I like experimenting with cocktails and vodka is one of my go-to spirits that I use as a base, have a look here. Along the way of learning about cocktails, my current vodka favorites are the Moscow Mule and a Bloody Mary.
But, I digress, our question today is how was vodka originally made, let’s check out some vodka history and see what we can find out!
How Was Vodka Originally Made
The Wikipedia information about vodka is a long post, which is always good news as it generally means that lots of different people have contributed.
Vodka is a drink which originates from Eastern Europe. It is impossible to say who invented it first, Russia seems to go back to the 9th Century and Poland goes back to the 8th or 11th Century. There are no written records of the actual dates and locations as it’s so long ago. Let’s just agree that vodka has been around for a very long time!
Traditionally vodka was made through a distillation of cereal grains or fermented potatoes. In the early days it was mainly used as a medicine, had a low alcohol content (14%) and looked and tasted a lot different than the vodka we are familiar with.
The popular adult beverage currently known as vodka was called gorzałka (from the Old Polish verb gorzeć meaning “to burn”), which is also the source of Ukrainian horilka (горілка).
Early production methods were rudimentary. The beverage was usually low-proof, and the distillation process had to be repeated several times (a three-stage distillation process was common). The first distillate was called brantówka, the second was szumówka, and the third was okowita (from aqua vitae),
There were many vodka-making cottage industries until the end of the 18th Century when vodka started to be produced on an industrial basis at Kresy. The nobility and the clergy became involved with production and the first industrial distillery was opened in 1782 in Lwow.
In the late 19th Century the first rectification distillery was established and this allowed for the production of clear vodkas.
A type of distilled liqueur called vodka is evident in Russia in the late 14th Century. As monks of that time had the specialist knowledge of distillation devices, they were able to create an alcoholic beverage which became fashionable with the nobility in Moscow. This beverage was often known as “bread wine” or “burning wine” until an official document in 1751 named it vodka. This document also regulated the ownership of vodka distilleries.
In 1863, the previous document was repealed and this caused the price of vodka to plummet. This allowed it to become the drink of choice for many Russians, even those on a low-income.
Present Day Vodka
These days there are many vodka distilleries outside of Russia and Poland. Some of these are in the US, eg, Skyy Vodka.
Check out our post on the best brands of vodkas. You can also experiment with flavored vodkas to enhance your drinking experience if you choose to.
The #1 vodka in the world is said to be Smirnoff and I have to admit that is my preferred brand too!