Even people that dont know anything at all about russia usually realize that the country is known for it’s vodka. people there totally love the stuff and drink tons of it. and i dont mean taking tiny little one ounce shots or mixing it in fruity drinks… they drink huge glasses full of it along with their dinner. in the russian tradition, vodka has always been my drink of choice. vodka is the ultimate versatile alcohol and can be mixed with pretty much anytihng. when i was young and was too much of a wuss to drink beer, i drank vodka cranberries since it tasted sweet and went down easy. later i started drinking vodka tonics and occasionaly (in a bar that makes them well) bloody marys.
when i found out a few years back that there was a new cool bar in SF that specialized in vodka drinks, i knew i had to go check it out. but, for whatever reason, i never got around to going there until last week. partially it’s probably because the bar, Voda, is a shwanky bar in the financial district, and i usually am more into dive-ish kind of places. Trying to find this bar was nearly impossible. it was on some street called Belden Place which turned out to be a tiny alley that cars aren’t even allowed to drive on. the alley was really cool with lots of outdoor cafe-style seating and it totally had the feel of a small quaint french backstreet.
the bar itself didn’t exactly fit in with the relaxed cafe feel of the street and was instead all lit up in neon, but it looked really cool. the whole inside was lit up all blue with bright red checkered floors, blue/red/white cubes to sit on next to the couches, and a red lit up shelf area filled with tons of different clear vodka bottles. the place looked pretty shwanky and there was also a dj playing pretty decent music. i really dug the place’s futuristic and slick look. oh, in case you’re wondering, the bar’s name “Voda” means water in russian and actually the word vodka is derived from voda.
Tom and i sat at the bar and looked over the drink menu. there were all sorts of innovative vodka drinks on there and throughout the night, we tried a whole lot of different ones. almost everything we drank was super good, except for this one drink called the Ginger bikini line. i had the feeling that pepper flavored vodka mixed with ginger and juice could be pretty disgusting, but i decided to try it anyway hoping it might surprise me. nope. it was as disgusting as i expected. just because you *can* mix vodka with pretty much anyting, doesn’t mean you should.
the rest of the drinks were hella good though. tom tried this one drink that was key-lime flavored and actually had pie crust crumbles on the rim of the glass. i tried this vodka called Hangar One which is brewed in oakland. i usually dont drink vodka straight, but the citrus version of this stuff was pretty smooth and tasty. one of the cool things this place has is a lot of different vodka infusions. this is where they leave something inside the vodka bottle and the vodka becomes infused with that flavor. i ordered a chocolate mint infusion and it was ridiculously good. it smelled and tasted just like candy… i could hardly even tell that it was vodka at all. delicious.
after a while, catherine and Li decided to head home. it was just tom and me left, so we decided to grab one more drink before heading home. i got a caramel infused vodka, which althoough not as good as the chocolate mint, was still hella good. we were just about to take off, when the bartender started talking to us. earlier on in the night, the bartender wasn’t extremely friendly.. in fact, he was rather curt. but now, near the end of the night, he was a bit drunk, and (suprise, surprise) became all chatty.
he told us he’d hook us up with something really special, and poured us this fig vodka. now, i hate figs. they are one of the nastiest things ever. not only do they taste like crap, but they even have the nerve to look gross on top of that. the bartender told us that this was special vodka imported from germany and that he is 100% sure that no other bar around carries it. he made sure we believed him by repeating this at least 8 times… maybe more. after we were told yet again that we wont be able to find this fig vodka anywhere in sf, we took our shots. shockingly, it actually tasted hella good. nice and sweet. when we told the bartender that we liked it, he decided to mention that we would probably never see this vodka anywhere in sf… just in case we missed that fact the first dozen times ;). he then proceeded to pour us a free shot of this inferno vodka out of a bottle with two huge scary looking chili peppers in it. now, i have no problem eating spicy food. actually, the hotter it is, the better. but *drinking* really spicy stuff is a whole different story. it just seems weird. you get the burn of the vodka along with the spicy burn of the peppers. this isn’t something i would normally order, but hey, i’ll try pretty much anything if it’s free.
so now we had drank 2 drinks beyond our “last drink”, but since they had been free, we felt obligated to buy a drink. we couldnt just chug his free drinks and then leave, right? so we each got a malabar infused vodka. malabar is this french bubble gum, and i was hella not down with it. tom seemed to like it though. at this point, the bartender looks around the room and decides to make “something special” for us and the other 4 people who still remained. i dont know what the something special was, but it was pretty good.
and so, after that, we finally left. all in all, it was a good night. actually, any night when you get a bunch of free drinks is a good one, but it wasn’t just that. it was the fact that the drinks at this place were all really good. some of the drinks were a bit pricey ($7), but the infused vodkas were only 5$ and other shots of quality vodka were only $5 as well. not too bad for a chi-chi place. the crowd wasn’t the usual kind of crowd that i’d hang out with, but despite that, i thought the bar was really cool… i’d definitely be down to go there again.
Voda is at 56 Belden Pl ion San Francisco.