Vodka 101: Everything you need to know about vodka – makes one wonder that what all one should know about the iconic spirit, Vodka? Everyone is familiar with the popular spirit as a clear distilled alcoholic beverage. But there is so much more that you should know about it. It’s important to enjoy the true nature of the spirits, gaining knowledge about the spirits and alcohol is equally important.
Vodka 101 is a complete guide about Vodka, and everything you should know about it including how is vodka made, what is vodka made of, how to drink vodka and some interesting vodka facts as well.
Vodka 101: What is Vodka?
Vodka is the “water of life” in the simplest terms that we can put it in. It is a clear distilled alcoholic beverage with origins that can be traced to the Russian Influence regions such as Russia, Poland, Finland, etc. Vodka is distilled to 190 proof or 95% ABV, ensuring the only ingredients constituting vodka are water, ethanol and trace elements of various congeners.
Vodka is majorly free of characteristic aromas and taste. However, contrary to popular belief vodka is not completely neutral. Each vodka has a unique character due to the trace amounts of congeners from the ingredients that the vodka was distilled from, distinguishable by highly refined or trained palates.
Vodka 101: Origin and History of Vodka
Like all spirits, vodka has a complex history with no clear point of origin. The history of Vodka spans across many Eastern European countries such as Sweden, Poland, and Russia. The word vodka originates from the Polish phrase, woda zycia, meaning “water of life”. Interestingly names of various alcohols across the globe have an affinity of being derived from the local phrase which means, “water of life”. The initial vodkas were very different from the vodkas we know today. In its early days, it was essentially a grape spirit, also known as “burning wine”. Over the course of time, each country in that region developed a unique method of producing vodka.
Vodka grew in popularity as an easy and cheap to manufacture spirit for the masses. Vodka Price was kept low and artificially managed during the revolution and subsequent Soviet times through nationalisation of all distillers. On the other hand, it started gaining popularity in America and Europe in the 1950’s when the jet setting Hollywood took a shine to the exotic Eastern European spirit. Vodka continued gaining popularity because of it’s easy drinking and soft nature compared to local distillates. Vodka never looked back since, to become one of the most popular spirits in the world, adored by one and all.
Vodka 101: Types of Vodka
As simple as vodka is in concept, its a highly varied and distinct beverage, with as many styles of vodka as there are vodka brands. The two main styles of vodka are:
- Regular Vodka– It is the vodka made in a more traditional Eastern European method. The spirit is distilled to a minimum of 190 proof and then diluted with water, with the end product being a minimum of 80 proof. It is further filtered to remove most of the leftover congeners. It’s mostly a neutral flavor and aroma profile.
- Flavored-It’s more contemporary style of Vodka, and probably an act of sedition in Russia. The vodka is flavoured naturally or using artificial flavours to make it even softer and make it appealing to those who don’t particularly have an affinity for hard spirits. It’s use has furthermore been promoted by the global rise in cocktail bars and their needs for flavor maximization.
Vodka 101: How is Vodka made?
Vodka is probably amongst one of the most democratic spirits in the world. Unlike other spirits, it is not bound by hard and fast rules of production and the ingredients it uses. There are as many production techniques as there are vodka brands. Most of the vodka is distilled using continuous column stills, sometimes the distillation being finished in pot stills in a method called rectification. In an incredibly simplified manner vodka is produced in the following method, by stripping away all technical terms.
- Is it started by extracting starch from various grains, fruits and vegetables.
- The starchy mixture is fermented by adding yeast to it.
- Starch is essentially sugars, which the yeast feeds on to produce alcohol, carbon di-oxide and heat.
- Yeast creates up to 10% alcohol by volume of the whole mixture.
- The alcohol is concentrated using a process called distillation. Distillation is essentially boiling liquids at specified temperatures to collect pure forms of that liquid.
- Vodka is distilled to a minimum 95% ABV to create an almost pure spirit. The higher the alcohol percentage the lesser is the concentration of congeners, which are essentially the flavour and aroma components.
- The high proof distillate is cut down to the required alcohol strength using demineralised water, the minimum being 40% ABV
- Vodka is finally filtered using techniques including, mesh filtration, activated carbon, etc.
- Vodka is ready to be bottled and consumed by you.
Here is an incredibly informative, animated video delving into vodka production in a much more detailed manner. It looks into the technical terms of vodka production as well the detailed production process and is highly recommended for those looking for more information on how is vodka made.
Vodka 101: What is Vodka Made of?
Urban legend is that vodka is made from potatoes only. Here in Vodka 101 we’d like to bust that myth. While it is true that in the earlier days potato was a major source of raw material for making vodka, it can be made using grains like wheat, barley, rice, etc, vegetables like sugar beets and potatoes, fruits like grapes, etc. Vodka is incredibly versatile in both it’s uses and how and what it is made of.
