vodka


 


Vodka is typically a colourless liquor, usually distilled from fermented grain. The word is a diminutive form for "water" in various Slavic languages (voda, woda, вода). Except for various types of flavorings, vodka consists of water and alcohol (ethanol). It usually has an alcohol content ranging from 35% to 50% by volume. The classic Russian vodka is 40% (80 proof). This can be attributed to the Russian standards for vodka production introduced in 1894 by Alexander III from research undertaken by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. According to the Vodka Museum in Moscow, Mendeleev found the perfect percentage to be 38, but since spirits in his time were taxed on their strength the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation. At strengths less than this vodka drunk neat (not mixed with other liquids) can taste 'watery' and above this strength the taste of vodka can have more 'burn'. Under US Federal law, the minimum alcohol strength of vodka is also 40% by volume, whilst in Europe the minimum is 37.5% by volume.
Although vodka is generally drunk neat in its Eastern European and Scandinavian homeland, its growth in popularity elsewhere owes much to its usefulness in cocktails and other mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, the Screwdriver, the Vodka Tonic, and the Vodka Martini.

Origin

The origins of vodka (and of its name) cannot be traced definitively, but it is believed to have originated in the grain-growing region that now embraces Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and western Russia. It also has a long tradition in Scandinavia. The word can be found in the Primary Chronicle of Novgorod dating to 1533, where the term vodka is used in the context of herbal alcoholic tinctures. A number of pharmaceutical lists contain the terms "vodka of bread wine" (водка хлебного вина) and "vodka in half of bread wine" (водка полу хлебного вина). As alcohol had long been used as a basis for medicines, this implies that the term vodka is a noun derived from the verb vodit’, razvodit’ (водить, разводить), "to dilute with water". Bread wine
was a spirit distilled from alcohol made from grain (as opposed to grape wine) and hence "vodka of bread wine" would be a water dilution of a distilled grain spirit.
While the word could be found in manuscripts and in lubok (лубок, pictures with text explaining the plot, a Russian predecessor of the comic), it began to appear in Russian dictionaries in the mid-19th century. Interestingly, peoples in the area of vodka's probable origin have names for vodka with roots meaning "to burn": Polish: gorzałka; Ukrainian: горілка, horilka; Belarusian:
гарэлка, harelka; Lithuanian: degtinė; Latvian: degvīns, šņabis; Swedish: brännvin; in Russian during 17th and 18th century горящее вино (goryashchee vino, "burning wine") was widely used.

History

Poland

In Poland, vodka has been produced since the early Middle Ages. The first written record of vodka in Poland dates from 1405 in the Sandomierz court registry. These early spirits were used as medicines. Stefan Falimierz asserted in his 1534 works on herbs that vodka could serve "to increase fertility and awaken lust." Wódka lub gorzałka (1614), by Jerzy Potański, contains valuable information on the production of vodka. Jakub Kazimierz Hawra, in his book Skład albo skarbiec znakomitych sekretów
(A Treasury of Excellent Secrets, Kraków, 1693), gave detailed recipes for making vodka from rye.
Some Polish vodka blends go back centuries. Most notable are Żubrówka, from about the 16th century; Goldwasser, from the early 17th; and aged Starka vodka, from the 16th. In the mid-17th century, the szlachta (nobility) were granted a monopoly on producing and selling vodka in their territories. This privilege was a source of substantial profits. One of the most famous distilleries of the aristocracy was established by Princess Lubomirska and later operated by her grandson, Count Alfred Wojciech Potocki. The Vodka Industry Museum, now housed at the headquarters of Count Potocki's distillery, has an original document attesting that the distillery already existed in 1784. Today it operates as "Polmos Łańcut."

Russia

The "vodka belt" countries of central and eastern Europe and Scandinavia are the historic home of vodka, and also have the highest vodka consumption in the world A drink similar to modern vodka first appeared probably sometime in the 15th–16th centuries.It was not originally called vodka — instead, the term bread wine was used. Until mid-18th century, it remained relatively low on alcohol content, not exceeding 20% by volume. It was mostly sold in taverns and was quite expensive: in 17th century, a keg (12 liters) of bread wine was estimated to cost as much as one and a half or two cows. At the same time, the word vodka was already in use, but it described herbal tinctures (similar to absinthe), containing up to 75% of alcohol, and made for
medicinal purposes.

Types of vodka

Neutral vodka- it is distilled from grain or potato and highly rectified. It is filtered through activated charcoal or quartz sand.
Gold – it is cask matured to get gold colour. Vodka is matured in wooden casks to drive golden colour from the wood.
Flavoured vodka- it is flavoured with various spices, herbs, and fruits

Production

Vodka may be distilled from any starch/sugar-rich plant matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye, or wheat. Among grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are generally considered superior. Some vodka is made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, sugar beets and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. In some Central European countries like Poland some vodka is produced by just fermenting a solution of crystal sugar and some salts for the yeast and distilling this after a few weeks. Today vodka is produced throughout the world.

