Kiss those cosmos goodbye. And go ahead, chuck out appletinis and lychee martinis, too. Vodka is about to get a whole lot tastier straight up.
French distiller Jean-Marc Daucourt hit upon the idea of taking the afterburn out of vodka. So after seven years of dogged research, many trials and more errors, he’s ready to untap Jean-Marc XO, a smooth spirit that, true to word, leaves no raspy sting in the throat and smells more like a spicy wine than rubbing alcohol.
“I wanted to drink a vodka martini minus the burn,” says Daucourt, whose family has been making wine and other spirits in France’s Cognac region for generations. “Why do people keep their vodkas in the freezer? To kill the taste and burn.”
When he first started working on XO, he tried more than 100 varieties of French wheats (vodka can be made from anything, not just potatoes) finally finding the right flavor combination with four types. While other high-end spirits distill the alcohol no more than six times, Daucourt distills nine times. Then he takes it a step further by micro-oxygenating each batch, which kills the afterburn. “We’re the only ones doing that in the world,” he claims.
Available for special order at most upscale spirit shops in the city, a 750-ml. bottle of XO costs $50. Though it’s pricier than most vodkas, Daucourt is banking on quality over quantity, keeping it exclusive by producing less than 5,000 cases a year. In comparison, Grey Goose released 1.8 million cases in 2004.
Daucourt hopes the classic martini, sans sugary additions, will make a comeback. “Or maybe just vodka on the rocks,” he says. “With a zest of lemon.”