I first came across the Van Gogh range of flavoured vodka when my brother in law brought me back a selection of miniatures from a working trip to Holland, I loved most of them but the flavour which really stood out to me was the Double Espresso. I'm a huge lover of anything coffee flavoured so wasn't particularly surprised (although thrilled) when last month he treated me to a full size bottle when he again found himself working in Holland.
The bottle itself is very attractive and really stands out as being different from the norm. It features a Van Gogh style illustration on the label (or it may even be a Van Gogh, my art knowledge is distinctly lacking!) and the lightly frosted glass gives it an impressively classy appearance - it's the sort of unusual bottle which would look great in a collection if you like to save 'different' bottles and the long slender neck would make it ideAl for use as an outside candle holder in the summer months.
This isn't just coffee flavoured, this vodka has actually been infused with a sweetened and very fresh tasting Espresso. This means the vodka isn't clear as usual, but takes on a rich chocolate colour which looks absolutely fabulous in my favourite lowball glass. As soon as you unscrew the bottle top a rich coffee aroma is released into the air, as a coffee lover this is a huge bonus as the smell of this vodka has the ability to make my mouth water just like it does when I smell good quality coffee brewing. It's a delicious smell, sometimes even when I don't want a drink I'll have a sniff - although this is quite dangerous as I've found a sniff will more often than not lead to a glass being poured!
I adore everything about this wonderful vodka, but the main thing has to be the flavour. Wow. I've honestly never tasted anything like it; the Espresso is perfectly proportioned with the vodka to create a smooth, completely flavoursome, alcoholic drink - when drunk neat the coffee flavour is so rich and 'there' that it softens the natural harshness of the vodka in the same way as a mixer would; obviously you're always aware that you're drinking neat vodka because the kick is there, but this is so much easier to drink than a glass of Smirnoff (for example) in it's naked form. I wouldn't say it was a sweet drink but there's a syrupy hint to the flavour which again helps to detract from the heat of the vodka, this syrup also ensures there's no bitterness whatsoever to the reasonably strong Espresso and gives the impression of it being a sweeter drink than it actually is. The syrup also transfers to the consistency of the vodka, giving it a slightly sticky thicker-than-normal-vodka consistency much like that of Archers (only with a much darker side). This for me makes it feel so special and is partly why I find the drink so moreish, when drunk neat over ice it feels delightfully rich as I swirl it around my mouth to savour the wonderful coffee flavour that literally bursts around my tastebuds and brings out every tiny bit of flavour apparent in the drink.
Of course, it remains vodka and with an ABV of 37.5% it's not a great idea to fall in love with the neat flavour too much, but you're in luck as this is a surprisingly versatile vodka which is robust enough to be mixed with pretty much any mixer. The only tip I have for you while experimenting is to remember that the overwhelming flavour is coffee so it's not difficult to work out which mixers wouldn't work - orange juice doesn't go with the coffee flavour, and other citrus flavours are (for me) a no-no too. I love the flavour when mixed with coke as that seems to be the mixer which brings out the Espresso flavours the best, cranberry juice is also surprisingly tasty but the key here is not to use too much juice as it can work to mask the coffee hit and also adds a bitter note which can quickly become sickly.
I used it with Haagan Daaz ice cream to create a deliciously indulgent White Russian for me and a friend recently which was very impressive and made it seem so much more exciting simply due to the fact that I was using such an unusual and delicious flavoured vodka. A friend suggested using it as an ingredient in a boozy tiramisu or darker than average trifle, this isn't something I would have thought of myself but I plan to try the tiramisu out over Christmas. Also this would be a nice drink to add to hot chocolate, the vodka is beautifully smooth so wouldn't interfere with the chocolate but the Espresso would add a hint of Mocha to create a delicious winter warmer. One thing I have tried (and had success with) is pouring a shot of Costa Coffee flavoured syrup in with the neat vodka, this is a fabulous way to ring the changes with my absolute favourite syrup addition being the vanilla one as it's just so bloody tasty mingled in with the rich Espresso and good quality vodka.
A nice surprise when I drink Van Gogh Double Espresso is the fact that I get a nice caffeine hit from each glass, which is sometimes powerful enough to jerk me from a post-vodka snooze although more often sneaks past and just makes me feel slightly more alert. It in no way prevents me from getting very, very drunk if I have too many glasses - and believe me, a Double Espresso vodka hangover is not something I want to experience very often so I so tend to keep a closer eye than usual on my consumption.
The Van Gogh range of flavoured vodkas are not widely available in the UK and if you find a bottle in a specialist drinks retailer then it is usually ridiculously expensive. Your best bet is an online retailer, where you can pick up a 70cl bottle for around £30 - personally I'll be attempting to eke out my current bottle until the useful brother in law visits Holland again in late November.
Introduced in 2005, the artfully crafted Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka is a rich toasted shade of brown featuring a bold espresso flavor that has been intensified with a caffeinated punch to provide spirit and coffee lovers with a singular espresso exper