Vodka (Russian: âîäêà) is a distilled liquor.
The name "vodka" is a diminutive form of the Russian word voda
(water), interpreted as little water.
Vodka is composed solely of water and ethyl alcohol with
possible traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made from a fermented
substance of either grain, rye, wheat, potatoes, or sugar beet molasses.
Russian-style serving suggestion for vodka.
Vodka’s alcoholic content usually ranges between 35 to 50 per cent by volume;
the standard Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish vodkas are 40 per cent alcohol by
volume (80 proof).
Historically, this alcoholic-proof standard derives from the Russian vodka
quality standards established by Tsar Alexander III in 1894. The Muscovite Vodka
Museum reports that chemist Dmitri Mendeleev determined the ideal alcohol
content as 38 per cent; however because in that time distilled spirits were
taxed per their alcoholic strength, that percentage was rounded upwards to 40
per cent for simplified taxation calculations.
Although vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt — Eastern Europe
and the Nordic countries — its popularity, elsewhere, derives from its neutral
spirit usefulness in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the bloody Mary, the
screwdriver, the White Russian, the vodka tonic, and the vodka martini.
Vodka may be distilled from any starch/sugar-rich plant
matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or
wheat. Among grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are generally considered
superior. Some vodka is made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, sugar
beets and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. In
some Central European countries like Poland some vodka is produced by just
fermenting a solution of crystal sugar and yeast.
While most vodkas are unflavoured, many flavoured vodkas have been produced in
traditional vodka-drinking areas, often as home-made recipes to improve vodka's
taste or for medicinal purposes. Flavourings include red pepper, ginger, fruit
flavours, vanilla, chocolate (without sweetener), and cinnamon.
Left: Flavoured varieties
In Russia and
Ukraine, vodka flavoured with honey and pepper (Pertsovka, in Russian) is
also very popular. Ukrainians produce a commercial vodka that includes St John's
Wort. Poles and Belarusians add the leaves of the local bison grass to produce
Żubrówka (Polish) and Zubrovka (Belarusian) vodka, with slightly
sweet flavour and light amber colour. In Poland, a famous vodka containing honey
is called Krupnik. This tradition of flavouring is also prevalent in the
Nordic countries, where vodka seasoned with herbs, fruits and spices is the
appropriate strong drink for midsummer seasonal festivities.