Review: Vov Zabajone Cream Liqueur

vovPrimary colors on the label. A name in quotes — “VOV” — and all caps, at that. Opaque, white bottle. What the hell is Vov?

Vov looks like something a clown would have to nurse to get through his next birthday party, but in reality, it’s an exotic Italian cream liqueur. This “traditional Italian Zabajone Cream Liqueur is made from egg yolks, sugar, and the highest quality, aged Sicilian Marsala Superiore,” per the Molinari family, which imports it to the U.S. Here’s more backstory on the stuff:

Italy’s #1 selling liqueur, VOV was created in 1845 by Gian Battista Pezziol, a confectioner and nougat specialist from Padua. Looking for a way to use the leftover egg yolks from his nougat-making process, Pezziol mixed them with Marsala wine, alcohol and sugar to make an energy drink, a popular trend at the time. He named the beverage VOV, short for “vovi,” the Venetian word for eggs. An immediate success, the drink won a silver medal in 1856. That same year, the Archduke of the Court of Vienna issued a patent with the royal double headed eagle. The spirit remained prevalent into the 20th century and was consumed by the troops during World War II for its energizing properties. VOV is the perfect substitute for modern and classic cocktails that call for a fresh egg.

How do you drink it? Warm or cold, neat or on the rocks, or in cocktails, the bottle tells us. Some people put it in coffee, I’m told. As it’s similar to an advocaat, try it in a Bombardino cocktail — half brandy or rum, half Vov. (You can add whipped cream and/or coffee if you like.)

Well, it sure does look disgusting. An opaque and milky off-white in color, the mind reels at all the negative connotations one can draw with reality and this stuff. It’s intensely sticky. Get one drop on your hands and you’ll need to scrub them. Don’t be afraid of the soap.

On the nose, it’s mainly driven by intense sugar — like a creme brulee plus some cinnamon notes — but with a sharp/sour citrus edge reminiscent of baby vomit. Notes of licorice and burnt butter bubble up in time. The body is where the egg yolk starts to really show, gooey and, indeed, intensely eggy, adding in notes of sticky sugar syrup and marshmallow, lemon peel, and a winey influence driven by the Madeira. The body isn’t as thick as you’d think, and the slight wateriness adds to an overall weak impression when served neat. The finish is absolutely mouth-coating, sickly sweet-and-sour and simply impossible to shake for a solid five to ten minutes after taking a sip.

Few people probably drink Vov like this, so I tried it with rum and ice. It’s a considerable improvement, but the funky nose seems somehow stronger and the sour aftertaste still lingers. Now I’m not a guy who’s ever enjoyed a cup of eggnog, so I can see how Vov would not exactly be my cup of tea. But still, Vov has got to be the very definition of an acquired taste.

Eggnog fans, dig right in — and let the hating begin.

35.6 proof.

D- / $27 (1 liter) / vovzabajone.com

Update 9/6/2015: Unthrilled with this review, the Vov folks sent me a shopping list and a number of cocktail recipes that would showcase how well Vov worked as a mixer. I made all four of the following with a fresh bottle of Vov and can absolutely attest that cocktails like this are a marked improvement over Vov on its own. That said, some of these are more successful than others, particularly the Orange Julius-like Arancia Fizz and the surprising, foamy, sweet-and-sour-infused Fluffy Vov. If you’ve got some Vov sitting around and don’t know what to do with it, give one of these a try tonight.

Arancia Fizz
2 oz. VOV
2 oz. Orange juice
3 oz. Sparkling orange soda or ginger ale

Add ingredients to a highball glass filled with ice and roll (empty contents back and forth between a shaker tin and the highball glass until well mixed). Garnish with an orange slice.

Madagascar Spritz
Created by Tim Cooper
1.5 oz VOV
2 Orange half wheels
4 oz Club Soda

Mash the orange slices with a muddler or bar spoon in the bottom of a Collins glass.  Add Vov, ice and club soda. Stir. Garnish with an orange half wheel.

Volada
Created by Tim Cooper
1.5 oz VOV
1.5 oz Pineapple juice
1.75 oz Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 dashes Angostura bitters (optional)
Freshly grated cinnamon

Place all ingredients into a mixing glass and shake with ice. Strain over new ice into a wine glass. Garnish with a pineapple leaf & freshly grated cinnamon. This drink can also be blended.

Fluffy VOV
Created by Lucinda Sterling
2 oz gin
1 oz VOV
1 oz heavy cream
3/4 oz fresh lemon/lime juice
Few drops orange blossom water

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a fizz glass, without ice, and top with club soda.

Recipes for National Tequila Day, 2015

As with most holidays held in the summer, this one seems as if it should have its own weekend and not a single date. However, with July 24th falling on a Friday, it should be easy to stretch this one out over three days, no problem. Here are a few recipes sent to us from various folks over the last couple of weeks celebrating National Tequila Day. Some are pretty straightforward, and others do a good job at highlight tequila’s versatility in cocktails. Of course, drinking it straight up is always good, too. Enjoy!

