- Vodka is the name
- Vodka arrives
- Grain and corn
- High percentage
- Best-selling vodka brand
- Work hard, play hard
- Premium brand vodka
- Grey Goose vodka
- Shaken, not stirred
- Born and Bred
- Trump Vodka
- Vodka can be used as medicine
- Low calorie count
- No flavor?
- Flavored vodka
- Honey and pepper
- Bison grass
- Crystal Head Vodka
- Success in Sweden
- Vodka as aftershave?
- Always drink vodka cold
- Russian vodka toasting
- Vodka and food
- Vodka and caviar
- Penne alla vodka
- Vodka beef stroganoff
- Vodka in cocktails
- White Russian
Vodka is the most popular spirit in the world. A clear, distilled alcoholic beverage originating in Poland and Russia during the Middle Ages, vodka consists simply of water and ethanol. There are just three varieties of vodka—plain vodka, fruit and herbal vodka, and flavored vodka. Yet this is a drink with endless possibilities, especially when used in cocktails. Vodka also adds a boozy kick to cooking, and has useful antiseptic and anesthetic properties.
Click through the following gallery, raise your glass, and toast the value of vodka.
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Vodka is the name
The name vodka is a diminutive form of the Slavic word voda (water), interpreted as little water.
The word vodka was recorded for the first time in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. The word initially referred to a medicinal drink brought to Poland by Russian merchants. Russia didn’t get vodka officially recorded on paper until 1751. This illustration shows a group of men enjoying vodka shots in a bar around the same time.
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Grain and corn
By the late 18th century, the word vodka had found its way into English literature. It was described as a sort of brandy, or corn spirit. The French, meanwhile, coined it as grain liquor.
Since the 1890s, standard vodkas have been 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) (80 US proof). The European Union has established a minimum alcohol content of 37.5% for vodka. In the United States, vodka must have a minimum alcohol content of 40%.
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Vodka is normally produced using grain, but brands such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka (pictured) and Smirnoff use corn and/or potatoes as an alternative ingredient. Tito’s, in fact, is gluten-free certified handmade.
Best-selling vodka brand
Smirnoff vodka is the best-selling distilled spirit brand in the world. The Smirnoff brand began with a vodka distillery founded in Moscow by Russian peasant Pyotr Arsenievich Smirnov (1831–1898). It is now distributed in 130 countries.
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Work hard, play hard
On May 9, 1945, after the Nazi defeat in Berlin by the Red Army, Soviet troops partied so hard that in just 22 hours they had run out of vodka!
Premium brand vodka
Ketel One from the Dutch Nolet family is one of the most popular premium vodka brands in the world. Chopin, a potato vodka from Poland, and Belvedere, another fine Polish vodka, are also top of the line.
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Grey Goose vodka
One of the most expensive brands of vodka is Grey Goose. The wheat is grown in France and comes from prime sources.
Shaken, not stirred
James Bond has style and good taste, so it’s no wonder his preferred drink is a vodka martini, made with vodka and vermouth and, of course, served shaken, not stirred.
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Born and Bred
Stars are well known for creating their own wine labels, but some like actor Channing Tatum go for the strong stuff. Here he is launching his own brand of vodka, Born and Bred, in 2018.
Donald Trump pictured during the Trump Vodka Launch Party at Les Deux in Hollywood. Even for someone who doesn’t like alcohol, Trump recognized the brand value associated with the spirit.
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Vodka can be used as medicine
Vodka was traditionally used for medicinal purposes. It was sold as a possible cure for anything, from infertility to the plague. Its antiseptic and anesthetic properties are still valued today.
Low calorie count
Vodka contains a low amount of calories, if any, and doesn’t have any of the carbohydrates that drinks such as beer contain. In fact, at just 230 calories an average glassful, vodka is the best alcohol to drink when on a diet.
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Most vodka is distilled a minimum of three times, and is charcoal filtered. It has a low level of fusel oils and congeners (impurities that flavor spirits), hence its reputation as a drink with little or no taste.
Most vodkas are unflavored. But there are still many flavored vodkas out there. Flavorings include red pepper, ginger, a host of fruit flavors, vanilla, chocolate (without sweetener), and cinnamon.
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Honey and pepper
In Russia, vodka flavored with honey and pepper—pertsovka—is very popular. Pictured is the Nemiroff vodka brand.
Polish Żubrówka vodka is flavored with a blade of bison grass. The grass is sourced from the Białowieża Forest, hand-picked and dried under natural conditions.
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Crystal Head Vodka
One of the most distinctive vodka brands is that of Crystal Head, a vodka produced in Newfoundland, Canada. The skull bottle is made by Milan-based glass manufacturer Bruni Glass, and designed by artist John Alexander.
Success in Sweden
Absolut is also up there as one of the biggest brands of spirits in the world. Absolut was established in 1879 by Lars Olsson Smith (pictured), and is produced in Åhus, Sweden.
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Vodka as aftershave?
Did you know that you can use vodka to make aftershave? Add things like bay leaves, spices, and dash of rum, and you’ll have a fragrance good enough to drink. Except, don’t!
Always drink vodka cold
Vodka packs a lot of heat: it’s distilled to a minimum 40% ABV! Drinking it chilled tames the heat and adds a pleasing viscosity and richness to the spirit.
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Russian vodka toasting
With Russian vodka comes a complicated toasting etiquette. You toast. Then you drink. Then you toast, then you drink again. Pictured is Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow showing comrade Ernesto “Che” Guevara the finer points of the process.
Vodka and food
In Russia and Poland, vodka is almost always consumed with food.
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Vodka and caviar
A venerable Russian tradition, the pairing of vodka and caviar is customary throughout the world of gastronomy.
Penne alla vodka
Vodka adds a boozy kick to many recipes and can be put to good use when making tomato sauces. Pictured is penne alla vodka, a classic Italian pasta dish made with penne in a creamy tomato and vodka sauce.
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Vodka beef stroganoff
A traditional dish dating back to 19th century Russia, beef stroganoff is heightened by adding vodka to the sauce mix, a dreamy concoction of onion, bacon, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic, and tomato purée.
Vodka in cocktails
A bar would be a lonely and humorless place were it not for cocktails, and vodka is one of the principal ingredients of some of the most famous cocktails ever created. Pictured is a classic Bloody Mary.
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Fresh lime juice, Cointreau, cranberry juice, and vodka citron. What else do you need?
A popular highball drink made with orange juice and vodka, the screwdriver was born in the 1940s, apparently invented by interned American aviators.
A White Russian is a cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream. There’s simply no better way to end a meal!
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