You may have noticed that I love controversy. A good drink can be made better if you have a good yarn to spin about its background, and made better still if you can get into a good argument about said yarn. And there are few more fertile grounds for really big arguments in the cocktail world than when someone busts out the phrase,
The Nationals Spirit of….
I like a good Pisco Sour, but you can’t generate much to say about it without getting into the seemingly eternal slap-fight between Chile and Peru over whose National Spirit Pisco is. Then there is the whole mini-fracas over Cachaça, and whether people in other nations can legally make it.
Or whether anyone else
would want to!
Get your own blog. Oh wait. You do.
One such struggle that I knew nothing about until getting heavily into cocktails is the vodka controversy. Both Russia and Poland claim vehemently that they are the land in which vodka first was made. Like all good drinking controversies, it is unlikely that a definitive answer will ever be found, and it is utterly impossible that the sides would ever stop arguing anyway.
I found a very interesting documentary on the subject from an operation called VBS.TV, entitled The Wodka Wars. I embed it below.
I do have a couple of comments for you before you click to play. The video is long. It starts out very silly, and while it goes back there from time to time, it has some serious things to say as you get into it about the history of much more serious struggles between these nations. There is a strange ad for a ping pong tournament embedded in it, twice. There are lots of hot, scantily-clad, Russian disco chicks in the Russian segment, and an almost criminal lack of hot, scantily-clad, Polish disco chicks in the Polish segment. Finally, the interviews with the drunken crazy Russian bag lady, and with the Lenin and Stalin impersonators are almost must-see TV.
If you’ve watched it, or even if you haven’t, what do you think of Polish vodka versus Russian? How about versus Swedish? Or French? Or English? Or the store brand stuff you pick up at Val-U-Rite?
Part of me wants to declare flatly that modern vodka is basically just a lab product. You can make it with anything, and make it anywhere, and turn out a product that is either great or crap, depending on your methods and care. While this is the truth, I will say the following things about myself: My everyday mixing vodka is Polish (Sobieski); My premium vodka is Polish (Belvedere); and my try to impress others in a bar like a douchebag vodka is Polish (Ultimat).