If You Want Vodka, Give Peas a Chance
A vodka was recently launched in Texas, BLK EYE (no, don’t ask me how you pronounce it), that’s made from black-eyed peas. It’s not exactly an obvious choice for a spirit, but it’s far from being the most unusual. I was also recently told about a gin made from cheese, and in the UK Black Cow Vodka made from milk is a stunningly smooth vodka that’s been winning all kinds of awards around the world. So why not give peas a chance?
To understand how these creations are possible, you need to know the basics of the distilling process, which is quite simple at its heart. You take something that has got either sugar or starch in it, which applies to thousands of natural items such as potatoes, wheat, grapes… and black-eyed peas.
If the item has starch but no sugar, like potatoes, then you boil them to make a mash. In this case you’ve made a potato mash rather than mashed potatoes, and you’ve turned some of those starches into sugars. If you’re using something that already has sugar in it, like fruit juice, you can skip the boiling.
The next step is fermenting. You take either the mash or the stuff with sugar in it, and throw in some yeast. It starts to ferment, and yeast attacks sugars and creates ethanol, otherwise known as ethyl alcohol. After a few days you stick everything in a still and heat it. This is distilling. It drives off the alcohol, which you collect and drink, after watering it down a little. If you’ve ever had a sip of undiluted alcohol, you’ll know why. It’ll be your eyes that are watering.
The process is even simpler if you start with something like wine, which has already been through the fermentation process. Then you go straight to the distilling. Vodka has been made from pinot noir, and even from beer, but there could be a reason the shelves of your local liquor store are not overflowing with vodka made from beer.
It’s much more common to make vodka from grapes rather than wine, and Ciroc is the most famous vodka that’s made from grapes.
Most vodka is made from rye, wheat or potatoes, as they work best to create a smooth taste. They’re also cheap and widely available. But that doesn’t stop distillers experimenting with other source materials. Some smack of gimmicks, others produce interesting results. In Japan there’s vodka made from Japanese rice. Heck, they make sake with it, why not vodka?
There’s vodka made from sugarcane, from quinoa, from peaches (as opposed to peach-flavored vodka), and several from apples. Snow Leopard Vodka is made from spelt (which is a type of wheat) and it’s superb… as well as supporting a good cause, the protection of snow leopards.
Other less-conventional ways of making vodka include from soybeans, figs, whey, honey, sugar beets, cream corn, and sorghum. Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka is made from a combination of cream corn and peaches, while both Tito’s and Deep Eddy Vodka use corn. One vodka’s even been made from the most evil-tasting substance known to man: horseradish.
Which brings me back to black-eyed peas, and a vodka made not out of novelty but out of necessity. A farmer was growing black-eyed peas in Muleshoe, Texas, and one year he saw that the crop wasn’t exactly going to be great. Wondering what he could do with black-eyed peas that were below-par, he had the bright idea of trying to make vodka from them.
The vodka’s distilled 22 times, each distillation removing the heads and the tails (the poorer-quality parts of the distillate), to concentrate the best part. They’re clearly doing something right, as straight from the get-go the vodka’s been winning gold and silver medals in competitions from New York to San Diego, and even worldwide. Not bad for the humble black-eyed pea.
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October 22 • Uncategorized
Dia de los Muertos: Food, Culture and Tradition
Homes around the U.S. are being decorated with pumpkins, ghouls and witches in anticipation of Halloween, but in Mexico, the date coincides with the start of a more ancient tradition that has nothing to do with fright and much to do with culture, food and drinks.
September 29 • Bolivian Wine
Bolivian Wine: from the Andes to your Table
Bolivia may not instantly come to mind when one thinks of wine, but the South American country has a long and rich viticulture history that dates back to the arrival of the Spanish missionaries, who first planted vines around the wealthy silver-mining city of Potosi in the mid-16th century.
September 25 • Coffee Producers
The ‘Arabica’ Whisperer
The best part of waking up? Well, it’s coffee, of course.
Humanity truly runs on this beverage that helps millions of people around the world wake up, work and function. And if it’s of the Arabica variety, its delicious ‘kick’ will keep you going strong all day long.
September 15 • Latino Heritage Month
Raise a toast to Latino Heritage Month
The Empire State Building kicked off Latino Heritage Month by shining red, white and green colors onto the New York skylight on September 15 in honor of the Mexican flag.
August 16 • Music
PEOPLE ARE STRANGE: Jim Morrison
Jim was quoted in his poetic nature: “Being drunk is a good disguise.” He said. “It means I can talk to assholes.”
May 31 • Civil rights
Hennessy: The Cognac of Hip Hop & Civil Rights (Part 2)
It’s safe to say we would all agree Hennessy and Hip-Hop are associated with each other in a special way. We would even go as far to say, Hennessy has reached global iconic status thanks to that fact. That being said, while the cognac of hip-hop was catapulted to its iconic stature thanks to the help of artist like Tupac and Nas, what we don’t know by looking at the surface is that Hennessy has a long standing tradition of supporting people of African decent.
July 15 • shots
The First “Shot” Ever Served: A Tale of the West
It’s always a race against the heat in the West. Hell, there’s a score of difference races around here. There’s a race to the riches and a race to the hills where the riches lay. There’s a race to food and shelter and the means in which a man might make to get them. There’s a race to the women and to the brothels and saloons where you can find them at. I don’t look for my women in those places but I often find myself in them for other races. Mine is a race to whiskey. It’s only a matter of time before I find myself in one today.
October 20 • Bolivia
Bertil Tøttenborg, Sommelier at renowned GUSTU Restaurant - The magnificence of Bolivian wines