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Is there anything more instantly recognizable as Russian and yet enjoyed all over the world than vodka? Even the word came from Russian unchanged (‘vodka’ means ‘little water’ in Russian). It is one of the world’s most popular hard liquors, enjoyed both straight and in cocktails, with and without various flavors.

Sean Connery in a 1962 ad for Smirnoff Vodka

Origins of alcoholic drinks are usually unknown and vodka is no exception to this. Some sources claim vodka was born sometime in the 9th century, other point to the 11th century, while a popular Russian legend says that a monk called Isidore (notice that the best things were often made in monasteries – champagne and trappist cheese, to name a few) of the Chudov Monastery made first Russian vodka recipe. Isidore allegedly knew secrets of distillation that enabled him to come with the drink of the highest possible quality.

The first mention of the word ‘vodka’ in its contemporary meaning comes from 1751 in a tax regulating decree. Unsurprisingly, as the vodka taxes brought up to 40 percent of the state budget in the Russian Empire.

Vodka is mostly composed of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. It is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits and sugar. Until the 1940s, vodka was almost unknown in the United States, but once introduced, it soon replaced bourbon as the most popular spirit of America. One of the reasons for vodka’s popularity is its purity and the fact it leaves no alcohol smell after drinking.

Vodka Martini

Today, vodka is produced all over the world, but mostly in the ‘vodka belt countries’ – Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Finland, Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe. It is drunk straight, on rocks, but it is also the main ingredient of popular cocktails such as Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, Sex on the Beach, Moscow Mule, White Russian, Black Russian, vodka tonic, and a vodka martini.


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