Merry Christmas, everyone! As I write this, NORAD reports that Santa is traversing South America, next stop Brazil, and I just finished listening to my new favorite holiday album, A John Waters Christmas. I’m also starting to feel the effects of “Yuletide freakout,” the phenomenon wherein members of one’s family start getting tense or crabby for no apparent reason, aside from the social pressure to make the day some kind of soul-cleansing transformative experience. Me, I’ll be at work tomorrow afternoon, and really all that matters to me is that I receive the Godiva chocolate I requested, and that the garlic mashed potatoes I’m making for dinner turn out okay. But others are making it difficult for me to maintain my holiday equilibrium, so I’m enlisting the aid of the good people at Stolichnaya–specifically, a cocktail made with their newest flavored vodka, Stoli Wild Cherri.
I know it would be more traditional to get my Christmas buzz on with eggnog or a good old-fashioned Dickensian punch, but vodka is my go-to liquor, and has been since I began drinking. I got on the alcohol train quite late, having abstained throughout high school and college. In my teens, I never needed liquid courage to get out on the dance floor (or remove my shirt at a party), and having tasted beer and champagne as a kid, I saw no reason to force myself to drink something that nasty for the purpose of getting up the nerve to do things I already did. But then came adulthood, and romantic drama, and graduate school, and plain old spunk and stubbornness wasn’t enough anymore. I had helped to plan a party with a fellow grad student, and had taken great care to craft mixtapes that I thought would get people rump-shakin’ with abandon. Alas, my expectations were too high: let’s just say MFA candidates in film aren’t the folks most likely to get down. I took my classmates’ failure to boogie personally, and decided then and there that it was time for a new coping mechanism. I marched into the kitchen and demanded that the class alcoholic (not coincidentally, he was also the class virgin) fix me up a drink that would be palatable to an experienced imbiber like myself. He came up with a simple but functional vodka and Sprite. A door opened in my psyche that night that I had never suspected was there. Not everything behind that door has been nice, but I wouldn’t close it again for the world.
Throughout my 20’s, vodka and I were consistently there for each other. Whether in a vodka tonic, a gimlet, a Cosmo, a Greyhound, or a Cape Codder, that odorless, colorless nectar of the gods has gotten me through all manner of edgy social, professional, and/or sexual situations. Of course, the thing about loving a potent potable is that it never gets jealous if you stray, so I’ve had (and continue to have) dalliances with rum, tequila, and Jack Daniels. Now that I’m a “mature” woman looking ahead to 40, vodka will have to share me with red wine and the occasional sparkling white on a fairly regular basis. But it doesn’t mind. It knows I will be back. Vodka is the wind beneath my wings, the hooch I turn to when I seek simplicity, familiarity, and dependability. Stoli is my brand of choice: I actually prefer it to certain more expensive brands, and among reasonably priced varieties, it’s the sole representative from Russia. Does it really matter where a vodka is made anymore in the age of globalization? I don’t know, but it gives me some pleasure to think about my ancestors in the shtetl knocking back the водка by the liter, never imagining that some female descendant of theirs would be doing the same thing in a dive bar on a distant continent.
Among the flavored varieties, Stoli Vanil is my fave–I’m a fool for vanilla in general, whether in baked goods, scented candles, or perfume from the Body Shop (it happens to be an aphrodisiac, so stock up on candles and flavored vodka, single dudes!). Wild Cherri avoids the problem common to many vodkas infused with fruit, namely, a vaguely medicinal taste (sure, one can get high on cough syrup, but once one is over 21, one generally chooses not to). I’m not giving up Vanil anytime soon, but I’d be happy to make mixed drinks with Wild Cherri for my friends. Perhaps I can throw a Presidents’ Day party and concoct a “Cherry Tree” martini in honor of George Washington? But that’s a ways off; let’s focus on one holiday at time…first Christmas, then New Year’s. I’ve still got two bottles of vodka in the freezer. Will they make it to February? That depends…you comin’ over?