Thursday, October 19, 2006

Too Cool for Effen School

As a testament to the fact that I no longer frequent bars (a habit for a much younger body and organs and formerly larger corporate salary) I was amazed when I walked into Zeta bar at the Sydney Hilton. Miss L, the PoD and my good self had arrived for the launch of Effen Vodka, held at said swank establishment, and we were about to be plied with a range of cocktails, schmoozed to our hearts’ content, and tossed a bottle of the good stuff on the way out. I have previously written about Effen Vodka and very much enjoy its smooth flavour. I wouldn’t go to the launch of crap vodka, now, would I?

After coming in from an evening-lit city street and up the elevator, the doors opened into what at first I assumed to be the empty floor of an office building with all the lights turned off. Plunged into darkness I thought we’d pressed the wrong button in the lift. Slowly little shapes bobbed in my field of vision. They were people … oh and some furniture underneath them and a table or two appeared.

I chuckled and ventured that either there’d been a sudden blackout and the hotel was running entirely off a small generator, or else it was a meeting of the Sydney Séance Society, but apparently I was wrong. In serious terms, this is, I am told, cool. I doubt I would have recognised my own mother if she came up to me, but being cool is so much more important. Especially in a bar. I felt my way along the walls (whoever you were, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to grope, I was just trying to find the door handle) to the entrance of our private roped-off room. This is also cool, as it separates us from the punters who have to pay for their cocktails. They squint enviously through the shadows at us, assuming we are very important guests. Maybe even celebrities. They can probably only see well enough to make out that in this light I bear a faint resemblance to Angelina Jolie. Even I was feeling cool by this stage. As I was dressed in black and have dark hair, I must have looked like a disembodied head floating through the ether. I’m sure it made me look thinner. And younger. Cool.

Once inside, the combination of my eyes adjusting, and the light from QVB across the road shimmering weakly through the windows, helped me make out a bit more of the room. This was assisted by a flickering fire in a glass-paned faux fireplace. As Sydney is in the grip of an October heat wave I find this puzzling, but recognising the paradox I decide it must be really cool. I think I’m getting the hang of this cool thing.

Within no time stilettoed waitresses with Effen written all over them are ferrying an assortment of cocktails aloft. The reflected glow from their platinum bleached blonde hair extensions allows me to just make out the colours of pink, pale green and orange in the martini glasses, although the offering of ‘would yous like one?’ somewhat dulls the cool ambience I have constructed. The Watermelon Crushes (very refreshing), Original Sins (not very sinful but pleasantly tart), Hypnoses (very tropical), and Dracula’s Kisses (too hard, can’t remember, next question please) arrived thick and fast. As did little shots of the Black Cherry and Vanilla Vodka I already fancy.

The Global Marketing Poobah woman told us lots about Effen (the Dutch vodka sold by the U.S. company Planet 10 Spirits) and after six or seven mixed drinks of various hues, and a few straight shots, it was all compellingly captivating. We were even prepared to forgive the Aussie promotions manager for wearing white shoes after Labour Day. (Well I was, but my opinion was based on which hemisphere we were in, and the argument eventually got quite complicated).

The Effen brand, so we’re told, is described by consumer focus groups as “the sort of person you want to hang out with in the bar”. Assuming that person isn’t the interesting looking, bearded, mumbling old drunk in the corner, brimming with a retinue of fascinating ribald anecdotes about the war and his time in the joint, I guess this works as a marketing tag. We’re also told about villages in the Netherlands full of armies of cheerful, strong-armed Dutch ladies who painstakingly pull the neoprene sleeves over the bottles. I decide not to ask a question from the floor about where the company stands in relation exploitative industrial relations practices in foreign countries, and have another cocktail instead. It would have been uncool.

Effen is now the third leading luxury brand Stateside behind Grey Goose and Belvedere. We are all impressed with this stellar feat of alcohol brewing ingenuity and marketing prowess. Hoorah! We toast with another clocktale. Effen is also not only made from a roooly good sort of wheat but is also filtered through peat. We cackle and make jokes about peat bogs and vodka. And about whether Pete is a better filter than Bill or Fred. Hahahahaha. Hilarious at the time. Down the hatch.

Effen is also the officially endorsed vodka of ... wait for it … THE ROLLING STONES. How cool is that? The company must be doing well because I try to mentally calculate how much global annual profit might be consumed by Keith Richards and rapidly get to a five figure sum. And now the international Effen juggernaut reaches its black cherry-flavoured tendrils to our own sweet shores, so we can have goes of it.

After a few more yummy mixes and some pretty decent finger food, we manage to find the elevator again, which in our Effen enthusiasm we believe we can hijack and fly to Amsterdam. Unfortunately we are disgorged into the much less cool bright night light of George Street. Maybe some of the cool will linger for a bit. I can contemplate it and our fun evening while sipping on my smooth vodka at a later date. It’s a vodka that not only has Effen great taste, but a definite sense of humour.

Effen plain or Black Cherry and Vanilla is available from Liquorland and Vintage Cellars, RRP $49.99.


Anonymous Ellie said...

How's the black cherry and vanilla vodka? If it tastes any good, it could be an interesting addition to the liquer cabinet!

11:46 AM  
Blogger PiCkLeS said...

I realise that I have a lot to learn about alcohol...I can't really taste the difference in the different types of vodkas.

I went to Zeta for a B'day party once, waited in line for over 1 hour to get in despite being on the guest list and when we finally got up there the place was half empty. We then got told to stop taking photos (we only took 1 or 2) because the flash was annoying the VIPs.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

The Black Cherry is really nice Ellie. It's very smooth and the cherry taste is definitely there without too much vanilla. Worth the investment.

Hi Pickles. The really good brands, with corresponding price tags, are smoother and subtler. Not the rip yout throat out kind. I can imagine that kind of attitude from Zeta... seemed a bit wanky.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

I have both on my next big alco shop thanks to your previous review, and this just confirms it. Yum.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Reb, a very enjoyable and COOL entry. :-) I wonder if I can get Effen at the airport (duty free)? I am curious about the Black Cherry and Vanilla version. Sounds yummmmm. Nora

9:10 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

It's dangerous yum Julia. Be afraid :)

Thanks Nora... maybe I really did pick up some cool. Wow. Not sure about the duty free - I imagine you can get it. I hope so coz I wnat to pick up some in the next few weeks.

5:23 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

What a great funny story.

Rebecca writes:
"We toast with another CLOCKTALE. Effen is also not only made from a ROOOLY good sort of wheat but is also filtered through peat. "

Were the spelling mistakes intentional, because I was laughing really hard. I thought you were writing as if you were drunk by the end of the night.

11:31 PM  
Blogger neil said...

You grabbed a bloke on the 'door handle', nice one Reb!!! Too funny post, made my day. There could be more vodka coming your way, I was at a tasting of a new Aussie vodka from Sydney yesterday, can you believe after two shots, can't remember the name. I'm such a cheap lush.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Hi Thanh .. yep intentional and if you got the message obviously I got it right :)

Hi Neil - glad I gave you a chuckle! Knowing vodka marketing these days it's probably called 'can't remember the name'

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Party King said...

This is effen a-list party!

12:03 AM  

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