Finish Chicken Noodle Soup With Vodka For Unrivaled Flavor

There are classic comfort foods, and then there's chicken noodle soup, which is the culinary equivalent of a huge, heartfelt hug. It's one of those dishes that's in a category all its own, with variations across the globe from Japanese ramen to homemade Malaysian chicken laksa to Jewish "penicillin." Many different pantry ingredients can elevate a simple chicken noodle soup recipe, but one particularly great addition comes from your bar cart, instead.

Vodka is an addition to chicken soup that may sound odd, but really is a genius idea. This clear spirit has tons of uses in the kitchen. Its high alcohol content makes it effective for deglazing pans or marinating meat, and a splash of vodka makes fried chicken batter extra-crispy, too. One of its best qualities, though, is that it enhances the aromas and flavors of foods when poured directly into dishes.

While vodka has a fairly neutral taste on its own, a small amount serves to amplify the scents and tastes that are already present in your recipes. Finishing off your pot of soup with a splash of the spirit imparts a deliciously deep flavor to the broth, while enhancing its mouthwatering aroma before you even take the first spoonful.

Vodka adds an appetizing aroma and depth of flavor

Vodka enhances the flavor of foods because its high alcohol content bonds with fat and water molecules present in the ingredients. Water-soluble molecules carry the flavors you taste on your tongue, such as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, while oil-soluble molecules carry aromas from aromatics and seasonings. When alcohol bonds with these compounds, it essentially lifts them up to your  nose and tongue, making your recipes more aromatic and flavorsome. 

Think of the deliciously-scented steam that billows up from a hot bowl of chicken soup — vodka can lift up those notes and tantalize your senses even further. It's a strong spirit, so you don't need to use a lot. A half a cup will enhance your pot of soup without being overbearing. If you like to start by simmering a whole chicken or chicken parts first, add the vodka towards the end of the process, when you put the cooked shredded meat and noodles into the broth. Bring the liquid to the boil, then simmer briefly with all the other ingredients to finish.

If you're not a fan of vodka, there are alternatives that can produce a similarly delicious result. Try sake for subtle fruity and floral flavors, or fermented Shaoxing wine for a sweet-yet-tangy taste. For a similar vibe as vodka, but with a lower alcohol content, try the clear Korean spirit called soju. It's smooth, sweet, and goes well with food, making it ideal for chicken noodle soup.

Elevate other soups with a splash of vodka

Chicken noodle is not the only soup that can be taken to the next level by a little vodka. You only need to think about what vodka brings to a Bloody Mary or penne alla vodka (also known as disco pasta) to see how it can enhance tomato-based dishes, so try the same trick with tomato soup. 

Add a few tablespoons of the spirit to a roasted tomato and pepper soup to bring out the rich, sweet flavors, with a dash of Worcestershire sauce for an umami kick. Vodka works just as well in a creamy tomato soup, and is especially delicious in a chilled gazpacho. It adds a boost of robust flavor and crisp aroma for an extra-refreshing sensation. You could even serve the gazpacho in shot glasses for a fun dinner party appetizer.

Alternatively, add a splash of vodka to a vegetable soup with potatoes, leeks, chives, garlic, celery, and onion. You could use a potato-based vodka to keep with the vegetable theme. Or use the spirit to ramp up the sweet, earthy taste of vibrant beetroot soup, enlivened with a swirl of sour cream. As a final note, alcohol does partially evaporate when cooked, but you'd have to cook the soup for about three hours to get rid of it all. You're not likely to get drunk on your soup, but you might want to skip out on serving it to kids.