Sub Rosa the Magic Esdragon

 

It’s not every day that a flavored vodka comes around that makes me want to write about it. Check that, there is never a day that a flavored vodka comes around that makes me want to write about it.

My issue with flavored vodkas is in itself quite simple: they are simple. Most flavored vodkas out on the market today are synthetic shells of the flavor that they are trying to reproduce, only hitting one flavor note, and usually an artificial one at that.

Before you start storming my bar with flaming torches and pitchforks, I know that there are exceptions to the rule. Hangar One is the first exception that comes to mind, but my reasoning is: why use a raspberry vodka when you can use vodka and raspberries? Why have citrus vodka when you have lemon juice (or better yet, citrus tincture) and vodka? For that matter, why not use gin, as the resulting concoction will be more complex and no one will be the wiser?

Now I’m sure your reaction so far must be: “Jamie, you hate flavored vodkas, we get it”. Well my gentle readers, today is not about hate, but rather love (or at least like).

A little while ago I was given two samples of vodka. Flavored vodka to be exact. One bottle said “Tarragon” and the other, “Saffron”. Pleased that I’d just received some swag, but a little miffed that it was vodka (why doesn’t anybody ever send me whiskey?), I cracked open the bottles and took a sip, expecting the usual, mono-dimensional characteristics of a flavored vodka.

But lo, what was this? The Tarragon was complex, with hints of fennel and mint, reminding me of a simple, non-bitter absinthe. The Saffron, hit me in the face with Indian food as soon as I took a whiff. Cumin??! Coriander!? Saffron! Why are these spirits offering up so much? They’re supposed to be vodkas, dammit!

Since the bottles say that they are vodka, I guess I’ve got to believe it, but I’d want to give these spirits a different classification altogether, as they are that unique.

And where do these goodies come from you ask? Well, they come from Oregon (is anyone in Oregon not distilling right now?), under the house name of Sub Rosa. Founded by Mike Sherwood, late of Rogue Spirits, Sub Rosa currently is making just the two flavors, but I hope more are in the works. Given the way the Tarragon tasted, I’d say that he’d be nuts not to try his hand in absinthe. (A side note: did you know that wormwood and tarragon are related? Well you do now.)

The first cocktail that I’ve created using the vodka was the:

ESDRAGON
2 oz Sub Rosa tarragon vodka
½ oz Giffard’s passion fruit syrup
1 ½ oz grapefruit juice
2 dashes Fee’s grapefruit bitters

shake with ice and strain into an iced cocktail glass

The name tarragon is a corruption of the French Esdragon, which is derived from the Latin Dracunculus (a little dragon), which also serves as its proper name.

 

Picture and drink by:
Jamie Boudreau
www.vesselseattle.com

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~ by Jamie Boudreau on October 23, 2007.

11 Responses to “Sub Rosa the Magic Esdragon”

  1. JEY JAMIE

    NOT TO BE PICKY BECAUSE I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE BUT ISN’T THE WORD ESTRAGON IN FRENCH?

    YES I TOATLY AGREE THAT THESE VODKAS THAT HAVE TRULY COMPLEX NATURAL FLAVORS ARE MORE THAN JUST VODKA THEY ARE MORE LIKE HEBAL LIQUORS KINDA LIKE HOW AKAVIT IS MADE.

    I AM ALSO ONE NOT TO BE INPRESSED BY FLAVORED VODKAS BUT I AM DEFINATELY GOING TO HAVE TO TRY THESE.

    THE BELVEDER FLAVORS ARE THE ALSO VERY NATURAL TASTEING ALSO MORE LIKE CITRUS LIQUORS THAN VODKA

  2. Why are you yelling Kev? ;-)
    I have seen many references for both estragon and esdragon as the French word (root?) for tarragon. I have also seen it mentioned that esdragon is Scandanavic.
    I am not a linguist (or etymologist), so I can only assume that those multiple sources are correct.

  3. Jeez! Look at that picture! That has to be one of the most beautiful pictures of a cocktail I’ve ever seen.

    Funny, yes, Tarragon is in the same plant Genus with Wormwood. Amusingly, if he is steeping Tarragon in vodka, his product may have more thujone than most (non-czech) Absinthes!

  4. J,
    sorry i’ll try to keep my vioce down over here. You know we New Jersey people are a little loud.

    ever since you got that new camera your pictures have been amazing.

    tarragon contains very small amounts of thujone compaired to grand wormwood tarragons main constiuent is called estragol which is a spicey anise like note. Wormwood’s main aroma comes from thujone.

  5. Kev… What I was thinking was, that Absinthe can have little to no thujone depending on the wormwood used and some of the manufacturing or distillation variables. However, if they are producing Sub Rosa by simply macerating the Tarragon in the vodka, it might very well have at least an equivalent amount of thujone to Absinthe. If the Sub Rosa vodkas are produced using distillation, then they likely will have even less thujone than Absinthe, that is to say practically none.

    Not that thujone content really matters in Absinthe or flavored vodka. Just seemed like a funny idea.

  6. Sub Rosa Tarragon vodka is created via an infusion process, not a distillation per se. The infusion does not go through the still again. Several herbs are infused separately with different strength alcohol bases, and then blended into the final product. The original alcohol used was Dolmen Distillery’s ‘Worker Bee’ distilled mead, but that was not available in sufficient quantity, so vodka it was and it turned out quite nicely.

  7. Well! I guess that answers that question! Thanks Mike!

    Will you be trying to bring your products South to CA? Or is your production too small to bring it to market here?

    Jamie certainly makes it sound appealing! Cheers!

  8. Hi Erik. I am negotiating with a distributor out of Northern California so yes, I plan on going into California as soon as I can. But will stay here on the West Coast until we gauge the demand. I produce about 50 cases of each flavor at a time. Each run is batch numbered. Gotta start small and grow slowly. Hope to get you Sub Rosa vodkas in California after the first of the year.

  9. [...] can read more about Sub Rosa’s spirits at Spirits and Cocktails, and Lamb [...]

  10. [...] Jamie Boudreau of Vessel in Seattle liked ‘em both: The Saffron, hit me in the face with Indian food as soon as I took a whiff. Cumin??! Coriander!? Saffron! Why are these spirits offering up so much? They’re supposed to be vodkas, dammit! [...]

  11. wow, anybody cares to send me a bottle to London? Tarragon flavored Vodka sounds incredibly interesting.

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