Food & Drink

Alchemy Vodka

Typically, spicing up a classic only destroys its authenticity -- a truism brutally borne out by the disco smash "A Fifth of Beethoven". One brand that's managed to add variety without disgracing history: Alchemy infused vodkas.

Scarcely available outside NYC, Alchemy was founded by Agata Podedworny, a 1st generation American who proudly expresses her Polish roots through her world-beating hooch, and refusal to shorten her last name to "Jones". To maintain her vodka's cred, she distills it in the old country, with aquifer water from a virginal region called "The Green Lungs of Poland" (far purer than, say, "The Black Bung of Estonia").

From this unimpeachably authentic base comes respectful innovation: instead of flavoring -- i.e., adding liquids during distillation, thereby diluting potency -- Alchemy infuses after distillation's done. This time-consuming process preserves both character and 80-proof gut-punch in the rich Czekoladowa (chocolate), the spicy Imbirowa (ginger), and the peppery, earthy Wisniowa -- a wild cherry so godly, John Paul II would have served it with wafers

All three are dangerously excellent on the rocks, but because infusions are less sweet than flavoreds, they're also amenable to a shocking variety of mixers -- from wheaty Hefeweizen to Vietnamese hot sauce. Perhaps most invaluable is the Czekoladowa, which with an equal part leftover office coffee makes a deceptively powerful cocktail -- the classic way to tell your boss you don't give a damn without the spice of him firing you.