Food & Drinks

How the Vodka Cocktail, Kazimir, Came to Be | PUNCH

When it comes to cocktail development, bartender Remy Savage ensures that each of his creations is “conceptually coherent.” At A Bar with Shapes for a Name (aka “Shapes”), a Bauhaus-inspired London institution, that means channeling the core teachings of the German design school by balancing functionalism and minimalism throughout every detail.

“We ask ourselves: ‘Does the drink work with our furniture? How does it feel sitting on our service trays? Is it adapted to our unique mise en place?’ And so on,” says Savage. At a bar that only stocks 20 curated spirits, displays no bottles on the back bar and is designed as a modern interpretation of the “less is more” principles championed by the Bauhaus, each cocktail strives to transcend its minimal build.

The creamy, vodka-based Kazimir, one of Savage’s favorites on the menu, encompasses this drink-making philosophy. As the menu reads, the Kazimir is a pared-down combination of vodka, peach yogurt and absinthe blanche, but the mixture is transfigured during its preparation, becoming a cocktail far greater than the sum of its parts.

“The organic peach yogurt and vodka are spun in a centrifuge to clarify it, separating the liquids from the solids, then we adjust the balance before adding a few drops of the absinthe,” Savage explains. Traces of lactic acid remain in the final drink, giving the cocktail its signature creaminess; it still appears crystal -clear, reminiscent of a clarified milk punch.

For Savage, the process of making the cocktail is not as important as the cocktail itself so the centrifuge and rotovaps remain out of view of the guest allowing the final product to stand on its own. When it’s ordered, the Kazimir is simply poured over a clear ice cube containing an iridescent prism frozen within—a touch that, while linked to the Bauhaus theory of light and color, was actually a result of playful happenstance. “During lockdown, my daughter and I would play with this glass prism by putting it in clear ice,” says Savage. “It was a fun thing at first, but it turns out that everyone loved it, so it stuck,” he adds.

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After some rumination, the cocktail was named after Russian artist Kazimir Malevich. Malevich is best known for his radical 1918 painting “White on White,” depicting a white square floating weightlessly in a field of white, a geometric abstraction without reference to external reality—a concept mimicked in the cocktail’s composition as well.

“In essence, the cocktail only uses three simple ingredients that, we like to think, were meant to be together,” says Savage of the drink’s inherent minimalism. “Oh,” he adds, “and it also looks cool.”

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