Mystery Tasting: What Brand is this Vodka?
Everyone loves a good mystery, but not usually when it comes to their food.
Most people eat only what they are familiar with or like. Guests at the “Dining in the Dark” event on Tuesday were challenged to sample something different, a mystery French vodka. They were all kept in the dark about the vodka brand served during dinner at Atmosphere Bistro in Atlanta, Ga.
As another Hers magazine staff member and I waited to be seated, mingling with other guests, we were treated to a champagne and vodka spritz, garnished with fresh raspberries. Shortly thereafter came a three-course meal prepared by Chef Adam Olejniczak. With each course, came a new mystery sampling of the French vodka, each prepared to complement the dish.
The hostess for the evening was Chef Jennifer Booker Hill, who explained how the drink mixes, her own recipes, were specially prepared to enhance dishes. “The taste, I feel, is very crisp and refreshing,” she explained. “It has a little peppery finish, but it’s very smooth, and to prove that to you, we’ve added it to some cocktails.”
Without giving away the brand name, Chef Jennifer went on to explain how it is “five times filtered” and distilled in the heart of France’s cognac region. By this time, we were curious, ready to sample the vodka and make notes in our dinner passport, stamped with the “Republic of France” and its national emblem.
The first course during the mystery vodka-pairing dinner was Poulpe en Salade, a charred octopus salad with hearts of palm, Niçoise olives, fresh tomatoes, marinated anchovies, red onion, and organic arugula topped with a lemon confit dressing. The dish was paired with the mystery French vodka served neat. This means it was unmixed and served without being chilled or without any water, ice or other mixer. Sipping the bold but slightly sweet vodka slowly between bites, ignited flavors in the salad.
The second course was Confit de canard Moulard, a duck leg confit cooked in the time-honored French tradition, with wild mushroom raviolis, glazed baby carrots, and fresh French green beans, all marinated in a truffle red wine reduction. The dish was paired with Chef Jennifer’s Southern Berry Bramble cocktail. My favorite, the cocktail had a tart sweetness that married perfectly with the meal, especially the sauce.
For dessert, we had Profiteroles, a choux filled with French vanilla ice cream, topped with warm dark chocolate and toasted Polignac almonds. Chef Jennifer paired it with her own cocktail, Le Orange Drop, make with vodka and orange liqueur. The smooth, subtle orange flavor in the drink paired well with the dessert.
Finally, Chef Jennifer asked us what brand of vodka we had been drinking. As others speculated aloud or quietly among themselves, a Hers staff member, Torri Luke, said “Pinnacle.” She said it softly but convincingly enough that a man sitting across from her, heard and repeated it aloud. To that, Chef Jennifer said to him, “You’re right. It’s Pinnacle Vodka.”
After some thought about its history, the former mystery now seemed obvious. The evening ended with an introduction to the chef, a complimentary bottle of Pinnacle Vodka, two drink glasses and the cocktail recipes, which we have shared below. Enjoy!
1 parts Pinnacle Vodka
2 parts champagne
Fresh raspberries (garnish)
Pour Pinnacle Vodka into a champagne flute and then top with champagne. Garnish with raspberries.
Southern Berry Bramble:
1½ parts Pinnacle Vodka
½ parts DeKuyper raspberry liqueur
½ parts freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large ripe strawberry, stem removed
2 ripe blackberries
1 sprig fresh mint (garnish)
Smash the berries and lemon juice in a rocks glass. Add Pinnacle vodka, raspberry liqueur and crushed ice. Stir until chilled. Garnish with a sprig of crushed mint.
Le Orange Drop:
2 parts Pinnacle Vodka
1 part orange liqueur
1 twist of orange peel (garnish)
Pour Pinnacle Vodka and orange liqueur into a cocktail shaker full of crushed ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.