What is Vodka? Find out why it is Globally Cherished

Давайте выпьем немного водки!

Oops, sorry — that’s Russian for “let’s drink some vodka!” One thing American’s and Russian’s can agree on is that vodka is delicious. To celebrate the arctic empire’s most famous drink and America’s appreciation for this fine spirit, we’re going to dive into what vodka it is, how it’s made, and where it came from. 

Table of Contents

Vodka
10Expert Score
Vodka Flavor Scale

Good vodka has a clean, crisp taste with a clean finish. It can also have a slightly briny flavor like water from an oyster shell and a hint of citrus as well.

Briny
8
Crisp
9.5
Slightly Citrus
1.5
Positive
  • Affordable
  • Versatile
  • Global
Negatives
  • Cheap = Hangover

Vodka Information

Despite being one of the world’s most popular distilled spirits, vodka’s origins are rather humble. It is made from potatoes or grains, which are staple crops in many northern climates like Russia, Poland, and Scandinavia. It is popular all over the world, with fans everywhere liquor is drunk. The highest concentration of vodka drinkers is in Eastern Europe and Russia, with the United States trailing closely.

One of the reasons for vodka’s popularity is its versatility. It can be used across the spectrum of different mixed drinks, cocktails, and shots, meaning any bar worth its salt will have a selection of vodka.

Think of vodka like a clean slate upon which to build delicious drinks. It differs from other pure distilled spirits like gin, which has a strong juniper taste, by having a mild, grainy taste for a relatively gentle delivery (especially considering it’s anywhere from 80 to 100 proof, or 40% to 50% alcohol by volume). Even so, many people swap vodka and gin without a second thought, using it as the magic ingredient in martinis and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Vodka is more a category of liquor than a liquor all in itself, meaning there are tons of different ways to make it. It is often referred to as a neutral grain spirit because grains are fermented and distilled to produce it. And though potatoes usually get the spotlight with vodka, there are tons of foundations to build it upon: corn, wheat, rye, and a multitude of other grains are candidates. Even foods like grapes and beets have been used to make vodka.

Vodka makers tend to distill it three or more times — sometimes they’ll even distill it five or more times — which is why it’s called a rectified spirit. This is actually a selling point. Look at some bottles of vodka, and you’ll often see brands displaying how many times it was distilled.

The common assumption is that more distillations equal better smoothness and cleanness. Sounds a bit too tidy to be true, but in fact, it generally is. As vodka makes its way through the still, the parts on top and bottom of the batch get removed until only the pure center remains, which means fewer impurities and a more uniform drink.

For many manufacturers, filtration comes after distillation. By filtering vodka through charcoal or another type of porous material, any lingering impurities are removed.

Before it’s bottled, vodka is mixed with water to achieve the proper bottling proof. The most typical is 80 proof. Water plays an important role in providing vodka its famed smooth, tasteless flavor. For this reason, a major selling point for many brands is the purity and cleanliness of the water they use, which can have a tremendous impact on the taste of the final product.

Here is a list of some popular cocktails made with vodka.

  • Vodka Martini
  • Bloody Mary
  • Vodka Tonic
  • Vodka Soda
  • Vodka Gimlet
  • Vodka Sour
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Vodka Cranberry
  • Screw Driver

Like Bourbon, Scotch, Tequila, and Rye; good vodka should always be sipped. It can be sipped neat or on the rocks. That's how you should actually drink vodka. It's the preferred way in Russia, Poland, and Eastern Europe.

What is vodka

Vodka pairs well with caviar and some cannabis strains. Learn more about what vodka pairs well with below.

Vodka Pairings

Pairs With Music
Rock
Rock 92%
Techno
Techno 88%
Classical
Classical 93%
Pairs With Food
Cheese
Cheese 91%
Meats
Meats 96%
Seafood
Caviar 99%
Pairs With Strains
Head Band
Head Band 85%
Birthday Cake
Birthday Cake 93%
Crescendo
Crescendo 99%

Where is Vodka From?

Both Russia and Poland claim to have invented vodka. While it’s unclear who actually did, what we do know is this: vodka may have been in production over a millennia ago. It may have served as wound treatment and disinfectant at first, but at some point, it became a beloved drink. By the 1200s, flavored vodkas had come into existence, with distillers adding herbs, honey, and more to give it a delightful taste. 

Since there is a dispute about vodka’s origin, much like the dispute with where the Sour Diesel cannabis strain, we are going to drop a pin on our map below in a place that will piss some people off. Vodka did not originate in Austin, Texas. However, they figured out how to distill some amazing vodka so we will drop our pin there until Poland and Russia sort things out.

History of The Vodka

In Russia, vodka is a national treasure. Far from challenging the popular notion of how much they love vodka, Russians embrace it — some even assert that the nation’s history is tied up with it.

Vodka drinking was intensely popular throughout Russia in the 1500s, to the degree that around a third of men in Russia owed drinking debts to taverns by the mid-1600s. Many farmers were too drunk to grow their crops successfully. For this reason, the government began to regulate the sale of vodka.

Predictably, the Orthodox Church took issue with the drink, which they claimed was placed on earth by the devil. They systematically destroyed any literature they could find on the history of vodka, which is why so much is now open to speculation. However, it’s hard to suppress something so wildly popular, so their efforts largely drove vodka to become an underground, homemade treat.

Czar Alexander III sought to regain some control over the effects of vodka by regulating it to 40% alcohol by volume. Future leaders like Lenin and Stalin used vodka heavily in maintaining support from the populace.

Summary

So whatever you do with your vodka and no matter to what degree you enjoy it, now you know exactly what all the fuss is about. Enjoy this historically rich drink with all manner of different flavors — including new cannabis-infused vodkas that add a whole new layer to its possibilities.

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