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Natural food to natural cocktails: The change Belvedere vodka is making

If you haven’t seen Belvedere vodka splashed across the Oscars after party, you’ve been under a rock. The luxury rye vodka has been around for 26 years, and is created employing 600-year-old traditional Polish methods of making the spirit. As Alice Farquhar, their global brand education and training manager, visited Mumbai for a masterclass last week, she shared insights on their Relearn Natural philosophy, which is encouraging patrons to drink consciously. While no alcohol can be termed ‘healthy’ in the true sense, we’ve all heard that vodka is one’s go-to drink if you’re looking out for your health. Even more so, with Belvedere bringing a sugar-free vodka to the table.Belvedere vodka. cocktail trends

What does the Relearn Natural programme stand for?

The programme was born in 2015 when we realised that we have a distinct advantage in the fact that by law we can’t add anything to our vodka, therefore meant we’re additive and sugar-free, and 100 percent natural, with only rye and water in the bottle.
And culturally consumers were becoming far more conscious and aware of what they were consuming, and it was an opportunity to be honest with them not only about the product but just about what and how they were drinking and how they could think differently about consuming cocktails, specifically vodka.

Could you share more on the naturalness philosophy?

This is about awareness and conscious consumption. About how can we make better, more balanced choices. At Belvedere we always support responsible drinking.
The Spritz cocktail is the best embodiment of the naturalness philosophy, it’s a low ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktail. It’s only 30 millilitre, as opposed to usual cocktails which can have anywhere between 40-60 millilitre alcohol. So, we’re still giving consumers an excellent, delicious taste experience but in a more conscious way. It’s really just about helping them understand how can they choose to drink better and understand what they’re putting in their bodies more.

Belvedere vodka. cocktail trends
Image: Courtesy Shutterstock

Vodka has somehow acquired the image of a party drink, not one to be savoured leisurely. Do you seek to change that in India?

There’s more of a focus from consumers who’re choosing different opportunities to enjoy it. While previously it may have been in night clubs and high energy parties, people are really being more considerate about how they enjoy it. Bars are developing very quickly, cocktail culture and understanding of ingredients is becoming far more prevalent in consumers’ minds, which is notable in India. So, it’s not a case of us as a brand changing that, I think it’s the consumer who’s naturally being more considerate about the time and the place and how they enjoy it

The ideal way to enjoy a drink of vodka?

Personally, I enjoy it either in a martini or in a more light, refreshing spritz. The martini may be more of my evening, an aperitif-style drink. And then from a spritz perspective, it such a refreshing, beautiful drink that you can adapt in any way using any sort of local ingredients and herbs. I really love that drink, it’s so versatile – you can have it during the day, it’s not very heavy and low in sugar.
But, one should enjoy vodka however they please.

Belvedere vodka. cocktail trends

The three ingredients that are going to dominate the cocktail world in 2019?

There’s been a return of the old-style and straightforward ingredients, things that have existed for a long time but have perhaps got a little bit forgotten. I’ve seen people start using sherry a lot more, these are liquids that have been around for hundreds of years and we’ve enjoyed it many different ways but perhaps forgotten when it comes to cocktails and forgotten to be champions, so those are going to be quite interesting ingredients.
Coffee’s always an interesting one as well. The rise of the espresso martini globally, there’s going to be more development of that, of coffee and understanding of it as an ingredient.
Anything that is locally and sustainably soured is going to be really important. Globally, bartenders are beginning to recognise their local sources, also they’re working more closely with chefs, in terms of sustainability and just getting the best quality produce — reflecting what chefs are doing with food in drinks.

What will be the top cocktail trend this year, and why?

From what I’ve seen, there’s a big return to simplicity, to classic cocktails, people are trying to do simple drinks really well. We went through a phase of really overthinking cocktails, and there were a lot of amazing drinks, but it’s really a case of now people using really high quality ingredients to create really good classics.

Natural food to natural cocktails: The change Belvedere vodka is making

Megha Uppal

An innate love for travel and food has translated into many a trips since childhood for Megha; it also fed her curiosity to know about local cultures. When not writing, she is on the lookout for three things: A great dark chocolate dessert, a beautiful pool where she can practice her backstroke, and art that she can save up for.


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