Book Review: Vodka Distilled

Book Review: Vodka Distilled

vddTony Abou-Ganim is a happy guy. In fact he’s so happy that within the first twenty pages of Vodka Distilled, the reader is treated to not one, but four photographs of Mr. Abou-Ganim flashing his pearly whites in various states of pose. And well he should be pleased himself: his 2010 opus The Modern Mixologist won critical warmth from such household media giants as Batali, DeGroff, and Fallon. His tireless efforts at championing mixology and his pleasant personality have solidified him as a go-to guy for mass media, landing him appearances on Iron Chef America, Today, Good Morning America, and numerous other programs.

For this book, his second in three years, Abou-Ganim once again teams up with Mary Elizabeth Faulkner to create what could potentially be the next installment of a series dedicated to detailing each member of the spirits family tree.  At the very least, its execution is fantastic. Vodka Distilled is an incredibly organized guide to the world of vodka; one that will delight seasoned professionals, bartenders, and casual drinkers alike. It’s written with a welcoming, inclusive tone and takes its time explaining scientific concepts such as the distillation process with an ease some guides find difficult to pull off. It does a great service to the history of one of the world’s most popular spirits; discussing the differences in processes among nations, the controversy surrounding vodka’s origins, and its eventual mainstream acceptance by American culture in the 20th century.  The duo even goes so far as to offer the reader food pairings keyed to particular vodkas and tips on hosting your own private tasting parties with friends.

Of course, Abou-Ganim and Faulkner offer the reader dozens of cocktail recipes ranging in difficulty and flavor, plus best practices on serving vodka.  Many of these selections are time-tested favorites, while others represent Abou-Ganim’s personal variations on classics.

The final section of this tome offers up 58 vodka selections for the reader to survey, and credit should most certainly be given for not including the recent trend of flavored vodkas within its coverage. Categorized by vital ingredient (rye, wheat, potato, mixed grain, corn, and others), detailed notes and reviews for each selection are provided, making it easier for quick reference and consideration. However, over time this section could prove to be the sole weakness of Vodka Distilled. Vodkas come and go, and failing a plan to issue revised editions every several years with updated selections, this may ultimately prove an inconvenience to future audiences.

The ambition, scope and price point present Vodka Distilled rare to this genre, especially when crafted in such a readable, reasonable fashion. Few people in the mixology field could pull off a series of this gravity and magnitude as Abou-Ganim. Here’s to hoping this is only the first installment of many to come.


Vodka Distilled




Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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