I’m not sure why I accepted the invitation to a lunch time tasting of Grey Goose Cherry Noir vodka. Flavoured spirits aren’t my usual beat. Grey Goose wasn’t a brand particularly on my radar; why would one choose vodka from France? And yet, their ‘Brand Ambassador’, a charming Frenchman by the name of Ludo Miazga, had been the manager of the legendary mixology nexus in London, Milk and Honey. I knew enough from paying attention to true cocktail scholars like Christine Sismondo that Milk and Honey had been at the forefront of the good drinks revolution, so I decided to check it out.
Or perhaps, there was more to it than that. Perhaps it was time to face my summer season affliction: girl drink drunk. Once the humidex cranks over 30 in Toronto’s Southern Great Lakes climate, I want a drink with a lot ice, a good hit of acidity and a bit of sugar to balance it out. Don’t we all? Lemonade in the day; girly drinks in the evening.
Either way, I found myself this week around a table in a suite of the Thompson Hotel getting schooled by Ludo in the company of a gaggle young lady blogeratti on the finer points of Grey Goose’s cherry flavoured vodka. Things began well, with a lovely cherry pink girly drink served in a Champagne flute called a ‘Celebration Cocktail’, which featured the cherry Grey Goose with St-Germaine elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, pomegranate juice and Prosecco. Good stuff. It tasted a lot like what I remember being the flavour of the red kind of Pop Rocks, which is to say of bright cherries. Later, I was served a ‘Cherry Fizz’, essentially a lemonade spiked with the Grey Goose Cherry Noir and cut with soda water. Absolutlely delicious and dangerously easy to quaff. It tastes like it sounds: lemony with a hint of cherry – it works. In between we tasted the vodka itself. It was served chilled from a bucket. The flavour was bright and full of cherry and maybe a bit of strawberry and cotton candy notes, and just a touch of almond. Obviously, I would rather have it in a girly drink, but if I were the sort of person who slowly sipped shot glasses of flavoured vodka, I reckon this would do very nicely. The finish was nice and smooth, with no burn down the throat.
In fact, I was very much impressed with the Grey Goose Cherry Vodka. It turns out The Grey Goose people use only natural ingredients (and are certified EU 100% Natural), with no artificial flavourings or additives. They source all the cherries, once a year at harvest time, from Itxassou in the French Basque Country, whereupon it’s rushed from the Southwest of the country to the Southeast at Grey Goose’s facility at Grasse, Provence. Grasse is the perfume capital of the world, and it’s here that flavour specialists slowly, at low temperatures, extract the essence of cherry for the vodka. They use whole fruits, and those almond notes I detected are actually derived from the stones.
All of this I take as license for more girly drinks. Keep them coming until Labour Day.
PS. I would have liked to have added a Canadian note to this post on flavoured vodka by including the equally delicious and carefully made Wild Blueberry Vodka made by Julie Shore and Arla Johnson at the Prince Edward Distillery in PEI. They make it with local harvested wild blueberries and potatoes from the farm next door. But in Ontario, our Beloved Government Liquor Distribution Monopoly has wisely protected its grateful citizen-customers from the dangers of having too much choice, so it’s not available here. If it were shipped across provincial borders, that would (of course) constitute a crime, since our Beloved Government Liquor Distribution Monopoly is also our Beloved Government Liquor Importing and Warehousing Monopoly. Happy Canada Day, eh.
PPS. I with the Grey Goose people would call it Grey Goose Cerise Noir in this country. We’re Canadian, we can handle it.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley