The De Nolet family has been making Ketel One vodka for eleven generations. In order to showcase the passion they have for creating their product, they created a tasting event that also highlights artists, musicians and chefs whom they feel exhibit a similar level of passion for their work. During the New York event (they’ve also held them in Miami and at SXSW in Austin), national brand ambassador Ricky Gomez guided guests through a blind tasting, quickly disproving the myth of vodka being “flavorless and odorless,” and noting the qualities that differentiate Ketel One, Ketel Citroen, and Ketel Oranj from their competitors. He noted that he and members of the De Nolet family lead bartenders who carry their products through blind tastings so they can get closely acquainted with their vodkas and taste the differences for themselves. The De Nolet family also takes great pride in
the quality of their ingredients and their process. Thier vodkas are made from 100% wheat, all from farmers they know, and they use pot distillation, which they believe contributes to the texture and mouthfeel of their spirits.
Chef Marc Forgione is a self-avowed Ketel One fan — he recounts a night in a dive bar where, upon tasting the vodka the bartender had poured out of the Ketel One bottle, realized that he had been duped. “I don’t know what you’ve got in there,” he quipped, “but that’s not Ketel One.”
When he was given the opportunity to create bites to pair with Ketel One cocktails as part of De Nolet, he didn’t hesitate. He had several ideas inspired by Ketel One, which were paired with cocktails by Jeff Bell, head bartender at PDT (Please Don’t Tell). An everything bagel with lox and cream cheese is his favorite food after a night of overindulging, and his mini version at the event paired with the Chamakay, a light refresher made with Ketel Citroen, lemon juice, simple syrup, caraway liqueur and sparkling wine. Next, the twist on a classic pairing of beets, horseradish and vodka took shape in an elegant beet tartare and the 1691: Ketel One with ginger
beer, lemon juice, and a shock of earthy, deep ruby beet syrup. Finally, the Brooklyn Easy, Ketel One Oranje, pineapple juice, Manzanilla sherry, lemon juice, simple syrup, and mango puree, was a tropical match for a jerk pork taco; Forgione wanted to ensure a bit of spice on the menu.
When Forgione heads out for a drink after a shift at his namesake restaurant in Tribeca, he tends to stay local and low-key, visiting Ward III, Smith & Mills, the Reade Street Pub, and the Racoon Lodge. For a special night out, he’ll visit Bell and his team at PDT. “If you don’t like PDT,” says Forgione, “you’re nuts.”
The Ketel One distillery has an open door policy and the De Nolet family encourages people to visit their distillery, but for those who can’t make it to Schiedam, Holland, keep an eye out for a De Nolet Ketel One event near you.
New York Contributing Editor Laren Spirer is yet another lawyer (and freelance writer) obsessed with food and drink, who also blogs at Sweet Blog o’ Mine and tweets at @sweetblogomine. She has written for Gothamist, Serious Eats, Time Out New York and Tasting Table.