As an annual passholder I love to take advantage of all the various food and beverage seminars available throughout Walt Disney World. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a recent Vodka 101 class with Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim. I’ve done a lot of taste testing before, but never one focused solely on Vodka, turns out there was a lot to learn.

The event was originally scheduled for The Edison, but due to demand for tickets, it was moved to the larger First Class Lounge inside Maria & Enzos. The restaurant is themed to an art-deco airport terminal and I felt the glamour of the period rubbing off as we were led to the class.

All guests were welcomed with a glass of a drink Abou-Ganim called, “Happiness.” It was made in honor of a dear friend of Abou-Ganim who is battling cancer. The taste was smooth and sweet and our first lesson in how Vodka can be a really flexible drink ingredient. The recipe for “Happiness” is at the bottom of this post.

After the welcome beverage we learned about the history of Vodka and how it’s distilled. Turns out that there are many ways of making vodka and each method adds a little more character and a different flavor profile to each mix. You may hear of Vokda as being smooth, but do you sense the sweetness or vanilla or any of more than dozen other common flavors?

Abou-Ganim brought years of experience helping restaurants and bars make tasty adult beverages, and his duo of Iron Chef wins along with a great presentation manner to the table. Tony wrote the book on Vodka, literally. His “Vodka Distilled” was given out as a parting gift to all attendees.

Led by Tony, we blind tasted 10 different vodkas carefully taking in the smell, or the nose, of each, then tasting a sample and comparing it against others on the table. By the end of the night, I really did notice the difference between certain types of vodkas and even found a few new favorites.

Brands we tasted included: Tito’s, Reyka, SKYY, Grey Goose, Belvederel, Chopin, Stoli elit, Stoli Gluten Free, Ciroc and Ketel One.

“Happiness” Cocktail:

1 1/2 oz Absolut Pink Grapefruit
1 oz St Germaine Elderflower
1/2 oz Aperol
1 oz fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup

Shaken and strained over ice in a tall Collins or large wine glass. Garnish with a slice of fresh ruby red grapefruit and a sprig of spearmint.

As always, if you go to an event or tasting with adult beverages and have to drive afterward, be sure to bring a designated driver or plan to use a rideshare or taxi service.

I know I have plans to upgrade my own vodka cocktails thanks to Tony Abou-Ganim’s expert guidance and his book. Just another wonderful evening at Maria & Enzo’s in Disney Springs.