Sub Rosa’s Saffron Vodka is INSANE. Can you drink it straight? Sure, but only if you like drinking vodka straight. I personally don’t, so I look to cocktails to be the vehicle that brings me to the land of saffron awesomeness.
This vodka hails from the great state of Oregon and is the creation of distiller Mike Sherwood and his “partner-in-crime” and culinary muse Linda Lausmann. The saffron vodka clocks in at 90 proof and has a suggested retail price of around 30 bucks. Everything is small batch and made by hand…damn that is cool.
Before we jump into saffron cocktails, just what is saffron? Saffron is a spice that is made from a small part of the saffron flower, which is then dried and used in cooking. The part that is dried is called the “stigma”, and can be seen as a small, red stem-like growth out of the petals.
Now, if you really like saffron, you’d better hope that the U.S. doesn’t get into a bombing war with Iran, because around 94% of the world’s saffron comes from Iran. Saffron is INCREDIBLY expensive to produce, and runs around $1,000 a pound if you want to purchase some in bulk (keep in mind that it takes around 60,000 individual flowers to create that pound of saffron). Yes, this stuff is the real deal.
Saffron is used as a major component of cooking in many countries, with Indian cooking being the point of reference for me. The spice not only flavors the food, but gives it a brilliant yellow color as well.
So back to the cocktails. This vodka does not mess around. I had planned on playing around with the tarragon Sub Rosa vodka last night as well, but got so caught up with the saffron vodka that it never happened.
Mike Sherwood of Sub Rosa sent me some recipes to try, but to be honest, I didn’t have all of the obscure ingredients needed to make the signature cocktails, nor will many of the people who read this, so I went out and got some common mixers to see how Sub Rosa saffron mixes.
1. Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka and Lemonade: This combo didn’t work so well, though the finish was nice. The aroma was a bit confused, as was the taste.
2. Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka, club soda, and lime: Basically a saffron gimlet, this combo was fantastic. The neutral flavors of the mixers really let the saffron flavors show, and the acidity of the lime and the bubbles of the club soda really gave it a crisp edge. My favorite combination of the night.
3. Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka and Ginger Beer: This was the hit of the night with my tasting companions, and the big reason we didn’t move on to the tarragon vodka. The flavors in the ginger beer blend harmoniously with the saffron vodka while being very light and drinkable.
4. Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka, Sprite, and Lime: This is a sweeter version of experiment #2, and doesn’t work nearly as well. The sweetness of the soda gets in the way of the complex saffron flavors, and the result is a flabby drink without direction.
5. Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka and orange juice: This was the wild card of the night, and was surprisingly good. My inspiration was to have the orange flavors be used like they would be in a food dish, adding a fruity sweetness and acidity to the complexity of the saffron vodka, and this worked to a certain degree.
The bottom line with the Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka is that you must treat it like a spice you would use while cooking. Saffron is so distinctive that it has the power to make or break your cocktail creation, but I can assure you that when used correctly, you won’t be disappointed.