Most of the modern-day vodka is produced using wheat due to it’s easy and abundant availability. Potatoes were the major source due to abundant availability and the ease with which they used to grow in the cold hard climates of Russia and the vodka belt. Vodka Production has always been driven with easy and economical availability of raw materials and that trend will go continuing into the future
Vodka 101: Benefits of Vodka
Vodka started off its life as a medicinal product, not a recreational drink. Some of the benefits of vodka include:
*Disclaimer: Any health benefits claimed here in, Vodka 101 have not been independently verified and are based off common studies and researches available. Please consult your doctor for specifics.
- Vodka is a powerful disinfectant, antitoxin, and antiseptic.
- It has the lowest calorie content amongst all spirits
- Ideal for light drinking or lunch cocktails
- It is a great stress buster.
- It is great for skin and hair enhancement. Alcohol is a common ingredient in various skin and hair products
- New scientific studies show that vodka may help heal symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Studies also show vodka may reduce risks of heart disease
- Vodka has been used to reduce fever by being rubbed onto the chest and limbs, due to it’s fast evaporating nature that causes a cooling effect.
- Helps aid digestion as well
Vodka 101: How to drink Vodka
No article titled Vodka 101 can be complete without taking a look at how to drink vodka. For a drink as versatile as vodka, there is no dearth of ways on how to drink it. It’s a bar favourite and bartenders absolutely love it for its neutral profile and ability to pair with almost anything. Here we cover some of the most preferred methods of consuming vodka.
- Neat – The most common and traditional way to consume vodka is shooting it neat. Often times, the vodka along with the shot glass are chilled for an improved mouthfeel and drinking experience.
- Soda Water with a twist of lime/lemon– A favourite amongst calorie-conscious and fitness freaks. The lowest calorie tall drink that you can make. Soda water, cuts the vodka strength to manageable drinking levels whilst preserving the character of vodka, and the lemon gives a touch of acidity to round off the vodka and to make the drink slightly more refreshing.
- Tall Drinks with Soft Drink or Chasers of Choice– An incredibly easy drink to make. It’s again a very common way of consuming vodka. Common chasers include Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Tonic Water, Sprite, etc. Each chaser lends a unique character to the vodka. The sugar from the chasers cuts through the vodka and makes for an easier and more pleasing drinking experience. The sugar is balanced out generally with a wedge fo citrus fruit like lime or lemon.
- Shooters- Vodka shooters are the mainstay of many bars and nightclubs. These are flavoured shot drinks, particularly popular in parties. Learn how to make popular vodka shooters.
- Cocktails– Vodka is the most extensively used spirit in cocktails. In fact, cocktails have also been a reason for such popularity of vodka. It’s amongst the most poured spirits in a bar. Some of the most common classic cocktails are vodka based including, Moscow Mule, Cosmopolitan, White Russian, Screw Driver, Bloody Mary. Vodka Cocktails is such an extensive topic that we have dedicated an entire post on how to make a few of these. Vodka Classic Cocktail recipes which you can easily make at home
- If you want to be innovative and try something new then you can also go for vodka jello, Vodka Marinated Watermelon, Vodka soaked Gummy Bears.
If you are health conscious, then try the Coconut-Water Vodka Cocktail, which is not only healthy and super refreshing but is also just a 2 ingredients cocktail!
Vodka 101: Common Vodka Brands
Vodka 101 would be incomplete without taking a look at the various choices and vodka brands available to you. India has a wide range of Vodka brands available. There are regular vodkas and flavoured vodkas available for everyone’s tastes and preferences. Some of the commonly available vodka brands in India include
- Absolut – Regular Vodka, Flavoured Vodka, Absolut Elyx, and limited edition bottles. HERE is a cool look at Absolut’s 170+ year history in under 6 minutes
- Grey Goose
- Ketel One
- Wodka Gorbatschow
- Magic Moments
- White Mischief
Vodka 101: Vodka Price
Vodka 101 is an attempt to tell you everything you need to know about vodka, in this segment we will talk about how vodka prices are categorised. There is a whole range of vodka brands in India. These brands transverse various price points to give the consumers a wide variety of choice at their convenient price points. Vodka price may vary wildly from ₹300 for a 750ml vodka to ₹5,000+ for a 750 ml bottle of vodka. The various price segments that vodka is available in include
- Economic Brands: ₹300 to ₹600 per 750 ml bottle
- Value Brands: ₹600 to ₹1000 per 750 ml bottle
- Premium Brands: ₹1000 to ₹2,500 per 750 ml bottle
- Premium Plus Brands: ₹2,500+ per 750 ml bottle
Vodka 101: Bonus Vodka Fact
9th May 1945 was the day when Russia ran out of the spirit as the Nazis surrendered to the Soviet Union and they partied so hard that within 22 hours they faced a new crisis, i.e. shortage fo Vodka. Hope, that this article on Vodka 101 inspires you to go pour yourself a large drink and celebrate the glory of this world-conquering spirit.
Vodka 101 is in a series of articles that cover the basic fundamentals of the common spirits, keep looking out for more of our 101 series.