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Bars & Clubs

Your Questions About Vodka: Answered



(The Conversation) — Towards the end of Ian Fleming’s spy novel “Dr. No,” James Bond orders a vodka dry martini – “Shaken and not stirred please.”

The novel was published in 1958, at the height of the Cold War. But four decades before the Berlin Wall would crumble, vodka had already bridged the East-West divide.

Between 1950 and 1975, vodka went from being a statistical blip to America’s best selling spirit. In addition to the martini, it’s become the base spirit in popular cocktails like the Cosmopolitan, the Moscow Mule and the Vodka Red Bull.

With National Vodka Day taking place on Oct. 4, here are the answers to a few questions I sometimes hear in my classes on food and beverage management.

1. What’s vodka made from?

You might think that all vodka is distilled from potatoes, but only a handful of today’s brands use the root vegetable.

Russia and Poland each claim to the be the birthplace of vodka, which is a Slavonic diminutive term meaning “little water.” There are mentions of vodka in Polish records as early as 1500, but the drink was probably around for at least 300 years prior – maybe even longer.

Potatoes, however, weren’t brought from South America to Europe until the 1570’s. And before 1700, it’s unlikely that they were grown in quantities large enough in Poland or Russia to sustain any sort of commercial enterprise.

Instead, vodka was originally a grain distillate, with rye as the primary constituent. This makes sense: Rye grows better than other grains in the cool, damp climates of northern Eurasia.

While some vodka is made from potatoes, most vodkas are made from whatever grain the distiller prefers to use, with sorghum, rye, wheat and corn leading the pack. Grapes, plums and sugar cane are even used by some brands.

2. Why is some vodka so expensive?

A bottle of Crystal Head vodka retails for around US$50, while a bottle of Romanoff goes for roughly $10.

But the cheapest vodka should taste just like the most expensive one – at least in theory. According to the U.S. Federal Standard of Identity, in order for a spirit to be marketed as “vodka,” “it must be odorless, colorless and tasteless.”

Every vodka does have its own mashbill, which is the word for its own recipe. What’s in the mashbill can create minor differences in the flavor of finished vodka.

Whether a grain or fruit is used to make the vodka, each has a number of flavoring ingredients known as “congeners” that give the final product its unique taste.

The primary flavor, however, is ethanol, which has a taste that evokes the smell of rubbing alcohol. Many would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between different brands of vodka in a blindfold test.

In fact, a taste test conducted for The New York Times by journalist Eric Asimov and a group of vodka experts concluded that America’s old favorite, Smirnoff vodka, retailing at under $15 a bottle, beat out all the fancy high-priced brands for flavor and value.

There are two real reasons that some vodkas cost so much more than others. First, some brands spend a small fortune on marketing and celebrity endorsements – think Ciroc and its $100 million endorsement deal with Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Other brands, like Grey Goose or Hangar One, simply sell their vodka at a high price point to make their brand seem luxurious and exclusive.

3. Is there really vodka in that dish of pasta?

Most American Italian restaurants feature “penne alla vodka” on the menu. There is, in fact, actual vodka in the sauce: Most recipes use around a quarter of a cup, though Food Network star Ree Drummond uses a whole cup in her version.

While vodka was probably first added to a creamy pasta sauce for promotional or novelty purposes, some cooks claim that the vodka helps stabilize the cream and tomato mixture and that the alcohol helps extract flavors from the tomatoes and herbs.

Penne alla vodka features a small amount of vodka, though Ree Drummond’s version might make you a little tipsy. Bokey/

Vodka can be used in other courses as well. A vodka-watermelon sorbet is an excellent intermezzo, or palate cleanser, while the authoritative Cook’s Illustrated recommends using some vodka when making pie crust, since it adds moisture without activating as much gluten, keeping the pie crust tender and flaky.

Whatever the logic, a dish with a dash of vodka – accompanied by a vodka dry martini, of course – might be the best way to celebrate National Vodka Day.

