Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Vodka That’s Good and Good for You

Vodkas flavored with everything from lemons and limes to chocolate and vanilla to bacon and (yecchhh!) smoked salmon, are one of the fastest-growing segments of the American spirits market.

But the folks at Florida’s first registered distillery, Florida Distillers Co., have a slightly different idea with their new high-end vodka. Rather than flavor their vodka with an extract of Florida oranges, go right to the start of the vodka-making process and distill it from our local citrus.

About 20 oranges grown on in southwest Florida go into each bottle of 4 Oranges vodka. The name references the four specific varieties-Hamlin, Parson Brown, Temple and Valencia-which are used to make the citrus molasses that’s the vodka’s raw material.

It might seem like a distinction without a difference, more of the endless hype generated by the spirits industry with the release of every new product. But in this case the buzz is justified, as the resulting vodka doesn’t just offer the simple, sweetish tang of citrus-infused spirits but deeper, more complex aromas and flavors like you’d get from eating a real orange, albeit one that’s 80 proof.

The aroma is like biting into a sun-ripened orange in the middle of an orange grove, the flavor not only gets the tart sweetness of the juice but the richer, deeper, less acidic flavor of the peel, with just a hint of pith-like bitterness on the back palate.

It’s intense enough to stand on its own chilled, over ice or cut with a little soda. But I decided to have some mixological fun and come up with a cocktail suitable to lounging on the deck in one of our balmy SoFla evenings. First I made a little simple syrup and infused it with basil from my garden, then added two ounces of 4 Oranges, a teaspoon of the basil-infused syrup and a couple drops of bitters to an ice-filled shaker, gave it a few shakes and poured it into a chilled martini glass.

It wasn’t half-bad. I don’t know what to call the thing but it was a pretty refreshing, not too sweet cocktail. Anyway, if you want to try 4 Oranges yourself, either straight or with the accouterments of your choice, it’s available just about everywhere for around $25 a bottle. And truly, it isn’t just for breakfast any more.

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