The Vodka Monologues (Or "The Great Stoli/Smirnoff Caper")

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stoli or Smirnoff? That was the major question at hand tonight, as I sat around a table at Ben's Next Door for a friend's birthday. (Side note: The restaurant is owned by Rock Harper, winner of Hell's Kitchen, & is next door to DC's iconic Ben's Chili Bowl).

Birthday Boy Jake brought along an eclectic group of celebrators. My coworker & his childhood friend; his college pal, from here on known as Vodka Girl, or VG, clad in a shredded beater & a white blazer; his roommate, unironically sporting a sparkly silver bowler; & a 40-something guy who may or may not have been the roommate's boyfriend.

I was pretty busy watching the final quarter of the Cavs/Magic game, but I tuned back in to the table's conversation when I noticed that VG was yelling about something - namely, about vodka. She'd ordered two raspberry Stolis & soda but was fairly insistent that she'd instead been served raspberry Smirnoff & soda, which she apparently felt to be a near-criminal offense. In a rather high-pitched voice, VG went on quite the vodka-comparing tirade, insisting that Smirnoff is bottom of the barrel & that it's absolutely distinguishable from Stoli. All attempts to convince her otherwise or to inject any doubt into her argument were promptly trampled.

She flagged down our waitress & asked whether the drinks were, indeed Stoli; our waitress responded that they were. When VG told her they tasted like Smirnoff, the server laughed & said she'd look into it, taking drinks with her. The table agreed that her willingness to investigate insinuated that she knew the cocktails did not contain the Stoli she initially claimed they did.

When she returned a few minutes later, she was carrying two drinks. Setting them in front of VG, she said, "These are raspberry Stoli." Contented, VG began drinking, exclaiming, "The difference is so clear. These taste so much better," re-launching into her apparently-unfinished vodka-comparison tirade.

Now, VG assumed the waitress' statement meant that these were two new drinks containing raspberry Stoli. It was, however, abundantly clear to at least four of the other five of us that they were the exact same drinks as before - the waitress just returned them & confirmed their contents. How did we know this? Well, for starters, as Sparkly Bowler Guy pointed out, the limes in each drinks were pre-squeezed, which isn't something bartenders do - but it IS something you do before you sip your own drink, as VG did before dipping into her initial cocktails, the ones accused of being Smirnoff.

So as she went shrilly on & on & on & ON about the many differences between pedestal-worthy Stoli & not-worthy-of-being-used-for-rubbing-alcohol Smirnoff, her arguments became less & less salient, especially knowing that she was drinking the exact same drinks as before & seeing the results she clearly wanted to see - & basically making things up. It was akin to that old college party trick where you secretly serve nonalcoholic party punch to a sorority sister & watch as she gets sloppy "drunk" & hits on everyone in the room.

Umm... Placebo effect, anyone???


  1. I probably shouldn't, but I love the idea of a server being that subtly confrontational.

  2. mwhahahaha! I went down on vodka, and it was definitely not Stoli, but Burnett's. And believe me. It tastes awful. But it works.

  3. Your friend is not insane. I am a huge Stoli Ras drinker and often get pissed off when bars "stack" their bottles with crappy liquor knowing that most people can't tell the difference. The fact that she thought that the drink was stoli ras when it came back doesn't mean that she should be blamed for getting it wrong. Once that crappy liquor has been tasted, it leaves an awful aftertaste (like you just chewed on children's vitamins), it ruins the taste of anything soon after that. I have been drinking only Stoli Ras and soda for years now and can tell the difference immediately when it is not right. It's the booze thats bad. Sometimes the bartender uses Tonic instead of soda, but I can tell that immediately as well. In fact, the entire reason that I found your post is because I started searching the Internet to see if other people were having the same problem. Ahh, the life of a pro boozer!


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