Charbay Blood Orange Vodka

Sub Zero Vodka Bar, 308 N. Euclid Avenue, 314-367-1200

To quote the late poet Czeslaw Milosz: "The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes." Ditto here.

There was the time in the front yard, on all fours, heaving after pounding tequila shots. The entire first two years of college. The cocaine. The hookers. The pursuit of pleasure at the expense of purity. The nude photos. The cheating. The vodka. The fibbing. And, especially, the getting caught. That whole demolition-derby thing. Mistakes were made, okay?

But that's fine, because it's all in the past, and plus, the accumulated horrors of a life dumbly led have conspired to drive us here, to Sub Zero Vodka Bar, where the drink of choice is the clear beast, the frozen monster -- vodka, the most dangerous and destructive distillate known to man. It is the devil and can turn a soft pink human into a blood-orange demon. It can make fire of ice.

But we've learned something about vodka since then: Sip it, finish it, then leave it alone. Appreciate it. Do not let them nudge you further than you want to go. Because chances are they're wrong, or at least misinformed.

Sub Zero is the buzz of the drinking set these days, a new Central West End haunt whose predilection is vodka. You can buy it by the shot, as a martini, on the rocks, in a glass or bottle, and drink it in the comfortable confines of a classy storefront turned chilly by the presence of lots of blue light.

It's supposed to seem cold, as cold as in the freezers, where the bar stores all of its vodkas at zero degrees. The list of varieties on Sub Zero's impressive menu is staggering (though the place needs to train its servers a bit better, because ours had no idea). Sub Zero has a Dutch chocolate martini to die for, and its Japanese pear martini, while a touch syrupy, was nonetheless a pleasant diversion on the way to the exclamation point: Charbay Blood Orange Vodka on the rocks.

Charbay is one of an avalanche of designer vodkas that have been snatching shelf space over the past few years. Charbay's vodkas are handcrafted in Napa Valley by Austrian émigré Miles Karakasevic, a winemaker who has gradually evolved into a master distiller of high-end spirits: grappa, whiskey, black-walnut liqueur and, coming this fall, Tahitian vanilla-bean rum. Yowza.

If you don't know what a blood orange is, your life has been stupid up until now. It's the best fruit there is: an orange that has, beneath its peel, a velvety purple pulp. If a raspberry and an orange did the dirty, the offspring would be a blood orange.

Now imagine that flavor and color infused into an absolutely pure vodka. The result is Charbay Blood Orange Vodka. The Karakasevic family quadruple-distills the vodka with perfectly ripe fruit; the result is a spirit that will subtly readjust your perception and, with any luck, nudge you toward the same conclusion Milosz drew at the end of his perfect poem: "The history of my stupidity will not be written/For one thing, it's late. And the truth is laborious."

 
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