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The Polish Vodka Infused with Tastes of the Mediterranean

By Marita Leonard

I don't know about you, but lately I have been noticing the rainbow of fruit flavors available behind bars all over town. It looks like a candy store back there.

The flavored vodka craze started in 1986 with the introduction of Stoli's Limonaya to the US market. It was quickly followed by more fruit flavors and other premium vodkas like Absolut and Ketel One jumping aboard the flavor train.

The market has been growing strong ever since and the total volume of imports of vodka into the U.S. has more than doubled in the past decade.

This odorless spirit devoid of flavor and taste has come a long way in the past two decades. With roots in Russia and Poland it is made now in Sweden, France, Holland, the UK and the US.

Being a neutral spirit, vodka can be made with anything that contains a starch. The best are made from potatoes or grain. Although it may appear to be a mere simple spirit, "in reality a host of factors influence the quality of vodka - proper raw material and technology for producing raw spirit, the effectiveness of spirit purification and water quality," according Dr. Bolesaw Skrzypczak, one of Poland's leading vodka experts.

Today there are over 20 flavored vodkas available in the US market with a wide variety of tastes to choose from: from lemon, raspberry and vanilla to kaffir lime, blood orange and chocolate. In June of this year, CNN reported the launch of a marijuana flavored vodka by a Czech liquor company. I think I'll stick with the fruit flavors thank you.

The popularity of these potent potables spans imbibers of every age and income in lounges and restaurants all over the country.

With the unlimited range of flavors available and people's individual tastes the possibilities are endless: from a traditional martini to elaborate concoctions garnished with umbrellas and exotic flowers. Opening a cocktail menu nowadays is like embarking on a wild fruity adventure.

So what do you order if you just want to enjoy the pure flavor of one of these fruit enhanced vodkas? That's where it gets tricky. Trying to find one that actually tastes as good as it smells.

Vodka has made a name for itself by being a versatile spirit that could be mixed with anything, like a classic white shirt. Devoted vodka drinkers enjoy it simply on the rocks or straight up for its smooth, silkiness and its clean, dry alcoholic kick. The key to quality vodka with grace and elegance is to produce as clean a spirit as possible.

This leads us to Belvedere, a leader in the luxury vodka category. Belvedere has recently joined the flavored vodka club with its newest releases, Cytrus and Pomarancza.

Hailing from the Mazovian region of Poland, and distilled from rye, this vodka is not only known for its superb quality but also for its beautiful packaging, an engraved glass bottle depicting the Belvedere estate, residence of the Polish president in Warsaw.

To keep up with the flavor craze, Belvedere has upped the ante: A four-year search for an expert distiller led to flavor artist Elie-Arnaud Denoix, whose family has been distilling fine liqueurs and spirits for the past 200 years in France. Elie has used his years of experience in creating herb, fruit and spice infusions to set a new standard in the flavored vodka category.

Rather than simply adding a flavor to the distillate Elie searches all over the world for the finest lemons, limes, mandarins and oranges, and macerates the citrus peels i n the four-times distilled Belvedere spirit. He uses the essential oils to capture the essence and complexity of the fruit flavors. The bottles have the recipe number on them, Cytrus is recipe number 11 and Pomarancza is recipe number 42.

For someone who spends most of her time smelling wine this was an utter delight. The vodkas exhibit amazingly pure fruit aromas and are perfect served simply on the rocks. You may notice a bit of cloudiness in your glass, this is a natural reaction that happens when the essential oils combine with water or are chilled.

The Cytrus is made with lime peels from Mexico and southeastern Spain and winter and summer lemons from Murcia, Spain. The winter lemons are a bit green, the lime gives out a zesty freshness, while the summer lemons add a velvety richness. A 1.0 liter bottle retails for $37.99

The Pomarancza is made with orange peels and blossoms from Morocco, mandarin citrus peels from southern Spain and lime peels from southeastern Spain and Mexico. It has a floral and elegant bouquet and feels velvety smooth with a touch of sweetness as it passes over your palate. So refreshingly smooth you almost forget you're drinking vodka over ice! A 1.0 liter bottle retails for $37.99

The smoothness of these vodkas makes them easy to savor in their purest forms. If you'd like to try them in a cocktail we've included some fun summery recipes below for you to try out.

Belvedere Pomarancza Spritz
Pour 2 oz. of Belvedere Pomarancza into a Collins glass with ice.
Top off with Pellegrino water.
Garnish with a lime twist.

Belvedere Cytrus Ginger-Mint Lemonade
2 oz. Belvedere Cytrus
3/4 oz. Mint infused simple syrup
Small knob of fresh ginger
1/2 oz. Fresh lemon juice

Muddle ginger and mint in a mixing glass.
Shake with ice, strain over ice in a Collins glass.
Top with a splash of soda.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.

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