I am supposed to have sworn off vodka, dammit. I am a fancy drinker now, and that means indulging in finer, more nuanced spirits. I have a palate, for Chrissakes. Still, I can't seem to escape drinks made with this boring spirit, evidenced by my newfound love for the Amor Blanco at San Salvaje.
In my defense, I only ordered it because I had no clue what "Monopolowa" was. The menu only listed that, St. Germain (yes), cherry bitters (also yes), and vermouth (triple yes) as ingredients in the drink. I assumed that I Monopolowa was just some kind of fancy-ass spirit from Poland that I'd never heard of, and thought that I was going to be having some new kind of experience. Maybe it was like ouzo, or nelewka, or some other crazy shit that I'd never heard of. Hell, I didn't know.
After I ordered, I pulled up my phone and Googled, only to learn that I had just ordered another damn vodka drink. I rolled my eyes, and thought about just ordering something else. My plans to try something new had sort of been foiled, but I decided to stick with the Amor Blanco, if only because I'll damn near drink pond water if it's mixed with St. Germain. When I took the first sip, I knew that I'd made a really good choice.
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I was at least a little bit right. Monopolowa is a Polish-born, Austrian made vodka distilled from potatoes. It is a smooth-drinking vodka, with a slight minerality and notes of citrus and sweet vanilla. These flavors are subtle, but Monopolowa is a much more nuanced vodka than I've ever had before, and I was a connoisseur of the genre in my younger years. As a devoted Ketel One drinker when I've not sworn it all off, it was nice to add another bottle into the rotation for summery punches, assuming that I can find this random-ass vodka on the shelves at Spec's.
The St. Germain and vermouth nicely complimented the slight sweetness of the vodka, and made for a cocktail that was both refreshing and spirit-forward, a rare combination. It maybe could have benefitted from a little sweetness that a Luxardo cherry could have provided, but that's a minor complaint in the scheme of things. Served with spicy ceviche or any of Stephan Pyles' other culinary goodness, the Amor Blanco will be an absolute staple in my summer drinking plans.
It could, however, have benefitted from a more experienced bartender. The guy who mixed my drink during lunch was constantly looking back at the recipe to figure out the proportions of the spirits and liqueurs. He did a good enough job, but I can't help wonder if someone who has made the cocktail before could have mixed a version whose flavors blended just a little better. The Amor Blanco was also light on the bitters, which seems to be a common complaint in this new world of fancy cocktails. Well, those that aren't supposed to be bitter, anyway.
Maybe I had been undervaluing the use of vodka in cocktails all along. Any bartender will tell you that vodka is the world's most versatile spirit, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be innovative or interesting. Drinking well isn't about choking down Fernet or pretending that you like scotch, it's the pursuit of interesting drinks that are full of layers of flavor. And sometimes, many times maybe, that means incorporating more vodka into my drinking repertoire. Vodka, I begrudgingly admit that I was wrong about you.