I’ve found that when one is passionate about a subject and is, additionally, an avid reader, picking up a new book on the subject is akin to setting off on a great adventure.
At least, that’s what I used to think.
When I received a digital copy of Vodka Distilled: The Modern Mixologist on Vodka and Vodka Cocktails by Tony Abou-Ganim I was looking forward to really digging into it. Unfortunately, digging is what I felt like I was doing. The first 3 chapters are a bit of a slog, they read more like a 30-page term paper on the history and production of vodka–and suddenly I feel very sorry for mu high school English teacher and all those like her.
Thankfully, once the necessities were dispensed with, you could tell the rest of the book was the one the author really wanted to write. While there seemed to be a bit of confusion as to whether he was writing for the home enthusiast or the business-minded bartender when he discusses the cost benefits of fresh juices, etc. but the quotes and anecdotes that accompany the cocktail recipes and vodka profiles really make for enjoyable reading.
Though I do, as always, take exception to the habit of calling a Martini a cocktail if all it is is vodka stirred or shaken with some ice. That is not a cocktail, that is vodka on and off the rocks. Abou-Ganim does, at least, include the Vesper (that martini-like concoction popularized by Ian Fleming’s Bond in Casino Royale).
Not to downplay the writing any more than I already have–really, it becomes quite an enjoyable read after the aforementioned dry start–the real lasting strength of this book is in the gorgeous photography of Tim Turner. Each cocktail is beautiful captured and the author himself is quite charismatic in his shots.
Along with the cocktail recipes and vodka profiles that make up the bones of the book, there is a treatise on caviar as a companion to the clear, crisp spirit, along with detailed instructions on hosting a vodka tasting in your home.
Bottom line? Skip the first 3 chapters unless you, yourself, are writing a paper on vodka particulars and get straight to the good stuff. Study the vodka notes for the 50+ reviewed vodkas for your own edification and shopping notes and try out some of the recipes. But, by all means, don’t put it on the shelf. Leave this one out on your bar or coffee table open to admire the images within.
I received a copy of Vodka Distilled for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.