Caviar and Vodka - Does it Live up to the Hype?

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to have one of my former students send me some of his caviar to taste.  It’s lovely stuff btw.  As I worked on that article, I made sure that I researched several aspects of caviar and tasting.  Over and over again, I found multiple references to caviar and vodka pairings.  In fact, one reference stated that caviar should only ever be served with vodka.  Well, there was only one way to find out.  As always, I’m willing to sacrifice for all of you to try this paring to see if it works and why.

The Caviar

In the caviar article, I referenced three different grades of caviar distributed by Domaine Caviar.  This is a new one that I did not highlight last time.  Today, I sampled the Golden Osetra Caviar as you can see from the picture.  Following the steps like the last article, I kept the caviar in the fridge until just before I took the pictures and sampled.  While I was sampling, I kept it on ice (both underneath and a bag of crushed ice on top) to ensure that it was ice cold.

With a resounding pop when I removed the lid, I could smell clean ocean brine (which some refer to as fresh cucumber) and a hint of salt.  No off aromas were present.  Trying it on its own was an amazing experience.  This sample had a bit more saltiness than the others I’ve tried.  Please note that it was far from being unpleasant, just more of a briny flavor.  This was tied in with a creamy faint apple flavor that was fantastic.  The eggs popped cleanly and released more of the wonderful salt brine.  This was tied with a beautiful creamy mouthfeel, a hint of off dry sweetness and some acidity.  Absolutely wonderful texture and body to finish off the taste.

My Opinion:  Definitely try.  I loved the salty brine qualities.

The Vodka

I’m a vodka drinker.  I have loved it since college and always used to keep a bottle in my freezer for years.  I’ve had my favorites over the years but my favorite at the moment is a brand called Dripping Springs Vodka.  This is small batch distilled just South of Austin and has become my benchmark for tasting.  That does not mean that I do not like other brands (because I do).  It’s hard to get Dripping Springs since it’s not nationally distributed.  Hence, I tend to pick up a few bottles every time I visit TX.

Just a quick definition of Vodka:

  • A neutral spirit without discernible character of aroma, taste, or color. In other words, vodka should be a clear beverage without being able to distinguish an aroma or taste of the base ingredient used.

I always state that Vodka should not have any aroma or flavor that can easily be picked up.  If you have tried cheaper brands, you know that they have a raw characteristic to it.  Quality brands have a creamy smooth texture.  Dripping Springs has that quality.

For my sample, I was debating on sampling the vodka straight chilled or making a vodka martini.  For today’s purposes, I just chilled the vodka.  I did not want to add vermouth to the mixture that might affect the flavor.  Therefore, I measured a shot, placed it in a cocktail shaker over ice and shook hard to get it ice cold but not dilute it.

The Vodka’s aroma had a faint cream corn essence to it but was exceptionally clean.  When I sampled it, it had great notes of fresh cream with a hint of citrus and buttered corn.  A fantastic creamy mouthfeel that was dry contained good acidity and full body. 

My Opinion:  I LOVE this vodka.  I need to place a bottle back in the freezer to have it ready.

Pairing the Two.

Now it was time to try them together.  I shook another batch of vodka to have it super chilled and placed the caviar back on ice to try.  Now, this may sound weird, but I tried it two separate ways:

  1. I placed the caviar on my tongue and sampled the vodka, and
  2. I sampled the vodka and left that on my palate and immediately tried the caviar.

I did this for one reason.  Whatever you sample first has a chance to warm up sitting on your palate for those few seconds.  I wanted to see if there would be a difference between the two or would they taste the same.  I found that there is a difference.  If you place the vodka in your mouth first, it warms up a bit and does not pair as well. 

Technique to use:  Place the caviar on your tongue and chase immediately with the vodka.

What’s the verdict, you ask?  Please note that a perfect pairing exists when the beverage and food both elevate or taste better.  If one of them does not get better, then it’s not correct.  In this case, the vodka and caviar complimented each other In several ways:

  1. The vodka’s acidity lowered the salty brine of the caviar allowing more flavors to shine through.
  2. The body (weight) and sweetness on both were a close match so one did not feel heavier than the other.
  3. The mouthfeel on both was a wonderful creamy texture. This was highlighted when the eggs popped and released more of their texture mixed with the vodka.
  4. The cream flavor of both was elevated to the point of having a dollop of rich salted butter on your tongue. It also showed some faint green herbs (could not make them out).
  5. The vodka highlighted the ‘pop’ of the caviar, making it special.

Final Thoughts

This was better than I thought it would be paired together.  There are so many components matching up that this was an incredible delight to be writing about.  My suggestion would be to try this yourself but purchase premium vodka.  The better the vodka quality, the better the pairing.  It’s worth the investment once if you never had the pleasure.

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