I spent a lunch hour earlier this week at a vodka tasting with Bob Nolet, an 11th generation distiller from Holland who’s best known in Canada for producing Ketel One vodka. I know what you’re thinking: “Vodka for lunch? How Mad Men. Sign me up!” Believe me, there was a little bit of that going on — especially since I tasted three different vodkas and got halfway through a vodka cocktail before any food arrived. Plus, Nolet was accompanied by Jenner Cormier, a Ketel One spokesman/bartender who just won the World Class Canada Bartender of the Year title. He is also easy on the eyes in a Don Draper kind of way.
Over the course of the tasting Nolet and Cormier sold me on the charms of this small-batch, pot-stilled spirit and I was eager to try it at home by shaking up some fall cocktails. Intrigued by the idea of muddling a tomato (a first for me), I opted for the Tomatini, created for Ketel One by a bartender from Dubai.
As I measured white balsamic vinegar and vodka into my cocktail shaker I imagined that the end result would taste of boozy gazpacho, a tonic both strong and savoury. Alas, no. The recipe also calls for sugar syrup so, in combination with the vinegar and tomato (remember: it’s a fruit), my drink was too sweet for my liking and I recalled Nolet’s and Cormier’s words of caution: that cocktails from Asia and the Middle East (e.g. Dubai) are often sweeter. Doh!
I quickly dispatched the Tomatini and used the lovely Ketel One to muddle up my favourite vodka cocktail, a Dawa. But in the spirit of fall, I bring you the Tomatini (feel free to adjust the sugar and vinegar according to taste).
Ketel One Tomatini
- 1.5 oz Ketel One Vodka
- 1/3 oz white balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 oz simple syrup*
- 1 ripe red tomato
- Pepper Grinder
Cut the tomato into 8-10 chunks and muddle in a cocktail shaker. Add the balance of ingredients with lots of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with black pepper.
*To make simple syrup, add 2 parts of sugar and 1 part of water to a small saucepan. (1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water is a good starting point). Gently heat until it starts to boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.
— Recipe created by Jimmy Barrat, Zuma Restaurant, Dubai