a sock to conceal the pulp during fermentation. The ingredients can include any or all: apples, oranges, fruit cocktail, ketchup, sauerkraut, and sugar. Can you just imagine what alcohol produced from ketchup or sauerkraut must taste like? The yeast is derived from crumbled up bread. The end result has been described by an aficionado as a vomit flavored wine cooler, and I’m willing to bet it’s just as smooth going down as it is coming back up.
Which brings us to the topic of flavors, apparently nothing is sacred and nothing is taboo and anything goes – and I do mean anything. We’re seeing some beers with seasonal flavors as well as other taste treats like iced tea, coffee, pizza, cheese steak and even smoked beers. Sake, rums and tequilas, gins and brandies and just about every distilled spirit is being beefed up with all sorts of flavoring. Vodka seems to be the most popular spirit to “infuse” or as I have previously put it “confuse” with flavors since it is pretty much a blank canvas in its natural state.
Some distillers actually carry over 30 flavors including: Watermelon, pomegranate, cake, Rangtang (horrible), atomic hot, bubble gum, cookie dough, cotton candy, gummy, chocolate, bacon (unbelievably yummy), Bison grass (one of my favs), sour apple and much, much more. Even my friends up at Buckeye Vodka have been experimenting with a Rosemary infused vodka (please pass the rack of lamb). Most of these entries are just plain horrible while a handful really shine.
The folks over at Van Gogh Vodka are already up to more than 20 flavored vodkas. I have always had a fondness for their plain Jane unflavored naked vodka and find it smooth and totally neutral and absolutely perfect just the way it is. I have tried their Cool Peach and Dark Chocolate vodkas (my rave on them is here: http://fbworld.com/2011/09/12/georges-rants-raves-vincent-van-gogh-cool-peach-vodka-rich-dark-chocolate-vodka/) and found them quite pleasing and palatable. So every time they send me a new flavor to try my first thought is I hope they haven’t screwed this one up.
So now it’s time to take a look at, and a taste of Van Gogh’s PBJ. PBJ…LOL…WTF! Peanut Butter and Jelly Vodka, oh come on, give me a break. What are you guys after with this, the ever elusive 3-12 year old demographic? What’s next, a pabulum flavored vodka aimed squarely at the 0 to 3 year old demographic? I guess when the legal drinking age gets lowered to 1 you should have a strangle hold on the market. Don’t hold your breath!
Well, I have to admit the bottle is playfully decorated in bread, peanuts and jam and pretty in pastel colors. When I unscrewed the cap and stuck my nose in the neck of the bottle I was immediately assailed by the unmistakable aroma of peanut butter. I mean real peanut butter; smooth peanut butter like it might have smelled just spread on white bread! There’s a hint of jam in the background as well. My, my so far so good. Poured into a glass the peanut butter gets a bit laid back and the jam comes forward a bit and a bready yeasty kind of aroma rounds out the nose. Go figure, it really smells like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
In the mouth, the raspberry jelly taste comes forward with the peanut butter following behind and pleasantly coating the entire mouth much like a spoonful of real peanut butter might melt and coat your mouth. That is quickly followed by yeast, white bread and vanilla and combines into a reasonable facsimile of a PBJ. Further mimicking a real sandwich, it has an agreeable thick and gritty kind of mouth feel. This drink just might make a decent lunch and on top of that I really believe the kids will love it. I know, I know- the legal drinking age is 21. Hey, I’m only joking, but just how seriously can anyone take PBJ flavored vodka even if it is good?
Well, it does in fact make an interesting martini, and I can’t wait to play around with it in some other cocktails but in the mean time I think I’ll have myself another PBJ.
By George Brozowski
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