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:
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.
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