Bottom Line at the Top: AnestasiA Vodka is more than just a pretty bottle! While the bottle is gorgeous, the vodka inside is highly competent. In all of our settings, it competed easily with higher-profile, European vodkas and defeats them in fruit settings but—more importantly for the party crowd—performs better as a shooter. Buying a high-profile vodka in a high-profile bottle one still wants to be sure that the vodka inside isn't going to disappoint. All praise to NumBrands and Yuliya Maontova who ensured that a quality product poured out of the artistic bottle.
AnestasiA Vodka is actually made in Oregon out of the Bendistillery, which is good because the Bendistillery is noted for producing several different high-quality vodkas. Made from a base of corn-grain, which tends to offer a sweeter mixing base in our experience, it's an American style of luxury vodka aimed squarely at the European elites. More importantly for AnestasiA: the bottle is gorgeous. It's artistic, cut-glass style is reminiscent of angular, carved ice and could come right out of the Fortress of Solitude in Superman II. Hefting the bottle, it fits easily in the hand and pours well. This is another happy outcome because oftentimes these specialty bottles look nice on the shelf but are difficult to wield in the act... this is decidedly not a defect with AnestasiA. The top slips on with a satisfying click kind of like a physical Tetris game. It glows; it shines; it's a showpiece. (They even note that the bottle's label can be scratched off for a decanter or vase.) For all that, it's still somewhat reasonably priced and within reach for anyone who's going after those Euro vodkas.
We sought to compare the vodka to some straight-up, Big Market competitors to see how it holds up. For these, we looked to a famous, Russian brand made from wheat and called for by name in most bars: Stolichnaya. Our second was an upstart American vodka made from wine grapes in California and often seen at bargain basement prices: New Amsterdam. These are not bottles that inspire artwork, photos, or even passing remarks. They're not bottles that create spectacle when used in bottle-service moments in trendy night clubs. Nor is the vodka inside of them said to be made with Cascade Mountain water. The bottle is worth it... but is the vodka inside?
AnestasiA vs Stoli and New Amsterdam, Neat
God do we hate the term "smooth" when judging spirits and particularly hate it when judging vodka. But Stoli smells "smooth"... this to mean it smells neutral, nice, with a light undercurrent of honey and caramel if you look for it. The New Amsterdam does not smell as sweet but carries an undertone of earth. They're very, very close in aroma. The Stoli tastes lightly sweet on the tongue, gives a little need on the sides, and slides down with a kind of charcoal aftertaste. There's a mineral quality (the lyricist in us says "slate, wet stone, or granite) to the vodka. It should go down great as a shooter, to the great pleasure of Russians everywhere. The New Amsterdam is much more neutral; much more flavorless. It carries no needle (perhaps a better executed distillation) but the aftertaste is acrid rather than charcoal. This is clearly a mixing vodka.
Anestasia vodka smells... well, pretty much the same as the Stoli and the New Amsterdam. The taste though...the taste is sweet. We would swear that this is a sweetened spirit if we didn't know better from the US laws requiring no additives in the vodka itself. (We checked the filing with the federal Tax and Trade Bureau... sure enough: it's classified as a neutral vodka.) Next to the Stoli, it tastes a bit like sweetened water... it can't keep up with some of the mineral complexity of the Russian vodka but it might blend more deliciously with some fruit-cocktails (and we intend to find out).
Assessment: if you're going to drink vodka neat then avoiding the New Amsterdam in favor of Stoli or Anestasia is most definitely the correct call. For people out on the town for a night, the Anestasia will probably have much broader appeal—one has to be a true, dedicated, vodka snob to prefer the Stoli and those people are probably reaching for some sort of exotic vodka well north of the $20-$30 range anyway—and the bottle design makes it a complete triumph over the Stoli.
AnestasiA vs Stoli in a Vodka Martini
Begging forgiveness from all the gin enthusiasts out there who won't hear of a Martini made from vodka, this is a Vodka Martini with 3 parts vodka, one part dry vermouth, and a touch of lemon bitters to finish it. Chilled on ice, it serves as an icy drink for those who don't want to shoot their vodka but prefer not to drink heavily infused spirits. The Stoli made a Martini that smelled faintly of the grain but then was swallowed whole by the vermouth. One may as well just drink the vermouth.