CarpeCarpe Dia Punch
2 parts Milagro Añejo
1 part lime juice
1 part blackberry syrup
1 sage leaf
1 part ginger beer
Blackberries (for garnish)

Build all ingredients except ginger beer in a punch bowl over a block of ice. Top with ginger beer right before stirring.

palomaLavender Paloma
2 parts Milagro Silver
1 part grapefruit juice
.5 part lavender and vanilla simple syrup
.5 part fresh lime juice
Grapefruit peel and kosher salt (for garnish)

Mix ingredients and top with soda water. Add garnish. Sit on patio reading Elmore Leonard novels and listening to Steely Dan. (optional)

Fresa Breeze
Created by Tomas Delos Reyes
2 oz Partida Blanco Tequila
1/2 oz agave nectar
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
2 strawberries
2 tsp diced cucumber
Mint sprig (for garnish)

Muddle strawberries and agave nectar in a shaker. Add ingredients and shake over ice. Strain over ice and top with diced cucumber. Garnish with mint sprig (optional).

AOFAñejo Old Fashioned
2 slices of orange
2 scoops of sugar
3 drops Angostura Bitters
½ oz Herradura Añejo (we tripled this)
1-2 brandied cherries

In an Old Fashioned glass muddle the orange slices, sugar, and bitters. Add ice sphere to glass. Add Herradura Añejo. Garnish with brandied cherries.

(Note: As a resident of Kentucky, I was highly skeptical of this recipe and was ready to be offended. However, to my surprise it wasn’t blasphemous. Approach with an open mind.)

Fairweather Sour
Served at The Wayfarer in NYC
1 oz Milagro Silver
1 oz Pura Tirta Mezcal
1/2 oz pineapple puree
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz jalapeño simple syrup
Pinch of fresh cilantro
Dash of Memphis bitters
Smoked paprika Salt (for rim)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with a scoop of ice. Rim the rocks glass with the smoked paprika salt. Shake well and double strain into the glass over ice. Garnish with a slice of fresh jalapeño.

Recipe: 2015 Cinco De Mayo Cocktails

Another trip around the sun, another year of back-to-back celebrations of the Kentucky Derby and Cinco De Mayo. As such, there’s plenty for everyone to drink, and we’ve got more than a few recipes for your consideration. Party, Karamu, Fiesta, Forever.

Spicy Cerveza CocktailSpicy Cerveza Cocktail
1 1/2 parts Hornitos Plata tequila
1/3 part lime juice
3/4 part simple syrup
1 slice jalapeño
4 parts Mexican lager
Salt (for rim)

Muddle jalapeño in a glass with a salted rim, combine remainder of ingredients except Mexican lager in a shaker, shake vigorously, strain over fresh ice and add Mexican lager.

image001Amante Picante Margarita
Courtesy of  Juan Martinez (Toca Madera)
2 oz. DeLeón Platinum tequila
.75 oz. agave
1 oz. lime juice
Serrano pepper
Cilantro

Muddle two pieces of serrano pepper and clap 5 pieces of cilantro in a tin. Rim a highball with Tajin/Ghost pepper salt, shake all ingredients together and strain into a the highball glass. Garnish with a serrano pepper and sprig of cilantro.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.57.43 PMPina-Ta
1.5 oz. Botran Reserva rum
.75 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. pineapple juice
.75 oz. rosemary syrup

Mix ingredients, shake and strain over crushed ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lemon wheel and rosemary sprig.

image001Jalapaloma
Courtesy of Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House in Dallas, TX
1 ½ oz. Blue Nectar Silver tequila
½ oz. Grand Marnier
1 jalapeno
½ oz. lime juice
¾ oz. agave nectar
2 oz. grapefruit juice
Crushed orange slice

Chop jalapeno and infuse in Blue Nectar. Add infused tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, agave nectar, and grapefruit juice to a shaker. Shake well. Garnish with an orange slice.

Camarena Caliente
2 oz. Camarena Silver tequila
¾ oz. Triple Sec
½ oz. sour mix
1 slice pineapple, muddled
1 dash of cayenne and cinnamon (Can substitute chili powder for cayenne)

Mix ingredients, shake and strain over ice. Sugar rim and garnish with a spice-dusted pineapple spear.

Nuevo Manhattan
(created by Leo Robitschek)
1 ½ oz Riazul Plata Tequila
½ oz Dolin Blanc
½ oz Punt e Mes
½ oz Combier
½ oz Nonino Amaro
3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir and strain into a coupe.

Recipe: 2015 Kentucky Derby Cocktails

We all know that the official, real deal drink of the Derby is the Mint Julep. Any suggestion otherwise borders on blasphemy within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and is most likely met with reluctance elsewhere. Realizing full well that not everyone digs bourbon-based drinks, here are a few alternative cocktail recipes for your consideration…. aaaaaand some bourbon based variations. (Also check out the recently-published Grandstand Julep recipe.)

