If there is one spirit that the people of eastern Europe know, it is vodka. For centuries, they have been using it to keep warm through the winter months. That is where the spirit started. Distillation in eastern Europe has been around since the Middle Ages, first starting with voda (“water” in Russian). Every culture in the area has their own traditions with distillation, depending on what they had to ferment. In Ukraine, this began with horilka, based on the Ukrainian word hority (burning). They would use any fruit or fermentable material they could find. But to make the highest quality drink, to make voda, they used potatoes, wheat, and other grains.
Founded in 1872, Nemiroff vodka is steeped in those traditions. They have been around long enough to understand the way Ukrainians have always made vodka; using quality ingredients, from the pure local water to the wheat they use for distillation. They take great pride in their product, filtering it eleven times to make sure all of the impurities are gone. While vodka, in general, is flavorless, some trace amounts of flavor from the distillate can enter the final product.
Nemiroff uses Linden flowers in its vodka, adding some rich, vegetal notes to the flavor profile. Some tasters picked up some floral notes as well. When tasting the vodka straight, there is a rich backbone of flavor. It has a depth that is not evident in many other vodkas. While the mouthfeel of the vodka is light, the flavor that comes through from the Linden flowers added to their distilling process stands out. The depth is reminiscent of some Polish bison grass vodkas; there are subtle hints of flavor, but nothing I would call a flavored vodka.
The tradition that runs through their brand is evident in their flavor expressions. The only one they still have is their initial offering, Honey Pepper. The flavor comes from the tradition of horilka. It was a very rough spirit. One they often added berries and other flavors to cut the rough edges. While honey and pepper may seem like an odd combination, it is rooted in a centuries-old tradition. One of the combinations added to the moonshine-like spirit was named Medova z pertsem, a blend of honey and pepper. The combination provides a delightful balance, taking some of the fire out of the peppers and the sweetness out of the honey. Both flavors present and none dominating when tasting it neat.
It was not enough to simply try out each variety of the vodka. Vodka’s popularity is not always in its sippability; it is in how it fits into a cocktail. We tried them out in a variety of popular drinks that you would find vodka in to see how each expression would fare.
Vodka and soda: This is one of the drinks of the summer. It is light, refreshing, and something to be enjoyed over the course of an evening. This classic gains a little more richness from the Nemrioff vodka. The floral notes peek through quite nicely, adding another level of flavor to this classic. Using the Honey Pepper expression resulted in less of the soda flavor coming through, but getting the pepper to assert itself. It is not a strong pepper flavor, but after a glass the heat does start to build.
Moscow Mule: Is there another cocktail that rose higher in a shorter time than the Moscow Mule? The cool copper cup, the sharp ginger, a bite of lime. It all comes together to make a great cocktail. The Honey Pepper had an amazing effect. It took some of the edge from the ginger, giving the drink more balance. There was still plenty of ginger expressed, but the honey peeked out in a very unexpected way. The standard Nemiroff made a delicious mule as well. The ginger and lime blended well with the earthy nature of the vodka, but did not express that flavor. It was a delicious Mule that holds up nicely.
Espresso Martini: This is the one that surprised me. I was hoping for a little more of the heat of the pepper to come through from the Honey Pepper expression. It did not have the pop I expected. I was expecting the bitterness of the coffee to be blunted by the sweetness of the honey. Instead, the honey and the Kahlua joined forces to put the sweetness of this one over the top. With some experimentation, a balance was achieved. As with the others, the Nemiroff standard bottle was a delight in this one. It allowed the flavors to stand out on the richness and depth that is inherent in the vodka.
2 oz. Nemiroff Vodka
1⁄2 oz. Simple syrup (remove this ingredient if using the Honey Pepper)
1⁄2 oz. Coffee liqueur
1 oz. Espresso
Garnish: Espresso Beans
Add all of the ingredients into a shaking tin over ice. Shake well for 20 - 30 seconds. Strain the ingredients into the cocktail glass. When the cocktail settles, there sh
If there is one thing that stood out to me about the Nemiroff it was how well it worked in a cocktail. There is a solidity to the flavor that is appealing. It is not going to overwhelm any strong flavors, only compliment and support them. The Honey Pepper flavor was a joy. It does not possess the overwhelming sweetness most honey-kissed alcohols enjoy. The pepper is elusive when it goes into a cocktail, with the honey being the flavor that consistently rises to the top. But is it not overwhelming. You are not fighting to keep it in check. As we discovered, if you do not take the sweetness into account, it can overwhelm the cocktail.
The history that Nemiroff is inspired by, from the high-quality ingredients to the traditional flavor explorations, is evident in the vodka they produce. It is clear why they have spread to over eighty countries, won multiple awards and honors, and are one of the top vodka brands in the world. Their focus on quality makes this a brand that should find its way to your bar as a fantastic mixing vodka or a sipper for a special occasion.