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Vodka – the Spirit of Russia

For centuries now the alcoholic beverage known as vodka has long been associated with Russia. Vodka is often seen as having originated in Russia. However, the truth of the matter is that the origins of vodka cannot be traced back to one particular location.

It is largely believed that vodka was first produced in the grain-growing regions of Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. For centuries people living in these parts of the world frequently made use of the beverage and even Scandinavians are known to have drunk vodka on occasion. It must be concluded, therefore, that the referral to vodka being a ‘Russian’ drink has come about due to the fact that Russia is perhaps one of the best-known countries wherein the drink originated. It may also have something to do with the fact that there are several well-known brands of Russian vodka on the international market, but other European brands are virtually unknown.

Ancient Russian vodka likely took the form of a drink called ‘bread wine’. This popular drink started to emerge from about 950 CE onwards and it contained relatively low alcohol content (no more than 60%) and was sold in taverns across the country for a low price. In the 17th century, the term ‘vodka’ was used to refer to an herbal tincture which contained up to 75% alcohol and which was used for medicinal purposes. It would seem that sometime during the 18th century, the alcohol content of vodka increased and this name started to be substituted for the name ‘bread wine’. A decree dated 8 June 1751 regulated the ownership of vodka distilleries, using the name ‘vodka’ in this official government document. Soon vodka became the key target of government taxes in Tsarist Russia. At times, vodka sales would account for some 40% of state revenue! During the 1860s, the government promoted vodka to quite a large extent, making it the drink of choice around the country. However, when the government monopoly on the beverage was revoked, prices plummeted and vodka became available to everybody – not just the well-to-do. Vodka has since enjoyed one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in Russia, currently making up about 70% of all alcohol consumed in the country.

Today, Vodka is one of the most consumed distilled beverages in the world. It is made by fermenting grain or potatoes, after which the resulting liquid is distilled until it reaches the desired alcohol level. The result is a colorless liquid that is mainly comprised of alcohol and ethanol. The alcohol content may range from 35% to 50% but the ideal is said to be 38%. Today vodka-flavored, light alcoholic beverages have been produced by the Russian vodka company known as ‘Smirnoff’. The brand is distilled in as many as 130 countries across the globe and these sweeter drinks have become increasingly popular amongst younger members of the drinking fraternity. Vodka is also frequently mixed to create other drinks, such as the ‘Bloody Mary’, the ‘Vodka Tonic’ and the ‘Screwdriver’.


User Comments & Reviews: 2 Comment(s)

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marc vishnitsyn - 2010-02-19 12:32:43

Heublein inc the owners of Smirnoff was an American company not Russian. Diageo another American multinational group now own Smirnoff. The Russian nation do not all drink vodka, wine, lager, and beer sales are increasingly popular. Westerners still see Russia as the USSR. Each state is now independent, Finland produce more vodka than we do Vodka is not a distinctive product of my country.

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Peter - 2010-02-19 10:36:00

The largest producer of Vodka is Finland with other Nordic States Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Greenland. Baltic states Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, and Lithuania also individually produce more vodka the Russia. In 1933, the Heublein Company bought the rights to the Smirnoff brand of Vodka. Today Vodka is the dominant white spirit in the United States helped along by its versatility as a mixer and some very clever advertising campaigns from the various producers. One of the most famous of these was the classic double entendre tag line: "Smirnoff — It leaves you breathless. One could use the tag: The Spirit of America.

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