Zdenek Kastanek — Grey Goose brand ambassador and bar manager at Quo Vadis, one of the best-known bars in Soho, London — on all things vodka...
A lot of bartenders tend to dismiss vodka’s lack of flavours as vodka’s lack of character…
We all dream about having a perfect bar which only serves the best of alcohol. But we have to come to terms with reality. There are kinds of vodka and other spirits which lack flavour and character. However, that is not an issue with most super-premium vodkas and especially with Grey Goose. The attention given to the minutest of detail in the making process, to maintain the flavour in Grey Goose, speaks for itself.
You had a romantic story created around your drink La Hermosa. Do you have any favourite stories around other cocktails?
The most memorable because of its story is the Vesper Martini or just Vesper. If you’ve seen the movie (Casino Royale) or read the book, it’s an unforgettable story, and the character it’s named after is equally special.
What is your favourite base spirit while creating a cocktail and why?
For me, it has always been more interesting to try and create a drink based on the spirit which is not the customer’s first choice. The surprise along with the appreciation for a drink from a guest is definitely more rewarding. Only god knows how many gin drinkers I’ve turned into Pisco drinkers (Chilean or Peruvian brandy made from distilled alcohol) or how many rum men fell in love with bourbon in front of my eyes!
How important is the choice of a glass while serving a drink? Which is your favourite?
The shape, size and material are all important. I like anything atypical and antique. Bohemian glasses are something I grew up with; so I will always have a soft corner for Bohemian whisky crystal glass with a subtle cut.
What’s your favourite cocktail?
For me, it depends on the occasion and the place. Negroni or Aperol Spritz would work the best in Italy, Pina Colada by the pool or on the beach and Manhattan at at any classic bar, say, the amazing Library bar at Leela Palace. I love my beer and rye whisky after a day of work, and sparkling wine on a holiday — straight with breakfast. The best thing about sparkling wine is that it is the only alcoholic beverage which is served before lunch time.
If the ’90s drink was the Cosmopolitan, what is today’s drink?
Today is all about classic pre-prohibition or prohibition era cocktails with just three or four ingredients — vermouth, bitters and water from dissolved ice. What is important is to remember that even Manhattan can be adjusted for the soft palate just like a Martini should never taste like a straight gin or vodka.
Your favourite bars in the world?
There are a few of them. It feels like home at Hemingway Bar in Prague, Quo Vadis in London or Employees Only in NYC.
The best way to savour Grey goose is…
In a Martini cocktail! Full stop! You need to find an experienced bartender at a good bar, come down after a long day at work with your favourite person in the world and savour your beautiful Grey Goose martini cocktail, listening to the piano and the soft female voice singing old numbers.