The name "vodka", or "водка" in Russian, means "little water".
Vodka is a colorless drink of which the alcohol content is typically 40° but can vary between 37 and 97 degrees, according to manufacturing.
It is a brandy of Slavic origin (Russia / Poland), made from fermented grain, then distilled.
About 5,000 different brands of vodka are available on the market, produced by many countries.
Here is a list of a few popular brands:
• Russia: Russky Standart, Ladoga, Dovgan, Stark (Старка)
• Ukraine: Nemiroff, Khortytsja
• Poland: Chopin, Wyborowa, Żytnia, Pan Tadeusz, Krakus, Jan III Sobieski, Belvedere, Żubrówka
• Sweden: Absolut, Explorer
• Finland: Finlandia
• United States: Smirnoff
• France: Vertical, Grey Goose, Puhr, Poliakov
Its fairly neutral taste allows it to be flavored and especially to be the basis for many cocktails.
Vodka is the most consumed alcohol in the world.
Ar-Razi, Persian physician of the eleventh century, used for the first time the fermentation to extract the ethanol, but the process was then used exclusively in medicine.
In 1386, the Consul of Genova on a visit to Moscow, provided a brandy, the "aqua vitae" or "living water", which gives birth to the "first" vodka. It's the same "aqua vitae" which is the source for every strong alcohols in Europe: whiskey, Cognac, Brandy, Schnapps.
Around the end of the fourteenth century, a monastery located on the territory of the Kremlin in Russia, created the recipe of the first Russian vodka.
Then, in 1533, production and sale of vodka on the Russian territory, are subject to monopoly of state.
In 1894, the Russian government decided to patent as official Vodka, the "Московская особенная" at 40°, native of Moscow, and its filtering process by charcoal.
The brandy which is the basis for the preparation of the vodka is made from the fermentation of grains or vegetables or even fruits.
The raw materials commonly used are cereals (wheat, rye, ...) and the potato.
This raw material is subjected to distillation in an alembic and produces ethanol. After successive distillations, distilled water is added in varying amount (60% max) and sometimes aromas of red fruits, citrus or spices.
Among the ingredients most commonly used for fermentation, there are potatoes, sugar beet, wheat, rye, grapes, but any agricultural raw material can be used, as long as it appears on the label of the bottle of vodka. Thus, sugar, chestnuts, rice, barley, buckwheat, or even wood, can be exploited.
The different types of vodka
The famous Żubrówka Polish Vodka has the distinction of not being transparent, but slightly tinted and flavored with bison grass, harvested and distilled in the summer. This particular flavor is also found in the Belarussian Vodka.
We can find in Ukraine Vodka with many original flavors such as honey, chili pepper, cranberry, mountain ash berry, birch, cedar nuts, nettle, or lemon. Recently, we can also find caramel or cherry flavored Vodka.
Vodka based cocktails
• White Russian: 1/3 Vodka, 1/3 coffee liqueur, 1/3 milk
• Topaz: 3cl vodka, 1cl lemon juice, 1cl Amaretto, 1cl Vermouth
• Smiling Angel: 3cl Vodka, Cointreau 3cl, 3cl Kirsch, 1cl grenadine syrup
• Viking: 1/3 of Kirsch, 1/3 of Aquavit, 1/3 Vodka, 1 dash creme de mint, soda water