Food and Vodka: Pairing with a new spirit

20 August 2014 - 02:01 By Yolisa Mkele
MORNING MOP UP: Serve Bloody Mary with French toast
MORNING MOP UP: Serve Bloody Mary with French toast

When pondering the vagaries of food and drink pairing, wine has always played the role of alpha and omega.

Which white goes with bouillabaisse, what red with your steak? For those who are bored with wine, pair your meals with vodka.

"The Russians, Poles and Swedes will probably tell you that vodka complements almost any meal, but I think that has got a lot to do with them being baptised in the stuff at birth," said Roman Slepica, owner of Lenin's Vodka Bar, in Maboneng, Johannesburg.

Pure, well-made vodkas are usually neutral in taste but, given that they are made of everything from grains to grapes, subtle differences can often be found.

"I think I would save the flavour-infused vodkas, like the Stoli Vanil and the different flavoured Absoluts, for straight shots, frozen of course. Stick to the basics and pair it with fish roe, oysters, smoked salmon or a spicy eastern European klobasa."

For those of a non-Soviet disposition, it is not necessary to bind yourself to neat vodka. Cocktails make just as good an escort as the real thing.

Here are examples of some of Slepica's favourite vodka-based cocktail pairings:


Gravlax (a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon) with capers, dill and crème fraiche, served with Melba toast and a dirty martini. Take 1½ shots of quality vodka (Russian Standard is always good), a wave of dry Vermouth, and a good splash of olive juice, shaken with ice with some vigour. Drain into martini glass (make sure that it's super cold and has tiny ice crystals floating on top). Serve with green olives with pimento.


Goulash with fresh, crispy sourdough bread with a Greyhound cocktail. Take a double shot of vodka in a tall sexy glass topped with fresh grapefruit juice, squeeze in a lime wedge or garnish with fresh grapefruit twist.


White chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries with a Vodka Negroni ("Sacrilege," I hear the gin drinkers crying). Take a shot of vodka, ½ a shot of Campari and ½ a shot of sweet vermouth. Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker, squeeze in an orange wedge, shake and pour into a rock glass, garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Morning mop up

French toast with thick French bread slices dipped in an egg and cinnamon cream batter and grilled. Served with fresh strawberries, bananas, maple syrup, blueberry reduction and fresh whipped cream and a Bloody Mary (Slepica's secret recipe).

  • Lenin's Vodka Bar is open from Wednesday to Sunday. For more information visit