The New Amsterdam performed decently in this setting... but the careful connoisseur will notice an unpleasant aftertaste and finish, which is a defect we noticed earlier. This is not a vodka to stand on its own.
Anestasia in a Martini offers a faintly sweet taste with the vermouth that we didn't quite find with the other vodkas plus had a slightly warming finish. We're not big fans of the Vodka Martini as a drink and we found the Anestasia oddly pleasing. Here, it felt like we were drinking a drink rather than vermouth and finished a hair above the venerable Stoli.
Assessment: final judgment : We have to think that the Anestasia, for all its glamor and artistic bottle, has shown itself as a finely executed vodka in this drink. It's able to hold its own against more well-regarded Russian vodkas and soundly defeat lower shelf vodkas in far less enticing bottles. Vodka Martini drinkers can certainly indulge in the dramatic presentation without fear of compromising their favorite cocktail.
AnestasiA vs Stoli in a Moscow Mule
At the time of this writing, you can't go anywhere without seeing a bar serve up a Moscow Mule in a copper mug. It's the new Old Thing that's trendy again. In this case, it's welcome because it's set off a wave of good drinks with even more excellent ginger beers. We made ours with with 3 parts ginger beer (we used Gosling's, though one notes they designed theirs for the rum version of the Moscow Mule called the Dark and Stormy) to 1 part vodka with that dash (one-third part) of lime juice for the sour. In the Stoli (and surely Russian vodkas set off the scene in Hollywood when the Moscow Mule was invented), the drink simply sings. It reminds one why the world loves Moscow Mules. It flies off the palate in bursts of flavor and finishes clean... then it begs to be repeated. Surely unnumbered romances were founded, consummated, and later foundered simply owing to this one cocktail.
The New Amsterdam is consumed on the nose by the ginger beer, which is the least surprising thing ever since little can stand up to the intense Gosling's ginger.
Anestasia is all ginger, all day long. Tasting... it's nice; all ginger beer on the palate with the sour lime fade and bit of an acrid, "I'm drinking a cocktail after all" burn on the finish.
Assessment: final judgment : If these notes start to sounds the same... well, it's because it tastes the same. And this is the truism we've learned about vodka: usually when you start burying vodka beyond 3 parts to 1, the nuances of finer vodkas begin to fade. Starkly different vodkas might continue to manifest themselves but, ultimately, with enough mixer it doesn't matter. Here, at least with intense ginger flavors, it just doesn't matter. If selecting one, we would probably go with the Stoli.
AnestasiA vs Stoli in The Club (Cranberry)
This is a perfect vodka for The Club. If you're getting bottle service, then you want to make a statement. Your bottle should match your threads or gear or whatever it is you're wearing as accoutrements in the pumping base and dim lighting. When we see bottle service, we tend to see it served with cranberry juice. We mixed cranberry juice to vodka 2 parts to 1 with a sqeeze of lime to top it off.
In no scenario is New Amsterdam a bottle service vodka but Stoli? Yeah... Stoli is highly plausible in the Club. It's also plausible in cranberry as well. It tastes precisely like Cranberry and Vodka with a little bit of an alcohol fade. Not good; not bad; just getting the job done.
AnestasiA's bottle is obviously in a different league than Stoli. But here in the fruit juice, for whatever reason, we often find that corn-grain vodkas shine and we were not disappointed here. The drink is good but the finish is pleasant instead of having that hard, vodka edge. We'll go so far as to say most fruit-juice cocktails will probably give the nod to AnestasiA.
Assessment: final judgment : the bottle should settle the matter immediately. We're talking double digit Kelvin degrees of cool. We also find the tart cranberry blends with the AnestasiA better than the Stoli and prefer it in the fruit-based setting. Pro tip: see if you can arrange for grapefruit bitters (not grapefruit juice) to splash on the top of your drink. That does will even everything out and make a decent drink delicious. You're paying for bottle service, you have to think that they can come up with grapefruit bitters.