Hard to believe that vodka was often called flavorless and that the biggest debate was “Shaken vs. Stirred”. Vodka fusion, the art of fusing your own flavors into regular vodka, used to be the best way (and a fun way) to get flavored vodka. It’s still a fun way, but you would be hard pressed to come up with an original flavor any more.
Care for a little vodka with that flavor? With dozens to choose from thanks to increasing demand you’d be hard pressed not to find a wide assortment of flavored vodkas these days. Given that the spirit is virtually flavorless and odorless, it makes sense that distillers would want to inject some yum factor into this top-selling Soviet-inspired libation.
Naturally, thanks to free enterprise, we have an assortment of wild and wacky flavors to mention starting with maple syrup, root beer float, s’mores, PB & J and – an obvious homage to the breakfast cereal Fruit Loops – Loopy. More savory but no less sweet versions include smoked salmon, chili peppers, bacon, espresso, cucumber, rose and buttered popcorn.
The word vodka stems from the Russian word, voda, which means water. Rarely consumed outside of Europe before the Second World War, vodka would eventually draw many hard liquor fans with its flavorless and versatile appeal.
Today, vodka is made from many different things such as beets, potatoes, wheat and even grapes. The final product doesn’t depend on the ingredients so much as it depends on the methods of production. You’re unlikely to be able to taste the difference, since by law vodka is not even permitted to have a distinctive taste except for those that have been added in after distillation.
Because it’s filtered of many dangerous chemicals and has less of an after-effect on the body, many view vodka as one of the least dangerous alcoholic beverages. Still, thanks to an alcohol volume that ranges from 35 to 60 per cent, it is one of the more potent drinks, able to intoxicate quickly and effectively.
Ironically, unlike the drink itself, it’s not really clear where vodka was created, though many associate the clear drink with Russia. Its birthplace has also been linked to the grain-growing regions that surround Poland, Ukraine, Belarus as well as Finland and other Scandinavian countries. Still, it’s said that the taxation on vodka in Russia helps cover a large portion of the government’s revenue. The fact that vodka consumption in Russia is greater than any other country in the world must help must help.
The birthdate of vodka is pegged at around the 12th century. Made initially for medical purposes, it wasn’t until the 1350s that the drink gained a reputation for its intoxicating properties.
In Russia, people believed the drink held its own spirit and it was used at religious ceremonies and events. A vessel sometimes containing more than a gallon of vodka would be passed around and those who refused to drink would be considered sinful. By the 1600s, it was custom to drink vodka at Russian Imperial banquets, where all meals started with bread and vodka.
During Czar Peter’s reign there was a custom that each foreign ambassador attending the courtyard should drink the ‘Cup of the White Eagle,’ a nice euphemism for this drink of vodka, which totaled a whopping litre-and-a-half of the tipple.
History has seen its share of great debates: Kennedy versus Nixon, Coke versus Pepsi and then, of course, in the world of martinis, there’s Vodka versus Gin.
Booze nerds will debate till the end of time which libation is best in the classic cocktail popularized by the likes of James Bond. And once they’ve settled that score, they can begin all over again on whether your martini should be shaken or stirred.
The original martini was a gin concoction, stirred not shaken, so as not to bruise the gin. But James Bond ordered his shaken not stirred, and would eventually order vodka martinis, a directive that 007 creator Ian Fleming could never have predicted would stir up the cocktail world.
Today we celebrate Vodka day, for that reason I think it’s time for my vodka martini.