Italian born, Simone Bodini has the enviable job of travelling the globe as a Global Brand Ambassador — a job that’s made easier for him, he says, by the fact that he’s the Global Ambassador for a great vodka- and a great brand with a very real history: Stoli.
We caught up with him on his first ever visit to Australia to find out what the brand has in store for us Down-under.
How did an Italian end up in Australia talking about a brand from Eastern Europe?
This is life — we all start with a clear direction when we are young, everyone wants to be an astronaut or a policeman, or a football player. Then we grow up, and expectations change a little bit. In my case I wanted to be an astrophysicist, which is ridiculous.
I was fascinated by science, but what I was studying was annoying because it was a lot of numbers and it was not going to work for me.
I ended up behind the bar — I was needing money to go to the US because I was in love with a girl, and to make money, what do you do? I’m working in a restaurant, and at some point the owner comes in and says, “I like your style — you have good charisma. Why don’t you go behind the bar and make cocktails.” This was in the late 90s.
What are your initial observations about the Australian bar scene?
This is my very first time in Australia — the first thing I’ll note is that the Espresso Martini is big here. I also can see that the “mixology thing” is developing, and is still in a stage where you can really leave a mark, no matter which bar you work for.
It’s been around a long time, but what is it that makes the Stoli brand so special?
In the vodka industry, you can make a lot of things. The vodka market these days, you buy your raw alcohol from someone, then you do your marketing job. Which means you can put it in a nice bottle, you can claim you are handcrafted (when you’re not), create names, develop packaging, drive strategies — there are some crazy vodkas out there.
At the end of the day vodka is very easy to produce, but it’s very difficult to produce properly.
So with Stoli, I’m very happy to work with them: they don’t need a fancy bottle, they don’t need to do some crazy filtrations. We are a genuine Eastern European vodka — we produce a little part of it in Latvia, and a little part of it in Russia — we use grains, we don’t use potatoes, we don’t use pineapples, we use grains. More precisely, we use, wheat and rye.
We are brand that has been around for 80-odd years, and we’re a brand that is a part of the vodka-making history. We don’t need to go to the fancy side, because we have this genuine story to tell.
Tell me more about the Stoli family of brands?
We’ve got Stoli, which is our core premium vodka, which is perfect either straight or for every cocktail you have to make. As with Russian vodkas generally, there’s a little bit more flavour than the new-style vodkas from France or New Zealand.
Then there’s the super premium elit vodka- when I mention elit, my mouth waters. I drink a lot of elit vodka!
We also have two very beautiful guns to use in the Espresso Martini war in Australia: we have Stoli Salted Caramel, which works perfectly for an Espresso Martini, and we have Stoli Vanilla, which works perfectly as well. You need to try them!
For me there’s a big problem in the industry at the moment — when I was young, in the 90s, everyone loved vodka because it’s easy to mix and it pays the bills. Vodka was fun. In the new mixology era, some influencers say that vodka is no good because vodka is not brown and has no taste. I was struggling with this concept and was keen to change this mentality? Going in front of mixologists all around the world and telling them that vodka is good? Maybe they will say they agree just to make me feel good, but they’re still thinking vodka is just ethanol: odourless, colourless, tasteless.
At the end of the day, I have this example that works very well: we all have our own preferences on art. For me, I love the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, the colours he used- full of flavour and energy. Vodka is more subtle than Klimt- more like modern art- a big black square on a white canvas back-drop. It looks so simple- but there’s actually real depth to this style of art. This is Vodka!
In vodka you cannot look for flavour, it’s another style of art: it’s clarity, geometry, a crystal-clear product. But vodka is not odourless and flavourless — I would say it’s more a gentle flavour with a distinctive character. It’s good that not all vodkas are the same — life is beautiful because there is variety.
How do you enjoy drinking Stoli?
When it comes to regular Stoli, I’m inclined to drink it in a Bloody Mary. I also think the Salted Caramel is excellent — sometimes I often drink it straight out of the fridge.
When it comes to elit, my choice would be a Martini. elit is a beautiful vodka; you don’t want to cover it. elit Martinis are “the” cocktail for me!
What next for Stoli?
Globally, not a lot of people know that we are Stoli Group — when I say Stoli, everybody thinks I’m just a vodka guy.
But I’m actually in charge of the whole portfolio. We have tequila, we have rum, and lots of other great brands.
In Australia, we’ll be launching a couple of things: look out for Cenote Tequila, our new super premium tequila, 100% agave — it’s very good tequila, the liquid is just great.
And we’re also introducing a new flavour for Stoli, Stoli Cucumber vodka. A Stoli Cucumber & Tonic is very fantastically refreshing – just perfect for your wonderful Australian climate. I look forward to seeing these new offers thriving when I next visit your beautiful country.
Stolichnaya Premium Vodka has been produced and bottled for more than 65 years at the historic Latvijas Balzams distillery in Riga. It is recognised as a high-quality, premium spirit, adhering to the Russian Alpha Spirit standard.
Stolichnaya Premium Vodka
Stolichnaya Premium Vodka pours crystal clear and shows marshmallow, mineral and mild fruit peel aromas. It has a soft, supple entry leading to a smooth, medium- bodied palate, and finishes clean with lightly sweet, sugar dust, wet straw.
Pouring with flawless clarity, it has a breathtakingly pure nose and a dense, rolling mouthfeel, which leads to a finish of subtle spices.
Stolichnaya Premium Vodka and elit Vodka are distributed in Australia by Think Spirits.