When you review consumer products and services for a long time, it’s rare to be surprised by something truly new and different. But last month, there was a notable exception. What I thought was going to be just another pleasant event for another pleasant new vodka, turned into both a lesson in New York history, and a lesson in the art and science of distilling.
First, About the Vodka. Broken Shed Vodka is produced by a small distilling company located in New Zealand. It is the only product that the firm produces, and the owners spent years developing what is a truly distinctive spirit. You might think that it is nothing special to create a new vodka. After all, it’s a spirit that is made, and popular, in many parts of the world. It is true that vodka is a very basic product – it is simply distilled spirit (or ethanol) and water. What differentiates one kind of vodka from another, is the type of water used, and the method by which the ethanol is produced.
In the case of Broken Shed, the founders wanted to create a vodka that did not disrupt the food supply in their native New Zealand. So instead of distilling their vodka from traditional sources like potatoes, wheat, or corn, Broken Shed is made by distilling whey, which is basically a waste sugar that is produced in the cheese-making process. While it is used as a nutritional supplement and an additive to baking flour, there is no shortage of whey. In fact, most of it ends up in animal feeds. The recipe and testing of the vodka, as it is told, was done in a broken shed, hence the name: Broken Shed Vodka.
Interestingly whey also makes an amazingly smooth vodka. Added to the good water sourced from distinct sources from both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand, it makes a vodka that has a silky smooth mouth feel and virtually no taste at all. This is what makes Broken Shed so amazing. All premium vodkas go through multiple distillations (Broken Shed goes through 4) , to remove impurities that can lead to harsh tastes. But very few actually reach the point where they are so smooth that they don’t influence the taste of cocktails. It is the pure, smooth nature of Broken Shed that makes it the new “must-have” for the finest cocktail bars.
Broken Shed’s New York launch party was held at the legendary Blue Bar at New York’s Algonquin Hotel. Here, Christian Preda, the master bartender at the hotel, explained why Broken Shed has quickly become the bar’s best selling vodka. According to Christian, a vodka based cocktail is all about the flavor of the ingredients, not of the spirit. For example, Broken Shed can easily be paired with a simple lemon peel to make a drink that is lemon flavored, but that isn’t a lemon flavored or infused, vodka. A drink offered at the launch was a Broken Shed dirty martini, that tasted like olives with a hint of salt, not like vodka with salt in it. This difference is important, because it allows a bartender more ability to experiment with flavor and to develop new cocktails to pair with food or with different experiences.
Here is Christian’s Cleanest Dirty Martini recipe – 3 oz Broken Shed Vodka 1/4 oz of olive brine (from the juice of Spanish olives – low salt) Dash of dry vermouth 3 olives from Spain (the big green ones).
Broken Shed Old Fashioned-3 oz Broken Shed vodka, 3 dash bitters, 1 sugar cube, Zest of lemon/orange/grapefruit, Garnish- flamed or not In glass, add sugar cube with bitters and few slices of zest, add 3 oz vodka and 4 cubes ice. Stir for 10-15 seconds. Garnish
Editors agreed that the vodka also paired well with various foods, from barbecue to delicate cheeses. Sipping and nibbling was made even more unique by the venue. The Algonquin is one of New York’s oldest hotels, and the Blue Bar is a longstanding part of that tradition. Those at the Broken Shed event were surrounded by history in the dozens of Hirschfeld illustrations and the art deco motifs. The hotel itself was built in the early 1900’s and has only recently undergone an extensive renovation. in 1919, the hotel became the favorite daily luncheon spot of a group of Famous for catering to writers, actors, and journalists, who later became known as the “Algonquin Round Table.” Some of the group members included notables like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert E. Sherwood. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have been part of that group, if only for just one day?! The Round Table group eventually founded The New Yorker magazine.
In addition to being the home of the Round Table, the Algonquin has a “house cat.” The original “Matilda” wandered into the hotel in the 1930’s. There have been many “Matildas” since then. If you are lucky, you can spot Matilda on her personal chaise lounge in the lobby, or in pretty much any non-food service area of the lobby that she wishes to inhabit. After all, she is a cat! If you are a fan of this beautiful feline, you can send her a note: email@example.com.
The Advice Sisters are excited to share the news about Broken Shed vodka with you. Alas Broken Shed vodka is not readily available for off-premise sales in the United States just yet. It is beginning to be more widely distributed in finer restaurants and bars. You can ask your bartender if s/he will order it. And, when you do taste it, prepare to be impressed. Broken Shed vodka is going to be the most requested vodka, wherever it is served. You can learn more (be over the drinking age to enter the Broken Shed Web Site) at: http://www.brokenshed.com
My thanks to John R. Dunham for helping to file this report for The Advice Sisters