The History Of Vodka

The history of the Vodka drink from its origins in Russia and eastern Europe to its current dominance as one of the popular beverages in the world.

The origins of Vodka are shrouded in mystery. Many nations and many more individuals claim to be the birthplace of the popular spirit. The two leading candidates as the mother country of vodka are Poland and Russia. Each can boast a heavy association and great popularity for the drink. In each country, the eighty proof liquor is drunk with meals. In Russia the word voda, believed to be the word that vodka originated from, means water. Vodka is just as popular in Poland.

Believed to have originated from either Poland or Russia (some say Persia also), the birth date of Vodka has been estimated around the beginning of the twelfth century. Made for medical purposes, this crude anesthetic and disinfectant was distilled from rye. It was not until the middle fourteenth century that vodka was discovered to have intoxicating characteristics. Families and communities were producing the drink before the end of the 1300's for the purpose of drinking. In Russia, it was believed that the drink contained its own spirit and it was used at religious events. A cup would be passed around, at times containing more than a gallon of vodka. Those who refused to partake would be considered impious. From the beginning of the seventeenth century it had become customary for vodka to be served at Russian Imperial banquets. All meals were begun with bread and vodka.

Although vodka began as rye-based liquor, as it became more popular to the masses, the potato became the ingredient of choice. The potato was much more common, and although the vodka did not taste as well, much easier to distill from than other grains. As vodka made the switch from a family made liquor to one that was produced on a grand scale by large distilleries, the potato was discarded and grain was embraced. Today most brands of vodka are distilled from rye, wheat, barley, and most commonly corn. Vodka is distilled at very high proofs and then filtered through vegetable charcoal. The higher the proof, the less the flavor and clearer the color.

Although vodka had been a hit over in Russia and Eastern Europe for hundreds of years, it did not become popular in the United States until the 1930's when the Smirnoff Company opened for business. They introduced gold vodka; vodka that is aged for ten years in oak casks before it's sold on the market. Today vodka commands 20% of the market in the United States, and almost the entire market in Russia and Eastern Europe. It is one of the most popular drinks worldwide and should continue to be for a long time in the future.

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