The Subtle Spirit: Profiles in Vodka Character

By Judi Laing

The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) continued its "Touring the Cocktail" series on March 7th at Bar Lubitsch, LA's premier vodka bar. And none other than The Modern Mixologist, venerable Tony Abou-Ganim, guided us through an eye-opening tasting of eight premium vodkas and three vodka cocktails. Bar Lubitsch served up delicious Russian tidbits to complement the vodka.

MOTAC Director Philip Dobard kicked off the evening by thanking our terrific hosts, Jared Meisler, owner of Bar Lubitsch, and GM Aaron Tecofsky. He then introduced the star of the evening, the charming Mr. Abou-Ganim.

Who knew vodka could have so many subtle flavors? We tasted all eight - they were small pours! - and learned how to distinguish one from the other based on whether it was produced with a specific cereal grain or potatoes or fruit, each imparting a distinct character, flavor and mouth-feel. Tony educated us in the proper way to taste and serve vodka - keep it in the freezer - and surprised us with a delicious Cosmopolitan and, more surprisingly, declared it his favorite cocktail! It proved that perhaps the Cosmo needs to be reassessed and revived from its abandonment on the heap of frou-frou cocktails fit only for the girls of Sex and the City. Tony definitely made a strong case.

Kudos to the ace Bar Lubitsch bartenders who made the tasty cocktails for the thirsty, discerning crowd. And thank you to Effen Vodka for their generous sponsorship. Tony's cocktail recipes follow.

Want to learn more about the joys of vodka? Get a hold of Tony's book, Vodka Distilled, and drink your way through it.

TONY'S COSMOPOLITAN                 

  • 1½  oz Absolut Citron Vodka           
  • ¾   oz Cointreau
  • ½   oz cranberry juice
  • ½   freshly squeezed lime

Shake, strain into a chilled Cocktail Coup. Garnish with a spiral of lemon.

Photos Courtesy of Nino Andonis Photography.