Nineteen years after the collapse of the USSR, the Russian spirit persists: Stolichnaya vodka—“Stoli” to us outsiders—is no less a mainstay today than it was at its height of cultural prominence, the exact point of which is fairly debatable given the brand’s enduring success. Depending on your age and provenance, the Stoli name doubtless conjures up any number of vivid cultural cues: James Bond requesting his shaken, not stirred; disco-era martini madness at the Playboy Mansion; Patsy clutching her ubiquitous bottle on Ab Fab… Stoli’s cultural influence is flatly undeniable and global in scale.

It’s worth noting, however, that Stolichnaya’s success hasn’t gone to its head. At over 100 years old, it’s still Mother Russia’s most cherished and consumed export, largely because it hasn’t really been tampered with. As the endless parade of today’s fly-by-night fad vodkas proves ad nauseam, image and aggressive marketing campaigns can only take you so far. And after all these years, Stoli’s unflagging popularity the world over remains the truest testament to its distinction. Vodka permanence, as Stolichnaya demonstrates, is culled from a recipe that works.

That recipe includes locally grown winter wheat and rye, glacial water from Stoli’s own artesian wells, a 60-hour fermentation process and a quadruple filtration system. But perhaps the element most integral to the formula is simple, old-fashioned authenticity. As the brand has grown into an international phenomenon,the company has experienced decades of dramatic behind-the-scenes power struggles, both within the brand itself and in its social context. Yet through political upheaval, ownership disputes and six 007s, the composition and distillation process have remained totally unaltered. Clearly, Stoli is as Russian today as it ever has been: a first-class vodka of unmistakable smoothness, character and depth.

Classic and distinctive, yes, but by no means impervious to change. Last year, the marque unveiled the 10th entry into its flavored-vodka portfolio, a concept Stoli originated with the pepper-infused Pertsovka in the ’60s at the insistence of Soviet premier and number- one fan Nikita Khrushchev. Stolichnaya Gala Applik is all-natural—no neon-green Jolly Rancherflavored appletinis from this interpretation. Instead, use it to craft a subtly sweet and slightly tart apple martini for adults. Stolichnaya—forbidden fruit from the heart of old Russia. 750ml, $23.99

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