Memories of Zhivago, bottles of vodka

Bill Dowd photo illustration
On Christmas Eve, Constant Companion and I snuggled under some blankets, cranked up the fireplace and watched a DVD of the iconic David Lean film “Doctor Zhivago.” The images of ice-encrusted Russian buildings and shivering peasants and star-crossed lovers returned easily to mind when we awoke this morning to a blanket of 22 inches of new-fallen snow at our high-elevation home in Upstate New York.

No wonder I began thinking of vodka. No hot toddies or mulled cider for me. When I want to warm up on a blustery winter’s day, I’m reminded of the late great actor Rod Steiger’s Komarovsky character stumbling into the drafty “Zhivago” apartment shared by Julie Christy and Omar Sharif, ice-coated whiskers and snow-coated parka fairly screaming “I need heat!” And, what does Komarovsky reach for to fight the cold? Vodka, of course, true Russian that he was.

My favorite vodkas usually are those that are made from potatoes. In truth, you can make vodka out of virtually any organic matter — grains, grasses, tree saps, grapes, pineapple, honey, etc. — but I prefer the likes of Chopin, from Poland, and LiV, from Long Island if I have the choice. For non-potato styles, I prefer the Van Gogh Blue, made from a trio of European wheats.

Here’s my top 15 of vodkas of all sorts, from all over the globe:

1. Chopin (Poland)
2. LiV (New York)
3. Van Gogh Blue (Netherlands)
4. Vermont Gold (Vermont)
5. Diamond Standard (Poland)
6. Stolichnaya (Russia)
7. Bluecoat American Dry Gin (Pennsylvania)
8. ZYR (Russia)
9. Prairie Organic (Minnesota)
10. Reyka (Iceland)
11. Cirrus (Virginia)
12. Cold River (Maine)
13. Hangar 1 (California)
14. Idol (Franco-American)
15. Finlandia (Finland)

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