All About Vodka

Vodka is a clear spirit distilled from a variety of fermented substances. It has no colour and little falvour. Originating in Eastern European countries, (the vodka belt), it is commonly drunk neat or used as a basis for cocktails such as the classic Martini.

History    Manufacture    Flavoured Vodkas


Vodka Martini

Attribtution: John Phelan

Ukrainian Vodka Still

Photo by Arne Hückelheim

How Vodka is Made

Vodka is mainly produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat, with the latter two regarded as the more superior. Yeast is added and the fermented mash is then distilled.

Filtration: Commercial Vodka is filtered through activated charcoal to absorb trace amounts of congeners, substances that add, (not always desirable), flavour to the vodka.

The traditional vodka producing nations, and boutique distillers  often prefer to use a more controlled distillation, but minimal filtering to preserveg the unique flavours and characteristics of their brew.

Vodka is distilled in a continuous still many times with the heads & tails completely removed so they bear no influence on the end product which is drawn off at between 95-96% abv as an almost totally pure alcohol. It is then diluted with water prior to bottling.

For more information on Vodka production visit Absolut

History of Vodka

Vodka originates in Eastern Europe, The Vodka Belt, and was first distilled in Poland in the early middle ages and was known as Gorzalka a derivative of the Polish Gorzac – to burn. From the late ninth century the Russians renamed it Vodka, form the word Voda or water.

Large scale production began in Poland in the late 16th century and over the next 200 years, spread across Europe.

Early vodkas were comparatively low in alcohol and were passed throughmore tradtional stills several times, usually three), in order to purify the spirit, which  was drawn off at around 70–80% abv. This was then watered down, to produce a simple vodka (30–35% abv).

From the 1950’s vodka became one of the world’s most popular drinks and in 1975 sales of Vodka overtook those of Bourbon.

European Union regulation

Following the success of grape based vodka in the States, producers in the Vodka belt lobbied and succeeded in getting legislation through the EU parliament. Now any vodka that is not made from either grain or potatoes must display the products used in its production on the label.

The vodka Belt

The Vodka Belt


Vanilla PodsAttribution: B.navez

Flavoured Vodka

While most vodkas are unflavored, flavourings can include red pepper, ginger, cinnamon, honey, fruit, chocolate and vanilla.

In Nordic countries, vodka is still sometimes flavoured with herbs & spices.