It’s one of the most unusual emails I’ve ever had from a vodka company. How would you like to try our cannabis-flavored vodka, SHOTKA? Say that again. Yes, SHOTKA, a vodka from Lithuania, contains a distillate of cannabis seeds (Fructus Cannbis sativa).
What’s more, the distillery, which opened in 2007, is built on land where they say there’s a 5000-year-old tradition of cannabis-growing. Maybe it’s not as unlikely as it seems, as a little internet research reveals this nugget from the Polish anthropologist Sula Benet:
[a] custom connected with the dead in parts of eastern Europe is the throwing of a handful of seeds into the fire as an offering to the dead during the harvesting of hemp – similar to the custom of the Scythians and of the Pazyryk tribes, two-and-a-half-thousand years ago. There is no doubt that some of the practices, such as funeral customs, were introduced by the Scythians during their victorious advance into southeast Russia, including the Caucasus, where they remained for centuries … hemp never lost its connection with the cult of the dead. Even today in Poland and Lithuania, and in former times also in Russia, on Christmas Eve when it is believed that the dead visit their families, a soup made of hemp seeds, called semieniatka, is served for the dead souls to savour.
Now don’t say the Vodka Guy’s website isn’t educational! I was intrigued, of course, and generously offered to sample their vodka. (I’m just that kind of guy.) I must admit being worried that I was about to get arrested for drug smuggling, but a few days later a package arrived all the way from Vilnius, containing not just a bottle of vodka but six SHOTKA shot glasses too.
For the sake of my clean criminal record, though, I must make it clear that there’s nothing illegal about SHOTKA’s vodka. The cannabis seed distillate does not contain any THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main psychoactive constituent in cannabis.
Having got that out of the way, what is in SHOTKA apart from the cannabis seed distillate? Well, all the packaging says is that it’s a grain alcohol, which is distilled at 96% ABV, bottled at a hefty 50% ABV, and also contains sugar.
So what’s it like? Well, no joking, but it does have a grassy, herby, earthy smell which I find really pleasant. There’s a creamy, sweetness too, and definitely a hint of something smoky, though not tobacco smoke.
All those scents are clearly evident in the taste as well. It’s a strong-tasting vodka – as well as being a strong one – and may not suit everyone’s palate but it was certainly suited mine. I think it’s a very cleverly-made and cleverly-marketed vodka. It knows its market and is going after it aggressively. It’s vodka for people who want to have fun, not for the straight-faced vodka connoisseur. And it’s cleverly-made because the recipe does capture the taste of cannabis, the feeling that you’re doing something illicit, while all being totally legal.
It’s definitely going to be a challenge for mixing in cocktails, though the SHOTKA website gives lots of cocktail suggestions, some more suggestive than others: SHOTKA Adult, SHOTKA Bang Bang, and SHOTKA 3Some, for example. Even I could manage to make the SHOTKA Witch Bitch: 50ml of SHOTKA, half a lime and fill the glass with ginger beer. They should call it the Moscow Drug-Running Mule.
There was a dissenting voice from my wife, though. She liked the earthiness but could immediately taste the sugar. Too sweet for me, she said, which was not what I was expecting as I hadn’t noticed it to be overly sweet, just right. No, she said, I’m not keen on that one. Which means I’ll have to finish it. Such a shame.
For more information about SHOTKA and where you can find it, visit the SHOTKA website.