Don't all vodkas taste alike?

"Vodka shimmered in its glass as Russia's poetry, its mythos, its metaphysical joy ... a liquid cultural yardstick."  -- "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking" by Anya Von Bremzen


Vodka shimmered for us in St. Petersburg. Here are some favorites and what we paid per 50-milliliter shot.

Premium ($12): Beluga, considered super premium, very pure, with smoothness we could identify from blind lineups. Polugar No. 1, Wheat and Rye, is old-style vodka. Sometimes called "bread wine," it is sipped at room temperature, smells like grain and tastes faintly sweet.

Mid-range ($6 to $8): We preferred Russian Standard over Smirnof or White Birch, the latter said to be Russia's third-best-selling brand. We found lots to like in Samogon Kosogorov. The word samogon means "self-distilled," a salute to Russia's proud history of moonshiners. Kosogorov is the maker. Not as "purified," this one had rounder flavor than most.

Availability: PLCB carries Russian Standard and Smirnov. We wanted Beluga and arranged to get it from out of state.

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