Affirmed WindsorAffirmed Windsor
1.5 oz. Oolong tea-infused Bushmills Original
1 oz. Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1 oz. Amaro Meletti
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
expressed lemon

Add first 4 ingredients to a mixing glass, stir with ice for 15 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express lemon oil from peel over cocktail, rim glass with lemon and drop in.

Silver Cucumber Gimlet
1.25 oz. Nolet’s Silver Dry gin
0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
0.5 oz. simple syrup
dash celery bitters
cucumber and basil (for garnish)

In a mixing glass, muddle cucumber and basil with syrup and lime juice. Add Nolet’s Silver, celery bitters, and ice. Shake well and serve up in a martini glass. Garnish with a long slice of cucumber and fresh basil leaf.

Kings horsesAll The King’s Horses
0.5 oz. Grey Goose Le Melon
1 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. St. Germain
1 jalapeno

Muddle one slice jalapeno in a shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice and top with soda and jalapeno garnish.

Aperol Spritz
3 parts Cinzano Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 dash Soda
ice and a slice of Orange

Add ice and a slice of orange, pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol and add a dash of soda. This avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom.

SilverCupSilver Cup
1.75 oz Tincup Whiskey
0.5 oz Lustau Pedro Ximénez sherry
0.25 oz Peach Street Distillers peach brandy
8 mint leaves

In a julep glass, muddle the mint leaves with the sherry, then add the rest of the spirits and pebble ice. Swizzle, then add more pebble ice (forming a mound) and three mint sprigs for garnish.

Kentucky Derby Recipe: Grandstand Julep

julepLooking for a mint julep that isn’t blown out with tooth-aching sweetness? Try this version, which subs in bitter Cynar for about 2/3 of the bourbon and adds some fresh fruit juices to give it a little citrus character. It’s quite a fun spin on the Derby classic and the only julep I know that works perfectly as an after-dinner drink!

Grandstand Julep
1 ½ oz. Cynar
¾ oz. Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. fresh grapefruit juice
12 mint leaves
2 oz. soda water
2 dashes Fee Brother’s Grapefruit Bitters

In a Julep cup or rocks glass add mint and all ingredients except soda water and bitters. Gently muddle, add ice then soda and top with bitters.

Recipes: 2015 Spring Cocktails

The nation is thawing itself out from another weird and wild winter. Flowers are starting to bloom out, the sun is staying up a bit longer, the Kentucky Derby is right around the corner, and we’re worried about whether or not California is going to have enough water to make it through the summer. With this in mind, we present some cocktails to help usher in spring, and help with the inevitable welcome of summer.

Greta Garbo - 9Greta Garbo
1.5 oz Absolut Vanilla
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
5 raspberries
bar spoon Rose Water
5 oz prosecco

Muddle 5 raspberries. Add ingredients. Shake and strain with mesh strainer into martini glass. Top with prosecco.

Pendleton Shandy
2 oz. Pendleton Whisky
1 oz. orange juice
2 oz. lemonade
your beer of choice (note: we used West Sixth’s Belgian Style Blonde)

Build ingredients directly into a pint glass or pilsner glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange slice.

image005 (1)DeLeón Salud
2 oz. DeLeon Platinum
½ oz. Palo Cortado sherry
1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. passion fruit puree
1 dash absinthe
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients vigorously with clean, cold ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

GimletPineapple and Sage Gimlet
7.5 oz Bombay Sapphire gin
3.75 oz lime juice
3 oz simple syrup
7 sage leaves
5 oz pineapple juice

Build with ice in punch bowl and stir. Serves 5 people.

image015Sangria Flora
3 cups Sauvignon Blanc or dry white wine
¾ cup St. Germain elderflower liqueur
5 fresh strawberries (halved)
5 fresh raspberries
5 fresh blackberries
10 fresh grapes

Stir ingredients in a carafe. Let the mixture soak for 15 minutes (or longer if desired), then pour into ice-filled glasses.

peachtiniKetel One Peach-Tini
(note: Ignore the lame name. This one’s pretty dang good!)
1.5 ounce Ketel One vodka
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1.5 ounce white tea
2 dashes lemon bitters

Steep the white tea with white cranberry juice and raspberries. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and shake with ice. Double strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and raspberry.

Aged Cocktail Recipe: Smoky Old Mate

This recipe is designed to be aged in a barrel… or in a glass bottle with a small, charred oak stave dropped into it. (The Black Grouse provided a stave for us to play with.) Fun results. The name of the cocktail is spot-on for this one.

Smoky Old Mate
4.5 oz. The Black Grouse
3 oz. Cynar
3 oz. Carpano Antica
3 dashes grapefruit bitters

Combine all ingredients in bottle with charred wooden stave. Contents will be ready to drink after one week, but liquid will continue to age as long as stave is in the bottle. Makes 3 cocktails.

To prepare: Pour 3.5 oz. over ice in a mixing glass and stir. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with an orange peel.