One of the biggest misconceptions about vodka is that its taste is monolithic. Really, the spirit has a range of unique tastes that develop from the environments they come from. This is none more apparent in Belvedere’s Single Estate Rye Vodkas, a new offering from the brand.
The series features two distinct tastes. Smogóry Forest is crafted from rye cultivated in western Poland. The region is known for its vast forests, milder winters, and fertile soil. This results in tasting notes of salted caramel, honey, and white pepper. Meanwhile, Lake Bartężek is crafted from rye cultivated in northern Poland’s lake district, renowned for its crystal-clear glacial waters, as well as its long and snowy winters. The rye actually spends more than 80 days buried in snow, which has a direct impact on its taste.
While both vodkas are made exclusively with Dankowskie Diamond rye, the two tastes could not be more different—where Smogóry Forest is bold and savory, Lake Bartężek is delicate and crisp. But both are excellent additions to your summer drink arsenal. Whether for entertaining or enjoying solo, Belvedere Single Estate Rye Vodkas are perfect for discovering an all-new side to the spirit.
Meet Brian Stewart, a renowned mixologist and Belvedere Vodka US Ambassador since 2017. THE DAILY SUMMER spoke to Stewart about all things cocktail-centric, and how working for Belvedere is something of a dream job.
How long have you been in the business?
I was a bartender and bar manager for 18 years. I have seen every bar you can imagine. Dive bars, nightclubs, fine dining — I have worked them all.
What drew you to the profession?
Initially, I was trying to be an actor. Bartending just made sense, but it wasn’t until I met my mentor and understood the history behind the bar that kept me there.
How much time do you spend coming up with new cocktail recipes?
When I come up with new recipes, I don’t rush it. Instead, I allow the process to find me. I like to walk to farmer’s markets to see what’s in season, and I try new dishes to see flavor combinations that I might not have thought of on my own. There’s no set amount of time to create cocktails, and my process is to take risks and not be afraid to land on my face. Every cocktail I create gets me closer to the next great one.
How do you know if a drink is a success, or if it needs to be tweaked?
If you want to have the same drink twice, then it’s good to go. However, if after the first drink you want to move on to something else, then that drink needs some work.
How did you get involved with Belvedere Vodka?
I have always loved Belvedere. It was the first drink that my wife ordered when we went on our first date. Belvedere Vodka has always had a special place in my heart, and I was lucky enough to join a team of superstar mixologists in the Moët Hennessy Portfolio Mixology Ambassador program. Now I get to work with the brand on a daily basis, and I love it!
What’s easier — crafting the perfect cocktail or cooking the perfect meal?
The perfect meal starts with the perfect cocktail, so the bartender in me wants to say crafting a cocktail is harder. But the cook in me understands the timing and delivery of a perfect meal. I would say they are the same level of difficulty.
What opportunities have you had, thanks to the brand?
I am blessed to be in the position I am in, and I have attended parties that any other day of the week, I had no business being at. However, I think the greatest opportunity I have had is to work with talented bartenders all over the U.S. No matter how much you have succeeded in your field, it’s important to remember that we are always learning and striving for that next level. My job allows me to learn from some of the best bar minds in the country, which in turn helps to keep my skills up to date and Belvedere current with the cocktail trends. That has been my most significant opportunity.
What’s your personal go-to drink?
Belvedere Vodka martini, with a touch of Lillet Blanc and a grapefruit twist!
CARE FOR A DRINK?
Belvedere Vodka has crafted two new cocktail recipes that highlight the unique flavors of its Single Estate Rye Vodkas and shared them with us. Brian chimes in on how best to serve these amazing drinks!
Diamond Rye Back (With Lake Bartężek)
2 oz Single Estate Rye Lake Bartężek
.03 oz Yellow Chartreuse
.30 oz Crème de Peche
Stir all ingredients over cubed ice in mixing glass and strain into chilled glass.
Describe this drink!
This cocktail brings lighter, more elegant taste and is also very balanced.
What do you love about this cocktail?
It’s smooth, balanced, and can be paired with many different kinds of foods!
Because it’s on the lighter side, you could pair this with fish, and pastas with light sauces.
So it’s best served at dinner or lunch?
This cocktail is versatile and works for almost any occasion — cocktail hour, dinner pairing, after-dinner drink.
How would you describe the taste of Belvedere Lake Bartężek?
Lake Bartężek beautifully expresses notes of black pepper, spearmint, and toasted nuts — which tastes wonderful when sipping neat, or using in a cocktail.
Remember the Grain (With Smogóry Forest)
1.5 oz Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest
.60 oz Cherry Heering
.03 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Absinthe
2 dashes Chocolate Bitters
Stir all ingredients over cubed ice in mixing glass and strain into chilled glass over large ice cube.
What is this drink’s overall vibe?
A balanced mix of bold and savory notes. There’s a touch of sweetness with cherry heering and sweet vermouth added, and then finished with a couple dashes of absinthe to keep it on the bold side. Chocolate bitters really rounds this drink out nicely, too.
What do you love about this cocktail?
I love how balanced it is. The notes of savory, sweet, and bitter taste mixing together so well.
When is it best served?
This makes for a great cocktail hour or after-dinner drink. You could pair it with food, but it’s nicely complex and stands out on its own too.
What foods would you pair with this drink?
Bold dishes, like steak or lamb.
How does it bring out the taste of Belvedere Smogóry Forest?
You really get that earthy forest taste in each sip, with notes of salted caramel, a touch of honey, and white pepper
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