A night of Belvedere vodka tasting at Callooh-Callay

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you – I hate vodka. In fact, aside from [proper] ale, champagne, cognac, and white wine, I won’t touch much else. Nonetheless, being the adventurous spirit that I am, I accepted an invite to an exclusive evening of Belvedere vodka tasting at the oh-so-trendy Callooh-Callay.

I had been to CC a few times with friends, but had only sat in the outer area reserved for plebians and the less-fortunate, who can only imagine what goes on behind that wardrobe (you know which one I’m talking about). This time, however, my guests and I were ushered behind the wardrobe into a cozy cave laden with miniature palm trees, and of course, an extra dose of CC charm. Noticing there were three glasses filled with vodka ready for each of us, I hastened for a sip, but was cut short by the host of the event. Little did I know that vodka making was refined art dating back centuries, and that to experience these drinks to the fullest, I would have to – quite frankly – get educated.

Apparently vodka traces its origins back to Poland – or Russia, depending on who you ask (that was the catchphrase of the evening, by the way). As well, this spirit can be distilled from just about anything (yes, even onions), although it has to conform to certain specifications before it can be appropriately labelled as vodka. What’s in a name? A lot, it seems!

[quote_left]I’m no fan of vodka, and honestly – call me whatever you wish – they all pretty much tasted like different variations of rubbing alcohol[/quote_left]Our host of the evening was a lovely spokeswoman for Belvedere (not bad for a living, eh?), who not only gave us a much-needed history lesson, but also instructed us as to how to go about tasting the vodka samples tempting us throughout the evening. To make a long story short, we fiddled around with our glasses as if we were drinking wine. We would first swirl our glasses, have a sip, pause, reflect, and then do the same again, although with a splash of water to bring out the additional ‘notes’. As I mentioned earlier, I’m no fan of vodka, and honestly – call me whatever you wish – they all pretty much tasted like different variations of rubbing alcohol. As well, I was feeling quite worried that I was able to drink the vodka so easily without even cringing afterwards (unlike my unlucky guests), as it made me feel somewhat [uncharacteristically] like an alcoholic. However, I must admit that the brand’s latest concoction, which is not yet available in the UK (except at select locations) did taste quite nice, and I could definitely see myself sipping some in the distant future. As our host remarked, it’s supposed to be the ‘whisky drinker’s vodka’ … which left me wondering why they wouldn’t just stick to whisky instead! The same goes for all those who enjoy food that tastes like chicken.

After our lesson – nay, lecture – for the evening had finished, CC’s members were invited upstairs for further vodka tasting, leaving us common folk feeling as if we were all dressed up with no place to go. However, not fancying a mock visit to Moscow upstairs, we headed back to where we first started – behind the enigmatic wardrobe, and up the rabbit hole where our love affair with CC first began, to enjoy some proper Bloody Marys.

Although I still hate vodka – my apologies to our American host who tried so hard to enlighten us – I think my time at CC was very well spent. Not only was I in great company, in one of my favourite bars in London, enjoying some killer cocktails (afterwards, of course), but I also learned a great deal about one of the world’s most misunderstood spirits. So, the next time I find myself about to ‘enjoy’ a shot or two, although I may be overwhelmed by the pungent smell of a hospital ward and feel myself inching towards alcoholism, I’ll drink to those pioneers who gave the world a taste of the great Polish – or Russian, depending on who you ask – spirit.