Vodka has been sipped, downed and applied across the globe for centuries. Originating in Eastern Europe towards the end of the 9th century the name is derived from the Russian word ‘voda’ meaning water. It was primarily used for medicinal purposes and as an ingredient in gun powder during the Middle Ages but during the 14th century became an established drink in Russia and by the middle of the 16th century was recognised as the national drink of Poland and Finland. But what is vodka made from?
In order to make vodka you need to ferment any foodstuff that contains either sugar or starch. This must then be distilled to increase the alcohol content. The process of fermentation involves feeding sugar to yeast so that the yeast produces alcohol. Vodka can be made of a variety of foods such as fermented grains, including rice, rye, sorghum, corn or wheat. It is also possible to use potatoes, fruits or even sugar alone.
This initial fermentation stage produces a liquid with only around 16 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) which is too low to be classified as a spirit. To increase the ABV content the product needs to be distilled. This is the process through which the weak alcoholic concoction is heated in a still. Since the boiling point for alcohol is lower than that of water it is possible to collect the evaporated alcohol vapour and separate it out from the water. Most of the vodka on sale is around the 40% mark but it can get as high as 95 or so percent although there is a limit to the allowable alcoholic content of drinks in many countries.
Fact: In 2012 the world’s consumption of vodka was 4.44 billion litres. Russia accounted for nearly 2 billion worth of this! That’s an average of 14 litres per year per person for your average Russian.
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