Black vodka? Yes, it exists - and it doesn't stain your teeth

It had to happen - a vodka that co-ordinates with your girlfriend's wardrobe. A vodka that is so distinct from all the other vodkas that you can recognise it in the glass. A vodka that is black. Yes, black. Blavod, as it's known, is coloured by catechu, an obscure Burmese herb that won't stain your teeth. That wouldn't be very James Bond, would it? The Blavod people insist their sophisticated spirit has joined the premium gang of Absolut, Stoli and Ketel One. And created a choice for the vodka-buying public - that's, "Do you take your vodka black or white, sir?"

It had to happen - a vodka that co-ordinates with your girlfriend's wardrobe. A vodka that is so distinct from all the other vodkas that you can recognise it in the glass. A vodka that is black. Yes, black. Blavod, as it's known, is coloured by catechu, an obscure Burmese herb that won't stain your teeth. That wouldn't be very James Bond, would it? The Blavod people insist their sophisticated spirit has joined the premium gang of Absolut, Stoli and Ketel One. And created a choice for the vodka-buying public - that's, "Do you take your vodka black or white, sir?"

I expected crude oil. Something that would turn my orange juice green and my tomato juice brown. But what I got was something which looked quite handsome in the glass. Blavod isn't big in bars just yet, although it has excited the bartender's creativity at the Pitcher and Piano down the Fulham Road in west London. They have made the most of the fact that Blavod floats and created the Midnight Sun. It's your standard vodka/cranberry combo, with the cranberry juice poured in first. Not that you would catch me drinking it too often.

I like my vodka straight, and in company. Poured on to a single ice cube in a short, collins glass. The glass channels the bouquet - unlike a Martini glass with a broad bowl which sends scents flying off in all directions. My favourites are Wyborowa, with its grainy character, or the slightly sweetened taste of Stolichnaya. I used to be puritanical about flavoured vodkas. I dismissed them as nothing more than cordials. But then I discovered a delicate cucumber vodka from Polstar, a distillery in Iceland. And the land of Björk could do with our support.

Vodka is an unaged liquor made from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. The word "vodka" is a diminutive of the word voda, which means "water" in Russian. It can be distilled from anything that yields sugars, but the most common raw material is grain. The Poles still favour rye, and the Russians favour wheat. In the early days, distillers couldn't achieve a clean-tasting vodka, and so flavoured the spirit with tree-barks and berries. The heir to that tradition is Krupnik, flavoured with honey, cinnamon and ginger.

But the Americans are ploughing a very different furrow. They have introduced SKYY - check that extra "y"! - with its pioneering "no-headache" properties. The company's founder discovered that it was the specific impurities in vodka which were causing his hangover. So he developed a quadruple distillation and triple filtration process which removed the "congeners". And, I'm afraid to say, most of the taste - when drunk straight up. A better "morning after" maybe, but who cares if it wasn't a great "night before"?

The Pitcher and Piano, 871 Fulham Road, London SW6 020 7736 3910

drinkwithrichardjohnson@yahoo.co.uk

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