Skip to comments.Shaken, and Not Stirred — But What About the Clathrates? [differences in vodkas explored]
Posted on 06/15/2010 7:34:10 AM PDT by Pharmboy
A UC researcher proposes that taste is in the tongue of the beholder when it comes to vodka.
Photos By: Ashley Kempher, photojournalist; video by Jay Yocis
University of Cincinnati Professor Dale W. Schaefer, in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department of UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, is part of an international team of scientists studying to see if there is a scientific way to measure structure in vodkas. UC collaborated with scientists from Moscow State University.
Since vodkas are 60 percent pure water and 40 percent pure ethanol (ethyl alcohol), many people conclude that vodkas are uniformly tasteless. As reported recently in the "Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry," the researchers found that vodkas differ in their physical structure, which could lead to perceptible differences in taste.
One vodka martini, please, with an extra shot of clathrates.
Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling proposed that the narcotic effect might be due to the formation of crystals called clathrate hydrates in the brain. I think that idea is wrong, but we propose a cage-like hydrogen-bonded structure, which is a liquid analogue of a clathrate, says Schaefer. Water alcohol mixtures are known to form clathrate hydrates below -80 degrees C, which is why we proposed a transient cage-like structure in the liquid at room temperature.
Schaefer posited that the structures were responsible for variation in taste. The team then tested five vodkas: Skyy, Belvedere, Stolichnaya, Grey Goose and Oval. They found that vodkas differ in the prevalence of the cage-like structure. Computer simulations by Schaefer's group show that trace impurities control the structure.
Still, Schaefer says that it takes a discerning taste to distinguish between vodkas.
It is likely that less than 50 percent of the population can distinguish one vodka from another, he says. Our findings could only apply to the 50 percent who can distinguish. As Walter Lippman said, The music means nothing if the audience is deaf. Some even claim there is a genetic component to alcohol perception."
The next step is to test the hypothesis in the paper by testing subjects with the ability to distinguish brands in blind taste tests. At present there is no more funding for the project now.
So until we get more funding, we are no longer players, says Schaefer.
Much of the analysis was done by two post-docs: Dan Wu, now at Dow AgriChemicals, and Naiping Hu, who is still in Schaefers group. Masters student Kelly Cross also worked on the project.
The Moscow team was led by Svetlana Patsaeva, whose father was Viktor Patsayev, a Soviet cosmonaut who was killed in the Soyuz 11 disaster.
By the way, Ian Flemings James Bond had another preference: he always preferred Russian or Polish vodkas if they were available. Schaefers researchers would be happy to know that.
During my years of ‘research’, I determined that the cheapsest vodka worked just as well as the most expensive in every way, including taste-wise...Sure would like to get reimbursed for all those experiment expenses...
It's all marketing...
I agree to a point...Everything from Smirnoff on up is just about the same but the cheap vodkas taste awful.
Thanks, Joe, there’s no one better than you at finding relevant, funny and/or obscure graphics for our threads.
Absolut makes me gag, absolutely.
I maintain that there is by definition no such thing as a “vodka martini.” That is like ordering a whiskey sour and telling the bartender to substitute rum for bourbon.
It cannot be done.
During my years of research, I determined that the cheapsest vodka worked just as well as the most expensive in every way, including taste-wise...Sure would like to get reimbursed for all those experiment expenses...
I am continuing the research, and have determined that the cheap stuff tears my stomach up where the better brands do not.
Most thought Absolut was the cheap brand (It really is a horrid Vodka), and Svedka was found to have the smoothest taste and was mistaken by most to be Grey Goose.
Since then, I keep a bottle of Svedka in the cabinet. It's $15 for a large bottle compared to the price of Goose and people thought it tasted better or at least as good as Goose.
I was a bartender for 7 years in a previous life. So I have a bit of experience to go on here..
Ha...you won’t get any argument from ME, friend. Of all my friends, there’s only two who drink the real thing, and I have told the rest that vodka is not part of a martini. It’s chilled vodka, straight up, or with some dry vermouth.
When I was in college, we'd occasionally, erm, "liberate" new charcoal water filters from the lab.
Then, we'd run the super cheap vodka (Orloff? Fleishmann's? I remember that it was $2.99/liter) through the filters a few times to remove the impurities. End product actually wound up tasting pretty good. Of course, I also would get bombed on 40-below Apple Bounce, and Milwaukee's Best, so it's not like I had much of a refined palette.
I'd imagine that you could do the same with cheap vodka and a Brita filter, nowadays.
Martinis should be stirred, not shaken, because shaking introduces oxygen into the gin, and the oxygen reacts with some of the botanicals to produce a bitter or sour taste, “bruising” the gin.
I gave up beer (mostly) for vodka a few years back. Bounced around the brands, until I encountered Svedka. Great price point, and it doesn’t make me hurt the way the real cheap stuff does.
Haven’t bought anything else since.
To be absolutely correct, I don’t drink the classic martini with an approximate 3:1 gin/vermouth ratio.
Mine is more properly called a “Montgomery,” with a 15:1 ratio. It is so named for Monty’s preferred ratio of his troop strength vs his opponent, prior to battle.
When my wife wants the occasional Smith & Wesson (the drink, not the weapon), we use Monarch vodka. When doing a drink like an S&W, the cheap ($5.95 a bottle) Monarch has no discernible difference from a more expensive brand.
Last night, my dad told us about a ‘double-chocolate’ flavored vodka from a company called called Vodka360. They also make a cola-flavored vodka. The idea SOUNDS good, but the website touts the company as being ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’. I’m not sure I’d want to give my money to such an obviously liberal company.
But, vodka doesn't make me mean, and I can tell the difference between vodkas--served as they should be, straight, ice cold. For years my freezer was graced with a bottle of kosher Polish vodka made in Łódź, a gift from some Polish mathematical physicists who attended a conference I organized. Really good vodka! A Russian colleague had some at a department party I held at my house before the bottle was finally finished. His eyes got big, and he exclaimed "That's good!!!"
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