More than any other time of the year, the Winter holiday season is the time when hearts long to “make merry” and spirits are high. More than ever, premium “spirits” are being offered at parties and at home. If you’re a vodka lover (and who isn’t?) you already know that not all vodkas are created equal. They are not only different in smoothness, they take on the characteristics of the ingredients from which they are distilled. Some will leave you feeling like you’ve really pampered your taste buds and others, with a headache in the morning!
I got a chance to taste a very unique, premium vodka that will pamper your tastebuds. It’s already popular in England and 45 other countries, but has just recently been introduced to American taste buds: U’luvka Vodka. This unique vodka, according to legend, is steeped in royal history. In 1603 King Sigismund III of Poland commissioned the famed alchemist Sendivogius to develop a vodka of the finest purity and quality bringing to life the legend of U’luvka – a vodka that could be enjoyed by the King and his royal court all night long – leaving them restored and renewed!
The story certainly is unique, but U’luvka is not just unique because of it’s connection to 17th Century Poland, but because of it’s special blend of wheat, rye and barely, distilled three times to make it velvety smooth. In fact, this recipe has made it a gold medal winner. U’luvka vodka is a “sipping” vodka — you don’t need to mix it (although you can). It will charm you immediately with it’s satisfying taste “as-is” and it also has a distinctive, pleasant finish that really lasts. It is a myth that vodka hasn’t any taste. Vodka takes on the character of the ingredients it is distilled with. U’luvka has floral notes that mix with spicy anise, and savory and spicy notes that give it that very long finish. You’ll savor the taste long after you’ve sipped your last drop.
I got a chance to try U’luvka vodka at an exciting new venue, 1534 on Spring Street in Soho (20 Prince Street between Elizabeth and Mott Streets, Soho, 212-966-5073). My vodka guide was none other than Colin Appiah, Host of the Discovery Channel’s “Cocktail Kings,” and U’luvka Brand Ambassador and “Star” Mixologist. This charming man definitely knows his spirits! He suggested that a vodka steeped in history and fit for royalty, shouldn’t be housed in a boring bottle, nor should it be guzzled out of any old tumbler. U’Luvka vodka’s twisted glass teardrop shaped bottle is meant to be a work of art and beauty representing the synergy between male and female. The ancient alchemical sign that is the logo combines symbols for man, woman, and sun. The graceful bottle is perfectly paired with legless. elegantly engraved glasses that you can get as part of gift sets. These shot glasses are a traditional Polish type called “U’Luvka” and they harken back to the 17th century. Once filled, the glasses are meant to be hand held and used to toasting in friendship, until all the vodka is consumed (and then “retired” by smashing the glass).
If you’d like to try this lovely tradition, (minus the glass-smashing unless want to clean up a mess of glass), get a U’luvka gift set. The U’Luvka Vodka Mini FLP gift box is the perfect gift for a special occasion. An impressive looking gift box contains a 10cl bottle of U’Luvka Vodka, two of the signature legless glasses and a cocktail recipe book. The 750 ml size is $50 (2 glasses). Magnum gift sets are $100 (6 glasses). Another very special holiday gift is a modern ice bucket with the traditional glasses – $250 at Morrell’s and Sherry Lehman wine & Spirits stores. Less expensive but quite impressive is the U’Luvka vodka Mini Friendship Love and Pleasure (FLP) Box which is available at Selfridges, Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and fine wine merchants (r.r.p. £19.99) and to buy online at http://www.uluvka.com/
……and if you’re in NYC or planning to visit, I definitely recommend treating yourself to a “happy hour” at 1534. This modern “speakeasy” celebrates French colonialism (1534 is the year of Jacques Cartier’s first explorations). Both food and drink have been designed around the centers of French influence: French Polynesia, Africa, Asia and The Americas. This is not just any bar, it’s one that was created by bartenders who aren’t afraid to take their drinks up a notch. You’ll notice a collection of Absinthe drips — some of which are at the bar, others are used in a “punch” that feeds a small group. If you go, you must check out the drink menu of seasonal contemporary cocktails (average price $121.00) paired with a fun, small plate menu, both interesting and delicious. The vibe is chic and casual, intimate and welcoming. In addition to the cocktail and small-plates menus below (food is served till 1:30 a.m. from Wednesday through Sunday, and till 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday), there’ll be rotating seasonal punches served from absinthe fountains. I spent close to an hour in the bar by myself before Colin arrived, and felt relaxed and happy just sitting there by myself.
If you want to try mixing U’luvka, the recipes below will get you started:
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