As they say in Russia when toasting with vodka, “vashe zdorovie” – “to your health!”

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Bars & Clubs

The Strange Reality of a WeHo Without a Queer Nightlife Scene



The Strange Reality of a WeHo without a Queer Nightlife Scene
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WEST HOLLYWOOD (Los Angeles Magazine) — It was an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare set to the new Justin Timberlake/SZA collab from Trolls World Tour.

L.A. was hours away from shutting down all bars due to the coronavirus pandemic, but you wouldn’t have known it from the typical Sunday chaos on Santa Monica Boulevard, as throngs of people (some shirtless) crammed into West Hollywood gay bars like Mother Lode, Mickey’s, and Rocco’s for one last ungloved hurrah.

At Rocco’s, a drag queen in a black latex leotard bravely swooped her hand down to grab a dollar bill from a customer.

Another performer did the splits, touching the floor ever-so-quickly as she pulled herself up. Go-go dancers valiantly kneeled on bar tops, accepting cash in their […]

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Bars & Clubs

WeHo’s Employees Only is Delivering Cocktail Kits, TP and Food



WeHo’s Employees Only is now delivering cocktail kits, toilet paper and food

WEST HOLLYWOOD (TimeOut) — This week alone, coronavirus has seen some of our favorite restaurants temporarily close and alter their hours and business models. And with Angelenos heeding authorities and staying home to avoid the virus’s spread, many of the city’s restaurants are adapting with new delivery service , special menus and to-go options. As of today, Employees Only just so happens to freshly deliver cocktail fixings and toilet paper—the real MVPs in a lockdown.

The new service is available through Postmates and includes instructions and ingredients to whip up some of the world-famous cocktail bar’s concoctions; all you’ll need are the spirits and a shaker. And because man cannot survive on cocktails alone, the Employees Only kitchen is offering a handful of dishes […]

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Bars & Clubs

R&B, Hip-Hip, Trap & Soul: ‘CLSQ Fridays’ at The Chapel at The Abbey



WEST HOLLYWOOD — Friday nights at The Chapel at The Abbey will have you moving to a different beat beginning March 6.

Formerly a weekly Thursday event at The Chapel, CLSQ Fridays (CLSQ is pronounced “classic”) joins the weekend lineup with celebrity co-hosts, periodic guest performances, and music from 80-90s up through today’s top urban-contemporary RnB & Hip-Hop.

Brandon Anthony, the creator of Summer BASH (Los Angeles’ black gay pride weekend) and producer of LA Pride’s Hip-Hop Stages is bringing classic and contemporary RnB, Hip-Hip, Soul and Trap music to The Chapel with an evening called CLSQ Fridays.

“B.A.S.H. LA is a platform to build community partnerships for fellowship and provide an outlet of inclusivity within LGBTQ community.” said Brandon Anthony. “The Chapel at The Abbey has evenings and events that cater to a variety of LGBTQ people and we’re happy to bring the CLSQ audience and flavor to West Hollywood for a fun Friday night out on the town.”

Each week CLSQ will feature a variety of celebrity co-hosts and notable LGBTQ people of color who advocate for inclusivity and visibility in gayborhoods and mainstream LGBTQ culture around the world, making The Chapel at The Abbey another inclusive space for locals and travelers within the LGBTQ community.

So get ready to turn up the volume and dance.

The grand opening for CLSQ Friday’s at The Chapel at The Abbey will be co-hosted by beauty and fashion power houses Sir John, global makeup artist to Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, and the iconic red carpet designer duo Wayman & Micah who’re recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

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The Chapel at The Abbey also hosts Altar Girl Thursday, produced by Girl Bar. It is Los Angeles’ longest running lesbian entertainment group, and hosts its own evening, Heavenly Bodies Sunday, a night celebrating the transgender and queer communities.

The Chapel at The Abbey is located at 692 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069.

For more information about CLSQ and B.A.S.H visit and follow on

For more information about The Chapel at The Abbey and VIP table reservations visit and follow on Instagram @thechapelweho.

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