Although I now consume an average of less than one "drink" with alcohol per day, there was a time when my drinking was both more frequent and less inhibited. During my undergraduate days, I would drink just about anything, provided I thought I had the stomach for it. In the years immediately after my education, I became a much more discriminating consumer of liquor. My apartment almost always contained a bottle of standard Stolichnaya vodka, and mixed drinks containing the same were a staple when I roamed the bars in my neighborhood. Though I never felt discomfort from drinking any sort of vodka, Stoli is much easier to find than more exotic brands of vodka and much tastier than the less expensive alternatives, and most of its peers for that matter.
Recommend this product?
Lesser vodkas, like the ever-popular Smirnoff, are often simply undrinkable without benefit of an additive or mix for flavor. This is not the case with Stolichnaya. A half-glass of neatly chilled Stoli with ice or a macho pull from a warm bottle are both pleasant experiences. In fact, I have even had the pleasure of taking a shot once by having the beverage poured along the blade of a sword. The flavor is very subtle, with a minimum of lingering aftertaste. Even though vodka is my favorite spirit, I usually find strong-tasting vodka unpleasant. Stolichnaya is certainly one of the smoothest beverages of its kind. Almost all vodkas shroud themselves in hype about fine grains and elaborate distillation processes, but this is one instance where the promotional materials are dead accurate.
The quality of this product also comes through in mixed drinks. Beyond a certain point, most vodkas will overwhelm the taste of a citrus juice, reacting with the base to produce something with an unpleasant, almost metallic taste. With Stolichnaya it is easy to do a simple half-and-half mixture with any of the usual juices like orange, grapefruit, cranberry, or tomato. In fact, just about any proportion seems to work well, and a glass of Stoli with a splash of fresh juice tastes far better than any of the flavored vodkas, including those produced by Stolichnaya. Even some of the better brands of pure vodka tend to taste strange when accompanied by small amounts of juice, so passing this test really puts Stoli at the head of the class. Of course, it also makes a fantastic martini, although that particular drink is probably an acquired taste.
It is hard to be specific about foods that go with vodka, although I have had the experience of drinking straight vodka along with a steak dinner and found no unpleasant interaction between the two. However, I would advise that one always keep a chaser on hand, even if it is merely a small glass of water -- even the most gentle of vodkas still can give one a momentary bout of extreme thirst. As I have said before, it goes well when mixed with typical juices. It is also an essential component in a number of other mixed drinks. Stoli, like other forms of vodka, does not mix well with drinks like coffee or Coke. However, keeping a bottle of rum or whiskey on hand along with a supply of Stoli will enable the creation of mixed drinks from all over the bartender's spectrum.
While Stolichnaya is one of the most pleasant vodkas readily available throughout the world, it is still vodka. Its smoothness could be deceptive, and the "kick" is easily disguised by mixing it with juice or a soft drink (Fresca works particularly well.) Restraint is required to avoid going overboard, especially without the same level natural deterrent inherent to most strong spirits. Those who do not have any good memories of vodka may want to sample this product, just to see if the problem is with vodka in general or simply a few unfortunate choices made in the past. If you only have one type of vodka in your bar, Stolichnaya is clearly the right choice (or Stolichnaya Gold if you are catering to elitists.) If you only have one type of hard liquor in your bar, then you should stop calling it a bar and you should seriously consider Stoli, unless you have some personal dislike for vodka.
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