Distilling and filtering

A common property of vodkas produced in the USA and Europe is the extensive use of filtration prior to any additional processing, such as the addition of flavourants. Filtering is sometimes done in the still during distillation, as well as afterward, where the distilled vodka is filtered through charcoal and other media. This is because under U.S. and European law vodka must not have any distinctive aroma, character, colour or flavour. However, this is not the case in the traditional vodka producing nations, so many distillers from these countries prefer to use very accurate distillation but minimal filtering, thus preserving the unique flavours and characteristics of their products.
The "stillmaster" is the person in charge of distilling the vodka and directing its filtration. When done correctly, much of the "fore-shots" or "heads" and the "tails" separated in distillation process are discarded. These portions of the distillate contain flavour compounds such as ethyl acetate and ethyl lactate (heads) as well as the fusel oils (tails) that alter the clean taste of vodka. Through numerous rounds of distillation, the taste of the vodka is improved and its clarity is enhanced. In some distilled liquors such as rum and baijiu, some of the heads and tails are not removed in order to give the liquor its unique flavour and mouth-feel.
Proper distillation and excluding some of the heads also removes methanol from vodka (and other distilled liquors), which can be poisonous in larger amounts. Methanol is formed when cellulose is fermented. This can be avoided by fermenting sugar with a high quality Turbo Yeast, so little methanol is formed. A fermentation of sugar, water, and Turbo Yeast will typically produce 1 ppm (one millionth) in the mash. This is much less methanol than found in ordinary orange juice, and about one twentieth of that found in commercial whisky and cognac.
Repeated distillation of vodka will make its ethanol level much higher than legally allowed. Depending on the distillation method and the technique of the stillmaster, the final filtered and distilled vodka may have as much as 95-96% ethanol. As such, most vodka is diluted with water prior to bottling.

Flavouring

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 (anniversary vodka) and Pertsovka (pepper vodka). While most vodkas are unflavoured, a wide variety of flavoured vodkas have long been produced in traditional vodka-drinking areas, often as homemade recipes to improve vodka's taste, or for medicinal purposes. Flavourings include red pepper, ginger, various fruit flavours, vanilla, chocolate (without sweetener), and cinnamon. Ukrainians produce a commercial vodka that includes St John's Wort. Poles and Belarusians add the leaves of the local bison grass to produce Żubrówka (Polish) and Zubrovka (Belarussian)  vodka, with slightly sweet flavour and light amber colour. In Ukraine and Russia, vodka flavoured with honey and pepper (Pertsovka, in Russian, Z pertsem, in Ukrainian) is also very popular. In Poland, a famous vodka containing honey is called krupnik.
This tradition of flavouring is also prevalent in the Nordic countries, 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-flavoured vodka (kryddat brännvin). In Poland there is a separate category, nalewka, for vodka-based spirits with fruit, root, flower, or herb extracts, which are often homemade or produced commercially by small distilleries. Its alcohol content may vary from 15 to 75%.
The Poles also make a very pure (95%, 190 proof) rectified spirit (Polish language: spirytus rektyfikowany), which is used in a variety of ways. Technically a form of vodka, it is sold in liquor stores, not pharmacies. Similarly, the German market often carries German, Hungarian, Polish, and Ukrainian-made varieties of vodka of 90 to 95% alcohol content (as well as Stroh rum (a spiced rum) of the same potency). A Bulgarian vodka, Balkan 176°, is 88% alcohol.

Other processing

Due to the high alcohol content of certain brands of vodka, it can be stored in ice or a freezer without any crystallization of water. In countries where alcohol levels are generally low (the USA for example, due to alcohol taxation levels varying directly with alcohol content), individuals sometimes increase the alcohol percentage by a form of freeze distillation. This is done by placing the vodka in an open vessel (bowl, etc) in the freezer, and then after it has reached a temperature below the freezing point of water, adding one or more ice cubes, to which the free water within the vodka will crystallize, leaving a higher alcohol concentration behind.

Zuvrowka- of the polish vodkas one of the most highly esteemed by poles in their country is Zubrowka. This is flavoured with type of grass only found in the forests of eastern Poland. A blade of grass is placed in every bottle; strength is 70 degree proof. The grass imparts yellowish tinge and aromatic bouquet and slight bitter undertone.
Starka- it means old in Russia. It is vodka proofed at 87 degree proof. It is nearest in character to whiskey. It is distilled from rye and matured for 10 years or so in casks which have previously held high strength wine.
Jarzebiak- vidka having strength 70 degree proof is flavoured with fermentation of berries of the Rowan tree (scarlet berries).
Wisniowka also 70 degree proof, is sweet and flaovured with cherries but is drier than most cherry liqueurs.
Vyborowa and Luksusowa
 are both typical vodka sold at 79 degree proof and lukusowa being triple distilled.
Smirnoff- vodka made in England is a typical vodka produced from grain spirit by double filtration through a combination of certain wood charcoals. It is neutral spirit, colourless, tasteless, and sold in two strength 65.5 degree proof and 80 degree proof.
Pretsovka- Dark brown, Russian pepper vodka proofed at 70 degree proof and has a pleasant aroma. It however is said to burn the throat, like the aroma of pepper corn. There is also an infusion of capsicum, cayenne pepper.

Brands of vodka

Polland            Belvedere, Luksusowa, Chopin,    wyborowa
Ireland            Boro, Sarataf, nordoff.
France            Ciroc, Grey goose.
Holland          effen, ketel one
The usa           gilbey’s, gordon’s, SKYY, square one,
Russia            Stolichnaya, kermlyovskaya, muskovskaya,
Sweden           svedka, absolute

Brands of flavoured vodka

•    Ablolut apeach
•    Absolute vanilla
•    Grey goose L’orange
•    SKYY vanilla
•    Absolute citron
•    Absolute mandarin
•    Absolute pepper
•    Gordon’s ditrus
•    Gordon’s wild berry
•    Stoli peach
•    Ssmirnoff twist

Key terms-

Congeners- these are trace elements, acids, and other flavouring substances obtained from the base material during distillation. Congener free indicates free from all of these.
Wash- fermented liquid.
Activated charcoal- it is the powder or granular form of carbon used to purify the spirit.
Zubrowka- it is a type of grass.

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