A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to an unlikely collaboration at a very special event. Luxury Polish vodka brand Belvedere has collaborated with prominent South Africa artist Esther Mahlangu and (RED) on a special edition bottle for a really worthy cause – half of the profits will be donated to the Global Fund to fight HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.
For those who may not have heard of Esther, she is one of South Africa’s most famous artists and one of the last skilled custodians of the traditions of the Ndebele people. Her art is inspired by the Ndebele people and their traditions, and her paintings are made from pigments from her surroundings – the black comes from the mud in the river and many colours are extracted from the African soil nearby.
At the event, I had the pleasure of meeting Esther and taking part in an exclusive art workshop, painting my own design inspired by her vibrant, geometric artwork. Esther paints with a chicken feather paintbrush, which is what we used to create our paintings too. It was such a special experience and I’m so honoured to be part of it. I think it’s really wonderful that she has been able to collaborate with Belvedere to help combat these diseases. The bottle she has designed has four of her designs, with each one carrying a meaning – security, support, change and unity.
I’ve only started appreciating vodka over the last few years. Suitably scarred by university bars which insisted on serving Smirnoff vodka, complete with its harsh bite to your throat as you drink it down, I gave vodka a wide berth. I took a trip to Sydney to spend time with my older cousins who introduced me to Belvedere at Zeta Bar in the Hilton. We had lemon flavoured vodka, which was so delicious and smooth that I persuaded the bartender to make us a special Belvedere lemon shot.
A few years later at the event, I finally understood why it tasted so smooth. I can’t claim to be an expert in the vodka distilling process, but speaking to Belvedere’s UK Brand Ambassador, I learned that the rye used by Belvedere is slow fermented over several days before its distilled several times. Belvedere use their own water source to purify and blend the vodka before it’s filtered twice. The resulting vodka is soft and smooth with a hint of vanilla which created a sumptuous velvety texture. Perfect for drinking alone and as a base for a good cocktail, which brings us nicely to the point of my post!
If you follow me in Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know that I have a soft spot for a good Bloody Mary. It’s not at all cool, but it’s one of my favourite cocktails. They’re perfectly acceptable at brunch and I always choose them over a bellini, but I pretty much drink them any time of the day now. The one stipulation is that it must be spicy. Sushi Samba and Bronte pretty much make the perfect spicy Bloody Mary but over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with a few recipes and made my own version, with just enough kick to start your morning.
Quite a lot of recipes call for fancy ingredients and I was incredulous to see one which omitted tomato juice! I’m a bit of a stickler for tradition so I kept it simple and of course red. A couple of recipes used horseradish, I can see the appeal of having a sharp kick to a Bloody Mary but my version just uses good old Worcester Sauce and Tobasco. If your palette doesn’t take well to spice, use a little less of those two ingredients and add a little bit more to suit your tastebuds.
2 shots of Belvedere vodka
1 cup of organic tomato juice
4 tablespoons of Worcester Sauce
1 teaspoon of Tobasco
A pinch of celery salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon
Fresh celery to garnish
- Throw it all in a cocktail shaker
- Shake what your mama gave you
- Pour it in a glass
- Cut some celery to garnish
- Let me know what you think!