The Washington Times - May 17, 2008, 01:36AM

By Jacquie Kubin

Washington, D.C. (May 2008)…Vodka’s history is traced back to the twelth century and reading descriptions of the brew, it was nowhere near as pleasing as it is now.  

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Depending on what side of the Vogal River you are standing, the world Vodka comes from the Russian word Voda or the Polish word Woda, both meaning water.  But there were many Russians in Poland, so that doesn’t necessarily provide any proof or its heritage.

Regardless of where it comes from, today Vodka commands more than 20% of the spirit market in the United States followed by Rum, Tequila and Gin.  People are passionate about the Vodka they drink.   

They swear by their brand.

So what makes Vodka the end all for so many?  It’s mixability.  Since the eleventh century, brewers have been infusing Vodka with herbs, spice and fruit.  The drink absorbs flavors, making it the perfect mixer.

But what makes the perfect cocktail? 

“I think the key to the perfect cocktail is a combination of acidity, sweetness and alcohol strength,” said Nick Mautone, Mautone Enterprise, author of “Raising the Bar: Better Drinks, Better Entertaining” and the official Mixologist for Grey Goose Vodka.

 “Vodka is the perfect cocktail vehicle.  It works with lemon, lime or tomato juice, it can be enhanced with sweetness using a simple syrup or cordial and it can be drank either full strength, or reduced with mixers, making it the right strength and level of sweet, or tart, that is appealing to the individual.”

With plenty of experience and a talent learned through doing, Mr. Matoune works with Grey Goose Vodka as an ambassador for the liquor.  It is a job he obviously enjoys doing. 

“I like Grey Goose Vodka in particular because when you choose your drink you want something that is elegant, well balanced, crisp and with good acidity,” Mr. Matoune says.  “I think Grey Goose is one of the most elegant vodka’s made because of is crisp, citrus overtones, buttery finish, a bit of almond nuttiness.  It is the citrus notes and buttery finish that come to mind. Most.”

But what makes good vodka?  Unlike wine we don’t have a label to guide us to a growing region, grape varietals or tasting notes.   It really is about the branding of the product.  

Grey Goose has an interesting branding story.  It comes not from Russia, or Poland, but Cognac, France.  While other Vodkas, such as the well-known Smirnoff, have long distilling history, Grey Goose was created, from the name up, for the American Vodka drinking audience.  

The concept belongs to Sidney Frank, a self-made billionaire.  The association with distillers in France was a marketing move intended to create a link between Vodka and quality in the minds of the consumer.  Frank launched his brand in beautiful bottles, shipped in wooden, divided crates and with an easy to replace cork, rather than screw-top cap. 

All specifically designed to create Grey Goose as superior bran than its established competitors, such as Absolut or Stolichnaya, and putting it into the Super-Premium Brand category immediately upon release.

Bacardi & Company, Ltd. purchased the brand sold for $2 Billion cash prior to Frank’s death in 2006

Vodka is not just vodka, however.  It can be produced using grains, potatoes or ryes with the rye vodkas being more strongly flavored, spicier and potato vodkas being heavier, with an oily texture. 

Grain Vodkas, such as Grey Goose, are lighter in body.  

Made from Winter Wheat found in the South of France the spirit is distilled in a continuous still using Alpine Spring Water.  The water used has been naturally filtered through the limestone plateau of the Massif Central, a region is South-Central France that is bordered on the south-eastern side by the Alps and the south-west by the Pyrenees Mountains.   The land mass is filled with dormant volcanoes and volcanic sediments. 

Not unlike a New York bagel, the water may be the secret to Grey Goose’s clear, crisp taste. 

But doe sit all matter when we are creating a blended drink?  Once we add the mixers, the ice, isn’t one pretty much the same as another?

Absolutely not says Mr. Matoune. 

“The rules apply to cocktails as they do to fine cooking – you need to have flavors that compliment and contrast,” Mr. Matoune says.  “I believe in better products, a better spirit, distilled, with less off notes and bitter qualities will make a better cocktail.”

“Without-a-doubt, the better the spirit the better the cocktail.” 

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Visit The Chef’s Community to find a recipe for Donne Tempo Grey Goose Vodka Infused Salmon-Muffletta, a salmon filet that has been infused with Grey Goose Vodka during a 24 hour marinade and then layered with a traditional four-olive salad, created by Chef Luis Martinez of The Potomac Grill, Rockville, Maryland.  Visit Donne Tempo for additional recipes for Vodka Infused Peppered Tuna, Trio of Stuffed Peppers and Chocolate Bread Pudding with Rasberry Vodka Sauce.