A Brief Introduction
As a vodka drinker, and one with deep Polish-Jewish roots, I have long known that Belvedere Vodka is a superior brand. Maybe even a little more than that. While it’s become a cliché for marketing types to describe a consumer product as an experience (it’s not shoe-shopping, it’s a shoe-shopping experience!), I think that opening a bottle of Belvedere is indeed a experience.
My kosher-keeping brethren may have been reluctant to pick up a bottle before the brand got its Orthodox Union seal of approval. So allow me to describe what you’re in for:
The first thing you notice is how elegant the bottle is, which is much like what I aspire to be — tall and slim. The lovely graphic of silver birch branches has a nice texture to it, as well as a pleasing drawing of its namesake, the Belweder Palace, a kind of Polish version of America’s White House, etched into the glass.
“Belvedere” — pronounced bel-ved-er — comes from the Italian belvedere, or “place from where one sees beauty.” It’s also beautiful to drink. I’ve always been puzzled by the description of vodka as “tasteless,” as if it were merely some kind of neutral vehicle for tipsiness. Okay, in many cases it is. But the better vodkas, even the unflavored ones, have subtle distinctions.
Taste always starts with the nose. The aroma of Belvedere has a pleasing acidic bite with a hint of vanilla. There’s a little vanilla on the palate as well, with a lovely peppery finish. The result is a vodka that’s clear, clean, and smooth going down, with a pleasant little afterburn.
After a couple of ounces of Belvedere — neat, or on the rocks with lemon — you’re more than ready to slough off the cares of a long day, or perhaps welcome the Sabbath Queen.
If that’s not an experience, I don’t know what is.
Why Is Belvedere Super-Premium?
Belvedere is a Polish vodka. It’s also a “Polish Vodka,” meaning that its earned the right to use the special governmental designation, as it is made entirely in Poland with strict standards of quality. But Belvedere bills itself as “the world’s first super-premium vodka.” What exactly does this mean?
As you know, vodka is a distilled beverage, usually made from fermented grains or potatoes.
The word is actually a diminutive of water — woda in Polish. Hence wodka, or “little water.”
Back in the day — as in centuries ago — Europeans made the little water for medicinal purposes. They also noticed that it had a great way of helping you relax after a hard day in the fields.
So when you’re tasting Belvedere you’re reaping the benefits of centuries of Polish vodka-making experience. Belvedere’s own distillery has been making vodka since 1910, making it one of the world’s longest continuously operating distilleries.
The really special thing about Belvedere, though, is that they keep it pure and simple, using only superior, locally-sourced ingredients.
The Polska rye used to make Belvedere is from eight local Polish sources. The grain itself that has been developed over centuries for specific use in vodka, making it a main reason for Belvedere’s distinctiveness.
The water is also local — in this case extremely local, from wells belonging only to Belvedere’s distillery.
The water passes through an eleven-step purification system so that it affects the taste of the vodka as little possible; the vodka itself is filtered multiple times for impurities.
Nothing else is added to Belvedere — unlike lower quality vodkas, there’s no added sugar or glycerin. Even the bottling process is mindful — slow and with numerous quality checks before it reaches your gullet.
So why is Belvedere super-premium? Because it’s a premium spirit, made without shortcuts and from locally sourced ingredients.
How Should You Drink It?
I am a vodka purist. When I’m drinking the good stuff, I like to know it. Thus I urge you to try it as above — neat, or with lemon on the rocks. Try it with a salty, savory snack like pickled herring.
I am not a proponent of the vodka tonic. To my mind, or palate, the chemical undertone of tonic water doesn’t go well with the bracing clarity of good vodka. Try it instead with a splash of soda water. Or in warmer months, try one part Belvedere with three parts apple cider or apple juice.
Ultimately, though, we’re talking about having a cocktail. Which means that it should be relaxing and fun. You want a martini? A screwdriver? A Moscow mule? Go for it.
Just make sure that you start with Belvedere — and enjoy in the full confidence of its kashrut from the Orthodox Union. Na zdrowie, and l’chaim!
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