Vodka is a clear spirit with a long history. It is widely accepted that vodka originated in the fourteenth century. Vodka was originally called bread wine. In its history, vodka was used in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Vodka’s early roots are in Russia and Poland. What is vodka made of?
Vodka can be made from any organic material that ferments. Many commercial vodkas are made from grains like rye, oats, barley, or wheat. Some other commercial vodkas are made from caraway, molasses, fennel, corn, aniseed, pepper, sugar cane, potato, honey, or cherries.
People often associate vodka with potatoes, but potato vodka is often considered inferior to vodka made from grains. The potatoes or grains are crushed and heated to prepare these to make a fermentable product.
During the fermentation process, the yeast transforms sugar into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation of grains yields a fermented grain mash that is eight percent alcohol. But, fermentation also produces byproducts that can be harmful if ingested.
The process of distillation turns the fermented mash into vodka. Distillation removes some of the impurities. Rectification is the process of filtering the vodka through a series of filters designed to remove the rest of the impurities and produce the concentrated vodka. This filtering process is often done in stages.
After rectification, the vodka concentration is at least ninety-five proof. Water is added to dilute the vodka to the desired concentration. Absolut vodka is diluted to forty percent alcohol which is known as eighty proof.
Thirty-seven to forty percent alcohol is common for vodka. Some vodkas are much stronger at up to fifty-nine percent alcohol. The European Union’s minimal standard for the percentage of alcohol in vodka is thirty-seven and a half percent.
Therefore, the end product vodka is made from ethyl alcohol and water. Commercial manufacturers of vodka may also add flavorings. Some vodka also contains trace impurities that may not be effectively filtered in the rectification process.
Some commercial manufacturers flavor the vodka before bottling. Common flavoring includes citrus fruit, pepper, or other fruit or spices. Many vodka bottlers create a brand image with the coloring and shape of the bottles that they use for the vodka. Vodka was introduced in the United States in the 1950’s. Typically, vodka is consumed in the United States as an ingredient in a mixed drink instead of drinking it straight as it commonly is in many other countries.