Vodka (wódka in Polish, водка in Russian) is a clear, typically colorless distilled liquor. But for insignificant amounts of flavorings, it consists of water and ethanol. Vodka usually has an alcohol content ranging from 35% to 60%, i.e., from 70 to 120 proof (the classic Russian vodka is 40%).
|Table of contents|
2 Vodka today
3 List of Russian vodkas
4 List of Polish vodkas
5 Vodkas from various nations
7 Related links
8 External links
The origins of vodka (and of its name) cannot be traced definitely, 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 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 nineeen seventies 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" tansferred 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 subtantiate 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 "History of vodka" (see refeences 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 prioriy), 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. The book is summarized in the article A history of vodka.
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.
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 Uybileynaya (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 and Belarusianss sometimes add the leaves of a local grassy plant called bison grass to produce Żubrówka or Zubrovka vodka, 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.
List of Russian vodkas
List of Polish vodkas
Vodkas from various nations
- William Pokhlebkin, Renfrey Clarke, and V. V. Pokhlebkin; A History of Vodka; Verso Books (hardcover, December, 1992)
- V. V. Pokhlebkin; Istorija Vodki; Inter-Verso, Moscow (softcover 1991, Russian original).