Vanilla is more than just plain


It adds an unexpected flavor to cola, tea, other beverages

May 29, 2002|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Vanilla has long been the background noise of flavoring, so taken for granted that the phrase plain vanilla seems redundant.

No more. Cooks have discovered a new appreciation for the full, elegant flavor vanilla can add. It's hard to imagine baking sweets without a teaspoon or two of vanilla. According to Anne Wilder, founder of Baltimore-based Vann's Spices, cooks are discovering how well vanilla can jazz up savory dishes as well.

She supplies vanilla beans and extract to a lot of top chefs and says some of them are getting adventurous, combining vanilla with scallops and duck, and are even exploring vanilla's affinity with lobster.

Given all the experimenting on the food side of the menu, it's hardly surprising that vanilla is also finding its way into more beverages.

The Coca-Cola Co. just introduced its new Vanilla Coke, which mimics the old vanilla Cokes Wilder remembers ordering as a child at her hometown soda fountain. Its taste is no surprise -- a marriage of two familiar, comfortable flavors -- and the result is pleasing enough to make you wonder why it took the Coke people 17 years after introducing Cherry Coke to do the same for vanilla fans.

If colas seem a natural for vanilla, so does vodka, given the huge popularity of flavored vodkas now crowding the market. Vincent Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka is a recent entry in the ultra-premium vodka category. It's a smooth, pleasing drink, and one of the more effective combinations in the flavored-vodka market.

There is also a new vanilla-flavored liqueur on the market. Das Komet is a 70-proof, clear, "white hot vanilla" liqueur imported from Canada. It can be consumed plain, with or without ice, or mixed with colas. One taster recommends pairing it with Coca-Cola to make your own tasty version of Vanilla Coke -- with a kick. Vanilla is also a soothing flavor in tea, and a number of companies offer the combination. The G.H. Ford Tea Co. has sold a vanilla-flavored tea for many years and, according to a company spokesman, has a hard time keeping enough of it on hand to meet the strong demand. The company has recently introduced a vanilla-flavored green tea, named greenilla.

But the cutting edge of the vanilla craze seems to be in trendy bars. Liz Green, a New York bartender who expects to publish a book of her own cocktail recipes, says vanilla vodka is her favorite drink to work with.

Currently, she says the Vanilla Cosmos is popular in New York, and well as the Key Lime Pie (vanilla vodka, triple sec and sour mix). And she often recommends that customers substitute vanilla vodka for plain to add variety to their regular cocktails.

From teas to sodas to liquors, it's now possible to enjoy vanilla beverages from the breakfast table right through the late-evening hours.

Plain vanilla? Hardly. Pleasing? You bet.


Serves 1

1/2 ounce Vincent Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce orange juice

orange twist for garnish

Combine liquids and garnish with an orange twist.

Afternoon Delight

4 parts Vincent Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka

2 parts Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur

2 parts Cointreau

maraschino cherry and orange twist for garnish

Combine liquids and garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange twist.

-- From Vincent Van Gogh Vodka

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