Beverage Report: DOWN WITH CHOCOLATE

A tasting of doctored vodkas puts the citrus flavours at the top of the list

FLAVOURED vodkas may be despised in some quarters, but one bar where they're welcomed with open arms (and lips) is the Tsar's Bar in the Langham Hilton (0171 636 1000). Manager James Eatenton says that on a busy night they will sell 80 to 90 shots of vodka, and barman Dusan Sapundzic estimates that 60 per cent are flavoured. Their range (about 80) is kept in the freezer, comme il faut, for service in elegant glasses nestling in an ice-filled beaker.

I tried a good selection of their stock one afternoon and was surprised by the results. Polstar cucumber vodka (Polish) smelled like a mild pickle and tasted like one too, with a good spirituous edge. Wisniowka Cherry (Polish) was too cough-syrup sweet for me, but I could see its appeal to lovers of sweet drinks. Of the Italian vodkas (made by Keglevish), melon had pleasant sweetness but banana would have been better left in the peel. Best of all was the bar's own lemon-lime vodka sweetened with a little gomme (sugar) syrup. It had the fresh, clean, dry purity of a good sorbet, and was entirely delicious.

I was even impressed, in an academic sort of way, by their homemade chocolate- orange vodka. A sip was enough, but the balance of flavours was just right. Apparently this is the favourite of both Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne, which may say a great deal about it.

Explorations in flavour can be pursued at other London venues. Among bars, the Babushka (0171 928 3693) has a good range of which many are home-flavoured. The Dogstar (0171 733 7515), mentioned last week, is also a good source. Among restaurants you'll do well at the excellent Wdka (0171 937 6513) and at the long-established Anna's Place (0171 249 9379).

If you want to buy the stuff for home, you may need to do some hunting round. As usual, Londoners will have the easiest time of it. One of the best selections is that of venerable Soho merchant Gerry's (0171 734 2053). They sell around 30, both standard bestsellers such as the ultra-dry Zubrwka Bison Grass (pounds 14.25) and unusual items like Rebeka Orange Kosher Vodka from Poland (pounds 15.50). You can also take a chance on the light Italian vodkas, this range produced by Luidka and including "Gusto Mou" (toffee) and Melone (both 27 per cent and pounds 10.95 for 70cl). Staff seem to have tasted most of what's on offer, and their guidance is useful.

Gerry's also sells the flavoured range from Wyborowa, makers of one of the best vodkas widely sold in the UK. I've sampled all of them, and the lemon and orange, predictably enough, are best of all. The two citrus flavours make a perfect match with the oily smoothness of Wyborowa, and these bottles can be viewed as pre-mixed cocktails: remove from freezer, pour into small glass, with or without ice, and drink. They're sold for pounds 13 to pounds 14, and are available from other London outlets (including Soho Wines and Corney & Barrow) as well as Gerry's.

The Tsar's Bar formula for lemon-lime vodka is a good one for people wanting to do a bit of DIY vodka-doctoring. Take a bottle of good vodka, put it in a large, clean, sealable glass container. Slice into it three lemons and four limes, with the peel removed. Leave it that way, agitating once a day, for two to three weeks. Taste it. If it is too tart (and it will be), add around 75ml (5 tablespoons) of light sugar syrup.

What about cocktails, the vehicle for Manhattan's current vodka-craze? I'm inclined to agree with the guys at Tsar's Bar, who say that if you like these drinks you don't need to mix them. But I've done a bit of fiddling with the Wyborowa lemon and orange, and have come up with a citrus drink that's pretty good. If I say so myself. And I can promise you, whatever Chris Evans may think, that it's a lot better than a chocolate bar in a glass.

THREE CITRUS SCREWDRIVER

If using orange vodka, replace the orange juice with a generous squeeze of lemon.

50ml/generous 3 tablespoons lemon vodka

75ml/5 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed

2.5ml/1 teaspoon Cointreau or Mandarine Napoleon liqueur

1 small wedge of lime

fizzy water

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the three liquids. Squeeze in the lime juice and stir, then top up with around the same quantity of water and enjoy yourself.

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project