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Vodka
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Vodka

Vodka (wódka in Polish, во́дка in Russian) is a clear, typically colorless liquor, usually distilled from fermented grain.

Except for insignificant amounts of flavorings, vodka consists of water and alcohol (ethanol). Vodka usually has an alcohol content ranging from 35% to 60% by volume. The classic Russian vodka is 40% (80 degrees proof).

Table of contents
1 History
2 Vodka today
3 List of Polish vodkas
4 List of Russian vodkas
5 List of Ukrainian vodkas
6 Vodkas from various nations
7 References
8 Related articles
9 External link

History

The origins of vodka(and of its name) cannot be traced definitively, but it is believed to have originated in either Poland or Russia. Surprisingly, until recent times there were no serious historical research on vodka as a product. Nearly all research on vodka was in fact research of drinking and selling vodka, rather than of manufacturing vodka. Paradoxically, the weakening of the Soviet Union somewhat changed this situation (but the conclusive word is yet to be said). The second half of the 1970s witnessed two massive attacks on the priority and rights of the Soviet Union to market liquors named "vodka". The first assult was along the lines that the Russian Revolution "discontinued" Russia's trademark for vodka, which was "naturally" transferred to emigrated manufacturers of vodka, Smirnoff in particular, because of prohibition by Soviets, so that officially the Soviet Union started manufacturing vodka in 1923. This one was refuted pretty easily. The second assault, by Poland, was more serious, and the Soviet Union undertook the historical research to substantiate Russia's priority, which was completed by 1979, and in 1982 the international arbitrage considered it convincing enough to grant the USSR the priority in vodka as Russian original alcoholic beverage and recognised the Soviet trademark motto "Only vodka from Russia is genuine Russian vodka".

The author of the research published his findings under the alias V.V.Pokhlebkin in the book A History of Vodka (see references below). (He is also known as an author of several culinary books.) Despite the clear bias of the exposition in the book towards the goal (to prove the Russian priority), it is a serious, substantiated research and reveals quite a few facts, as well as debunks a number of myths, on the origins of vodka, both as product and as name.

Despite the judgement described above, Polish historians stand that the first written record of vodka occurred in Poland in 1405 in Sandomierz Court Registry (thus the Polish claim to vodka). In Russian language, the first written usage of the word vodka in an official document in its modern meaning is dated by the decree of Catherine I of Russia of June 8, 1751 that regulated the ownership of vodka distilleries. At the same time, in the Novgorod chronicle in records dated by 1533 the term "vodka" is used in the context leading to the conclusion that it meant herbal alcoholic tinctures. Additionally, in a number of pharmaceutical lists the expressions "vodka of bread wine", "vodka in half of bread wine" was used. Recalling that alcohol was long known as a basis for medicines, the above leads to a reasonable suggestion that the term vodka is a noun derived from the verb "vodit'", "razvodit'", translated as "to dilute with water". Hence "vodka of bread wine" is simply a water dilution of a distilled spirit. While the word could be found in manuscripts and in a kind of ancient Russian comics called lubok (pictures with text explaining the plot), it entered the Russian normative language (judging by lexicons) around the middle of 19th century.

Vodka today

What is called "vodka" today, may be distilled from any starch/sugar-rich plant matter—traditionally grain such as rye (rye vodka is generally considered superior to other types) or wheat, but also potatoes, and sometimes even from byproducts of oil refinery or wood pulp processing. Today vodka is produced throughout the world; there are many American producers, and Suntory even produces a vodka in Japan.

A common property of all vodkas, compared to other spirits, is that before any flavouring is added, it is neutralized as far as possible. This is often done by filtering it through charcoal. The idea is to remove everything except pure water and pure alcohol from the liquid. As a result, vodka has a very neutral taste and, if drunk unmixed, does not cause strong hangovers.

Apart from the alcoholic content, vodkas may be classified into two main groups: clear vodkas and flavoured vodkas. From the latter ones, one can separate bitter tinctures, such as Russian Yubileynaya (jubilee vodka) and Pertsovka (pepper vodka).

While most of the vodka exported to the West is unflavored, the various slavic peoples make and drink a wide variety of flavored vodkas which have also become popular in the west. It has been a traditional way to make medicinal and homeopathic remedies. Flavorings include red pepper, ginger, various fruit flavors, vanilla, chocolate (without sweetener), and cinnamon. Ukrainians produce a commercial vodka that includes St John's Wort; Poless sometimes add the leaves of a local grassy plant called bison grass to produce Żubrówka with slightly sweet flavor and light amber color. In the Ukraine and Russia, vodka flavoured with honey and chilli pepper (Pertsovka, in Russian, Pertsivka, in Ukrainian) is also very popular.

This tradition of flavoring is also prevalent in the Nordic region, where vodka seasoned with various herbs, fruits and spices is the appropriate strong drink for all traditional seasonal festivities, midsummer in particular. In Sweden alone, there are some forty-odd common varieties of herb-flavored vodka (kryddat brännvin).

List of Polish vodkas

List of Russian vodkas

List of Ukrainian vodkas

Vodkas from various nations

References

Related articles

External link