Vodka: What Separates Us From Monkeys

Vodka and Jello - Woo HooWhen it comes to popular alcoholic beverages both mixed and straight, vodka is high on the list. It’s a mysterious clear liquid containing water and ethanol (known by frat’s as grain alcohol)

How does vodka make us the superior race on Earth? Who else would figure out how to take potatoes, grain or molasses and extract alcohol from them? Not monkeys!

Vodka is typically clear and has an alcohol content of around 35% to 50% by volume. A normal Russian vodka is going to be 40% alcohol by volume. Why?

“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. However, since spirits in his time were taxed on their strength, the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation” (wikipedia)

They say a neat drink (vodka by itself) will taste watery if you have less than 40% and too strong above such a value so that’s your target percentage for perfection. Of course, it’s all up to personal opinion but vodka drinkers will probably fall around this percent (if they don’t swear by it).

Folks in the vodka belt drink their vodka straight, mainly the eastern European countries and Scandinavia. We, in the States, tend to mix it into drinks like a tasty Bloody Mary, the killer Screwdriver or slide towards a vodka tonic or vodka martini. My tastes tend to land vodka in my Long Island Ice Tea or White Russian.

The history of vodka is long and hard to translate from all the languages it started in. Some say vodka is a form of the word voda which meant “water” in some Slavic languages but nobody knows for sure. What we do know is that it survived the middle ages and has been used for beverages and medications.

In Russia it was once called “bread wine” hundreds of years ago and was very expensive to purchase. Today, you can buy vodka for a few dollars (in the United States anyway), of course, not all cheap vodka will be a quality vodka.

Prior to the 1950’s you’d be hard pressed to find vodka sold outside Europe, today the United States is a high consumer in the clear spirit. In this day and age we’re making our vodkas primarily from rye, wheat, sorghum and corn in the United States. I’ve also had apple vodka which, oddly enough, tasted like vodka with a hint of apples. Some areas of Europe insist the only spirit you can call “vodka” must be created with potatoes, grains or sugar beet molasses. But it’s ethanol anyway… does the fermented product really matter? Apparently so!

Vodka is almost pure alcohol later cut with water to get to the right alcohol by volume. The basis for what makes the alcohol can be a religious conviction by some but for a young start vodka drinker you may just buy the cheapest on the shelf. Is there any difference? Ask a real vodka drinker and you’ll find they all prefer a specific brand. You’ll also find flavored vodka’s such as raspberry which can be used to drink straight or to enhance a mixed drink. Pure vodka lovers will probably give you a bad look for drinking such a style.

Beware of the vodka you drink because there is a good chance it could cause a hangover because of the ethanol content, which is a weaker form of a fuel for vehicles. You’d not want to drink a gallon of gas, right? Consider vodka up on the charts of ways to get really drunk or poisoned. Don’t be stupid.

“In some countries, black-market vodka or ‘bathtub’ vodka is widespread, as it can be produced easily to avoid taxation. However, severe poisoning, blindness, or death can occur as a result of impurities, notably methanol presence” (wikipedia)

Be safe, have fun and enjoy your favorite brand of vodka.


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