Roman Kaplan, founder of Russian Samovar in midtown Manhattan, is a former professor from Russia who began using information culled from 19th-century texts to infuse vodka with esoteric flavors such as cherry, tarragon, coriander and ginger back in 1986. Now, with the flavored spirits craze in full swing, Russian expats as well as Theater District artists, dancers and singers flock to him for a taste of authenticity. Most flavors are sipped neat ($5/shot), though his fiery horseradish vodka does find its way into a Bloody Mary; garlic vodka is prescribed for a cold. Kaplan offers traditional accompaniments like caviar, herring, house-made pickles, blini and even salo, an appetizer of pork lard on small toasts with mustard. Purists can choose from about 25 international vodkas served au natural.
256 West 52nd St., New York, NY
This story appears in the print issue of April 2005.
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