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Vodka 101: ​What is vodka anyway?

Vodka can get a bad rap, but it’s an incredibly versatile spirit. Learn what it is, how it’s made, and how to serve it.

Vodka can get a bad rap, but it’s an incredibly versatile spirit. Learn what it is, how it’s made, and how to serve it.

Of all the things potatoes can be turned into — from fries to a famous children’s toy — perhaps its most impressive form is vodka. Vodka is among the most popular distilled spirits across the world.

But it wasn’t always.

No, this beverage's origins are as humble as can be. For starters, Russia and Poland are in an ongoing battle over who can claim vodka’s origin story. The jury is still out on who has the title, but we do know that it was likely created over a millennia ago. It was likely first relegated to the unseemly role of a wound disinfectant, but it was soon found to be a smash hit as a drink too. Flavored vodka was even a thing by the 13th century, with distillery owners adding ingredients like herbs and honey to their recipes for sweetness.

Eventually, this beverage was deemed slightly too popular. In the 1500s and 1600s, many farmers were too inebriated to grow crops and 1 in 3 men in Russia were heavily indebted to their local pubs. The Orthodox Church thus branded vodka as satanic trapping and burned all literature on the history of the drink (as you do).

With time, vodka was legalized and regulated at 40% ABV, and leaders like Stalin and Lenin even used it to rally support. Now, this spirit is known and made throughout the world. Even the United States has gotten in the business - with brands like Tito's and SKYY being popular US brands.

With time, vodka was legalized and regulated at 40% ABV, and leaders like Stalin and Lenin even used it to rally support. Now, this spirit is known and made throughout the world. Even the United States has gotten in the business - with brands like Tito's and SKYY being popular US brands.

What’s so great about vodka?

Vodka can be cursed by its own name recognition. Like tequila, it's easily dismissed as one of the first liquors most people try. But it is a true team player; a neutral spirit that serves as a great solo drink and a reliable base for hundreds of cocktails.

Its ingredients are simple: made from a grain base – like sorghum, rice, corn, rye, wheat, potatoes, fruits, or sugar – with yeast added to induce fermentation.

Types of vodka

Plain

As traditional as it comes, plain vodka is a pure and simple pleasure beloved by people around the world. It is little more than water and ethanol, but underestimate it and you’re bound to be surprised by the subtle flavors within it.

Superb examples of plain vodka are Grey Goose and Skyy. Each brand packs a small journey into their flavor profile — Grey Goose finishes with a light almond flavor, while Skyy has a spicy epilogue with hints of coriander and anise.

You can make vodka cocktails with little effort using such drinks. We’re talking vodka drinks like the Moscow mule, White Russian, Bloody Mary, vodka highballs, and many more.

Botanical

Also known as infused, these vodkas require longer production periods and real finesse to master. Distillers use additional ingredients in their recipes like herbs, spices, flowers, ginger, and other plant parts to create the desired flavor in their drinks. In the same way that herbs like juniper make gin what it is, botanicals make unique tasting vodkas.

Infusing vodka with the fruit has also become very popular as of late with bartenders creating all manner of concoctions including vodka infused cherry, pineapple, and even mango.

For a great botanical option, try anything by Ketel One. They offer refreshing botanical flavors like grapefruit & rose, peach & orange blossom, and cucumber & mint.

FLAVORED

This final category has become increasingly popular in the last few decades. They are extraordinarily versatile — you can find the addition of just about any flavor you could ever want within reason. Brands like Smirnoff and Svedka offer raspberry, watermelon, vanilla, mango, ginger lime, and countless others.

Drizly’s got the goods

At Drizly, we take our vodka selection seriously. Get lost among our virtual shelves browsing the finest vodkas on the planet. Make your selection and it’ll arrive at your door in 60 minutes or less. ваше здоровье!