Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Vodka

Review: Ketel One Vodka


  • Brand Owner: Diageo

  • Distilled by: Nolet Distillery in Schiedam, the Netherlands

  • Still Type: Column & Pot Stills

  • Spirit Type: Vodka - Neutral Character

  • Strength: 40% ABV

  • Price: $23

Made at the Nolet Distillery Schiedam, the Netherlands, Ketel One Vodka was first sold in 1984. The Nolet family has been making spirits in the Netherlands since 1691, when Joanness Nolet built his distillery out side Rotterdam. In 1902, the Nolet family built a second distillery in Baltimore, Maryland however, their American expansion was short lived when the distillery was forced to close due to US Prohibition. In the early 1980s, Carolus Nolet explored the US cocktail scene and witness vodka's dominance first hand. Believing his family could make a superior product, Carolus returned to the Netherlands and formulated Ketal One. The Vodka starts with a fermented mash 100% European-grown Winter Wheat, which is then column distilled to 96% ABV. Then a portion of this high proof wheat spirit is re-distilled in ten pot stills, and the center heats cuts are individually filtered and blended together. Then a portion of the column distillate and the pot still distillates are blended together and proofed to create Ketel One Vodka.


Nose: The nose has a nice round and clean aroma of slate and wet stone with just a hint of alcohol at the back.

Palate: The palate has a very round and smooth body that simultaneously gives the impression of sweetness and spice like cinnamon or rye bread.

Finish: The finish is slightly warm and clean. Flavors of slate with just a hint of lime zest linger on the palate and then ends with a slightly fruity note reminiscent of green table grapes.

Conclusion: While I am not a frequent vodka drinker, this is a good example of a well made large volume vodka that has a good body and clarity. It’s slight sweetness and spice will work well with a variety of mixers and will please drinkers out of the freezer or if you are using in cocktails like the Bloody Mary or vodka soda.

Stoli Kafya & The Tale of Two Stolichnayas

1997 advertisement for Stoli Kafya.

Stolichnaya Stoli Kafya Coffee Flavored Russian Vodka, most likely distilled by Latvian Balsam in Riga, Latvia and bottled at 35% ABV. 

Price Range: Unavailable in the US.

Roughly translated as Capital City, Stolichnaya was first produced sometime around the early 1940s in Russia. In 1972, PepsiCo struck a deal with the Soviet Union which gave Pepsi an exclusive right to export and distribute Stolichnaya throughout the West. In exchange, Pepsi Cola could be produced, distributed and sold by the Soviets throughout the USSR. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the State controlled company that owned the trademarks to Stolichnaya and a few other Russian spirit brands attempted to privatize and transfer their trademarks to a company called SPI Group. However, since 2003, the Russian Federation has claimed that the trademark transfer to SPI Group was not legally valid and SPI does not have the right to produce and sell a product called Stolichnaya. As a result of this litigation, the Russian state-owned company FKP Sojuzplodoimport produces Stolichnaya in Russia and distributes it throughout the Russian Federation, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Meanwhile, SPI Group continues to produce Stolichnaya and its flavored counterparts at a distillery in Latvia and distributes them in the United States and most of Europe.

FKP's Stolichnaya is distilled from a fermented mash of grain and white sugar. After distillation the vodka is filtered through quartz sand and birch charcoal. SPI's Stolichnaya is distilled three times from a fermented wheat mash and it is also filtered through quartz sand and birch charcoal. Neither FKP or SPI give any indication for how their flavored vodkas are produced which likely means they are using flavor additives rather than whole fruits or spices.

Author and gin expert David T. Smith provided me with the 50ml bottle of Stoli Kafya for the review below. David is a fellow drinks writer who lives in the UK, and he was kind enough to bring me the sample on one of his visits to the US earlier this year. 


Nose: The nose is very pleasant and is reminiscent of Bi-Rite's Coffee Ice Cream or a caffè mocha.

Palate: Stoli Kafya tastes like milk chocolate. It is velvety smooth, with no heat and just a little sweetness.

Finish: Despite its smooth texture in the mouth, the finish is dry, similar to eating dark chocolate. And, a long malty note of ovaltine lingers in the back of the throat. Unfortunately the finish also has an off putting medicinal and saccharin character. 

Conclusion: The coffee character is weaker than I had hoped for and what one might expect from "coffee" flavored vodka. However, Stoli Kafya is a pleasant spirit that would work very well in a number of cocktails: A Kafya Milk Punch or a Dry (hold the Kahlúa) White Russian are two that immediately spring to mind. From what I can tell Stoli Kafya is no longer available in the US. So, if you like the flavor of coffee and milk chocolate in your cocktails and you come across Stoli Kafya in your travels, you should snatch up a bottle or two.

Sources Cited.

Los Angeles' Craft Distilleries

According to the 2010 census, the City of Los Angeles is the country's second most populated city, with almost 3.8 million residents. Yet LA only has one operating craft distillery and a second in the works. Interestingly, both are situate in the same neighborhood. Situated between downtown and the west bank of the LA River, the Arts District is an up-and-coming industrial area known for a growing number of bars, restaurants, shops, and of course, art. Yet what LA's craft distillers lack in numbers is made up in their passion and commitment to making great spirits using organic or local produce.

Read More

Touring and Tasting Spirit Works Distillery

Not long ago I drove up to Sebastopol to check out Spirit Works Distillery. The drive up from San Francisco was nice, especially along highway 116 which took me right into the heart of town. Spirit Works is in a newly developed business district called The Barlow that brings together local art, food and beverage producers. Spirit Works is in the same building as a coffee roaster and there are a couple of small breweries and wineries in the neighboring buildings. This made it really convenient to check out some great businesses I toured the distillery.

Spirit Works was founded by the husband and wife team, Timo and Ashby Marshall. Ashby is the head distiller and Timo takes care of many of the other logistics involved in running a distillery. The day I visited Ashby was striping a wheat wash, that would be distilled a second time and eventually become a wheat whiskey. Meanwhile, Timo was proofing their latest batch of gin and checking on their fermentation efficiency. If you don't know what any of that means, it's ok, take one of their tours because they do a really good job of explaining how they transform raw grain into spirits.

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DIY Spirit Aroma Kit: The First Batch

Supplies for the aroma kit.

A little while ago I went to Rainbow Grocery which is a local CoOp to pick up some herbs and spices for my Spirit Aroma Kit. I took the 2oz amber glass bottles and filled each one about two-thirds full. I have been editing a book about gin so some of the herbs I picked were inspired by common gin botanicals. I bought Angelica Root, Anise Seed, Ceylon Cinnamon, Cilantro, Green Cardamom, Juniper Berry, Lavender Flower, Lemon Grass, Licorice Root, Orris Root, Star Anise, Vietnamese Cinnamon, and Whole Black Peppercorns. The total cost for the thirteen herbs and spices was less than $10 which is a positive sign that my kit will be significantly less than the commercial kit.

Next I got my herbs together, pulled out my bottle of vodka, a small funnel and some small white labels. For each bottle I measured out 2oz of vodka and using the funnel, poured it into the bottles up to the neck. On the label I wrote the name of the herb or spice, the date, weight of the contents and volume of vodka. After I applied each label I gave the bottles a shake to make sure the vodka saturated all of the contents. Once each bottle was labeled and shaken I placed them in one of my kitchen cabinets to steep.

First batch of aroma bottles

Based on what I've read about tinctures this steeping process can take up to six to eight weeks to reach its full potency. In the mean time I am going to get more herbs as well as some grains from the my local homebrew store, San Francisco Brew Craft and fill some more bottles.