Love cocktail? Then you must be loving vodka too. I can safely say that most bartenders love vodka too. Ask them to choose a cocktail base and you can often catch them plucking out a bottle of vodka from the bar shelf. The reason I guess is simple. You can make the most complicated and the simplest cocktails with this colourless alcoholic invention, now available in several flavours. Let’s leave the most complicated for someone else to try; I have brought for you two of the simplest cocktails that can be made with vodka with zero regret. After all, it is a weekend after a string of hectic days and let’s try and work less, laze more.
Folks, here I am referring to Kamikaze and Gimlet, the vodka version. Kamikaze, as many of you would know, is a Japanese word which means divine winds that are popularly believed to have saved the Japanese from the fleets of the notorious Mongol invader Kublai Khan. So you can guess the power of this drink.
Many say that Kamikaze was born from Liam, a drink named after a bartender by the same name after he concocted it sometime in the early ’70s at a popular lounge bar in downtown Boston called Eliot. Liam added a dash of triple sec to an ample quantity of vodka and spiked it with a few drops of Rose’s lime juice (The famous tall green bottle to have been patented way back in 1867) before shaking the drink. He served it in a beer mug. As to how Liam became Kamikaze, there is a theory on the Internet that someone from Smirnoff Vodka must have tasted the brew at Eliot Lounge as it was a pretty popular place then, particularly for those interested in the Boston Marathon. Because years later, the recipe featured in a Smirnoff ad with the name Kamikaze. Authentic or not, these lores make a drink what they are, a must-have.
With Gimlet too, there are a range of versions on how it was created. The original formula has gin as its base but as I always say bartenders love vodka, it was a matter of time when gimlet began to be made with vodka too. Some say, the name Gimlet was used for its “penetrating” effects on the drinker as the word means a tool for drilling holes. Some others give the credit to a British Royal Navy surgeon named Thomas Gimlette who in the early 19th Century seemed to have suggested fellow mess mates to have the concoction as a prevention against scurvy, quite prevalent at that time. The reason was, the drink has a lot of lime in it, considered an antidote for the disease then.
For the last so many decades, these cocktails have ruled the menus of bars across the world. In our bars too, these are a common feature. With the market now flooded with newer vodkas — and most of them coming in interesting flavours, many bartenders have tried out these old recipes “to check how they would taste,” as Chong Sherpa, bartender at the popular PCO bar in New Delhi, tells me. Chong, a shy young man from the Darjeeling hills who his colleagues claim, “he really impresses weekend drinkers with his efficiency”, is all set to make for me both Kamikaze and Gimlet. His base is a new vodka on his bar shelf, IICE.
IICE, according to Vinod Kumar Banga — the CEO of Jagat Industries which produces the brand, “is 100 per cent grain based.” “We have encapsulated the flavour of authentic Russian vodka by concentrating on its quality and purity. We use the finest quality grain and through triple filtration, IICE guarantees an exceptional product,” says Banga. IICE comes in two flavours, orange and green apple.
To make Kamikaze, he takes a cocktail glass, fills it with ice cubes to give the glass “an icy look.” In a cocktail shaker, he pours 45ml orange flavoured IICE vodka, 15 ml each of Cointreau and fresh lime juice, a dash of triple sec and gives it a firm shake. He pours the concoction into the glass after draining out the ice cubes. For garnish, Chong doesn’t shove in a slice of lime as it is usually done. Instead, he hangs from the rim a ring of orange peel.
To prepare Gimlet is even easier. It is again a shaken drink. Chong takes 50 ml of the same orange flavoured vodka, adds 20 ml lime cordial, a dash of fresh lime juice, a few blobs of ice cubes, crushed in a shaker. After a few good shakes, he transfers the brew into an old fashioned glass already cooled with ice cubes. He garnishes the drink by squeezing a lime peel. “The essential oil from the peel will add a lovely flavour to the drink, ideal for a sunny afternoon,” he says. Well, before the lovely sunny afternoons become horrid Delhi summer days, I better listen to Chong!