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World's best vodkas now in India!
Sangeeta Singh
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May 09, 2005

Next time you go to Delhi's happening lounge bars like Shalom, Laidbackwaters or Aura, how about trying new brands and flavours of premium vodka like Belvedere or Absolut's vanilla flavour.

And if you have already developed a taste for exotic vodka, you'd probably like to stock some in your mini bar at home. But then you will have to shell out Rs 1,400 for a 750 l bottle of Absolut Vodka, or Rs 2,700 for Belvedere's 700 ml bottle. For Belvedere's flavours, you will have to spend Rs 3,000.

Belvedere has two flavours -- Belvedere Cytrus and Belvedere Pomarancza. And according to Ashwin Deo, managing director, Mo�t Hennessy India, Belvedere offers a luxury experience to vodka enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

According to the company, its cocktails -- Belvedere Presidential Martini, Belvedere Luxury Cosmopolitan -- are being patronised by celebrities like George Clooney, Sir Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham.

In India, with the white spirit market growing at the rate of 25-30 per cent, vodka drinking is certainly becoming a fad in the metros. But other cities need not lose heart. For Absolut is present in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Goa, Chandigarh and Jaipur.

And while Belvedere currently sells through 200-odd outlets in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore (and through select hotels in Goa) it is planning to have many more. "In the second phase of development, we may look at other cities like Jaipur," says Deo.

However, priced between Rs 2,500-2,800 for a 700 ml bottle, depending on whether you are in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, Belvedere is 85-90 per cent more expensive than Absolut.

Though if you find the price differential between Absolut and Belvedere high, it is better to try them out at bars like Aura, where a small peg of Belvedere is Rs 325. When compared with Absolut and some other good brands like Russian Moskovskaya and Polish Bison grass, Zubrowa is only Rs 75 more. At Shalom also, the price differential is Rs 50-60 per peg. 

Siddharth Banerji, director, Kyndal India, which distributes Absolut in India, says Belvedere is selling at a discount both for trade and retail in order to make an impact. "We are not into those gimmicks," says he.

Dhiraj Arora, managing director, Mahima Hospitality, the mother company promoting both Shalom and Laidbackwater, says it is not all about pricing.

He recommends Belvedere for plain vodka and Absolut for those who want to play around with flavours. "Customers are gradually maturing to Belvedere because of its fineness," says Arora.

Nevertheless, to retain Absolut's exclusivity, every bottle of Absolut is from one distillery in southern Sweden and every bottle is washed with vodka before it is bottled. Regular Absolut is for Rs 1,300 and its flavours Citron, Pepper, Kurant, Mandrin and Vanilia are all priced at Rs 1,375.

Deo recommends that Belvedere is best had as martini, on the rocks, and as chilled shots. "We want our customers to have the original taste of vodka and, therefore, don't suggest long, mixed drinks," says Deo.

Similarly, Banerji suggests that Absolut should be had with tonic water, frozen or simply neat. "Since it has a taste of butterscotch and hints of dark chocolate, Absolut's Vanilia should be tried neat," says Banerji.

Places where you can enjoy your vodka include Enigma, Olive, Seigo, Opium and Jazz By The Bay in Mumbai. In Delhi, you can go to Olive, Aura, Agni and Laidbackwaters, and in Bangalore to F Bar, I-Bar and Spinn.

But if you want to try other less-talked about vodkas, you should visit Aura at Delhi's Claridges hotel. It serves vodka of all kinds -- those with high alcohol content like Smirnoff Blue and Russian vodka Krepkaya.

Besides this, there are other premium brands like Jewel of Russia using Stolichnaya Gold vodka, priced at Rs 375 a serving.  The signature cocktails, the Polish Very Cherry and the Zubrowka cinnamon, are priced at Rs 425. But what is interesting at Aura is the Vodka Platter, which starts at Rs 599 and uses four different vodkas. "This is very popular with people who come to try different flavours," says Manoj Kanojia, bar captain at Aura.

If you don't want to get into the nitty gritty of premium and super premium brands, alcohol content, ingredients and faint tastes of vanilla or butterscotch or rye, good old Smirnoff is the answer.

Its flavours include Vanilla, Raspberry and Citrus. And they are all priced in the range of Rs 380-400. Its prices are low because it is bottled in India and doesn't attract custom duties like Absolut or Belvedere. And according to Santosh  Kanekar, director marketing of Diageo India, Smirnoff is the most popular.

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