Vodka sitting behind the bar, many different brands including absolut
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Everything You Need to Know About Vodka

Everything you need to know about Vodka, all in one place. Learn about what it is, the history, and how its made. As well as The Daily Drink staffs’ top picks.

What is Vodka?

Vodka is a pure, unaged spirit made with any fermentable sugar ingredient. Cereal grains such as rye, barley as well as wheat are the most common, but among other things, Vodka can also be made from potatoes, grapes, or sugar beets. Although the legal definition of Vodka is a “colourless, odourless, flavourless” liquor, it is definitely possible to distinguish variations in aroma and taste between brands. Vodka may be sipped nicely, but it is most generally mixed in cocktails such as Vodka Martini, Vodka cranberry and Cosmopolitan. The name Vodka derives from the Slavic word “zhiznennia voda,” interpreted as “little water” or “water of life.”

bottle of vodka lying down on its side

History of Vodka:

Vodka originated in Russia during the 14th century, due to their abundance of potatoes. The drink was primarily common in Russia, Poland, and the Balkans until soon after the Second World War, when consumed in the United States and then in Europe began to rise rapidly. Many producers buy distilled and refined neutral spirits that are extremely high in ethanol, with almost no flavouring substances left. Such spirits are then further purified through a filtration process, usually using charcoal, and then reduced by distilled water in strength and bottled without ageing.

russian parliament

In Russia, where preference is given to fairly low alcohol content of 40 percent per volume (80 U.S. proof), and in Poland, where 45 percent is more popular, vodka is typically consumed unmixed and chilled, in small glasses, and followed by side dishes. Due to its neutral character, it is popular in other countries for use in mixed drinks. It can be mixed with other drinks without offering its own flavour and replaced by other spirits in cocktails that do not need the original spirit’s unique taste. Some more popular vodka drinks include the orange juice screwdriver, the bloody Mary with tomato juice, vodka, and tonic.

How is Vodka Made? Step by Step:

Step 1:

Material Processing

The grain (rye, wheat, barley, corn) is sprouted and the potatoes are cooked so that the starch they contain is transformed into sugar. These raw materials are crushed or grounded once their starch has been transformed, and mixed with water to extract the fermentable sugars and create a mash. Fermentation is then done in a stainless-steel vat to avoid contamination of the mash by bacteria that may influence the aromatic spectrum. Generally, the yeasts used by distillers are chosen for their high yield of ethanol and their low impact on flavour production. The alcohol is transferred to a still for distillation when fermentation is complete.

barrels of vodka

Step 2:

The Distillation Process:

Most vodkas are produced in a column still, using continuous distillation. Some distillers, however, still prefer traditional pot stills, delivering very flavorful vodkas. In this case, to eliminate the flavours, the spirit can be processed by activated carbon. During the distillation process, the master distiller determines when to make the cuttings (between the heads, middle cuttings and the tails of the distillation) in order to avoid any contamination of the middle cut with methanol-rich heads (presenting notes of solvents and varnishes) or tails that are equally toxic since they are filled with fuselage oils. This is repeated several times (usually 4 to 8); successive distillations allowing the alcohol content to be increased to 95-96 percent and total aromatic compounds to be removed.

Step 3:

Filtering and Bottling:

Glass of vodka on a white background. Raspberry with a toothpick in it in the vodka

The alcohol is extracted by activated carbon after distillation to eliminate any chemical traces and make it as neutral as possible. Dilution is done with successive diluted or demineralized water additions until the desired alcohol content is obtained. Before the alcohol is left to rest before bottling, a final filtering step is then performed.

And there you have it, a step by step process on how vodka is created. Stay thirsty.

Most Popular Vodka Brands:

As more drinkers understand that they are beginning to explore their choices and increase their interest in making great cocktails, the entire distilled spirits industry continues to grow. Although bourbon, rum, gin, and tequila continue to grow market shares, vodka remains the most popular and preferred liquor.

The vodka market is growing all the time. It seems like a new brand is launching each month or a new flavour is launched and this phenomenon shows no sign of stopping.

Glass of vodka on ice. Mint leaves and a straw on top of the ice spread out artistically

The Daily Drink Staffs Top Vodkas:

In no particular order:

Ketel One Vodka:

Ketel One Vodka being poured into a cocktail shaker

If you’re looking for the ultimate smooth vodka without frills, it’s Ketel One Vodka. It’s really one of the cleanest vodkas that you’ll find. Mixing Ketel One is almost a shame because when chilled or served over a little ice, it’s a pure delight. But it makes some great drinks and it’s best to keep basic in recipes like martini vodka or a Vodka tonic. The Ketel One business is based on the tradition of the Dutch distillery family Nolet, now in the 10th generation Such a family legacy is unique among the vodka world’s great names, although the lineage produces some very fine spirits. Ketel One Vodka is always a good option for us over here at The Daily Drink.

Grey Goose Vodka:

A personal favourite of The Daily Drink Staff, Grey Goose is for many, a go-to vodka. Buy Grey Goose Vodka when in doubt; it’s that easy because you’re rarely going to be let down by its smooth taste. One of the smoothest, most mixable vodkas you can find, Grey Goose is everywhere. If you don’t see this brand in your local bar or liquor store, go elsewhere because at least every respectable liquor retailer should have Grey Goose’s pure vodka. Beyond their clear vodka, a nice line of flavoured vodkas is produced by Grey Goose. La Poire is the most impressive, its pear-flavoured vodka, which is a delight in a variety of cocktails.

Created in 1997 in France, Grey Goose is a relatively new Vodka brand, it gained traction quickly due to its supreme quality. The one downfall our staff sees in Grey Goose is its decently high price tag. It is definitely not the cheapest on the shelf at your local liquor store, but quality costs.

Belvedere Vodka:

bottle of Belvedere vodka on a bar countertop. Very large bar with people in the background socializing

Belvedere is a very fine vodka from Poland. It comes in an elegant frosted bottle when on display in the bar, it looks great. The brand’s flagship is the original, clear bottling and is a great choice for high-end cocktails. Its unique taste is the use of rye, which makes it a vodka with a backbone flavour. For the rest of their product line, the brand is not as well-known, although they experiment with some well-flavoured vodkas. The list contains orange, pink grapefruit, mango love, lemon tea, and wild berry, none of which are a bad option. Belvedere also launches a few specialty bottles on a regular basis. Two of their norms are Unfiltered and Intense (100 proof). The brand enjoys playing with special, limited edition bottles including (Belvedere) Red, Night Saber, and Silver Saber that are little more than posh ways to serve their signature vodka at nightclubs.

Absolut Vodka:

Vodka sitting behind the bar, many different brands including absolut

Most of Absolut Vodka’s fame came from innovative advertising depicting their vodka bottles in different graphically enhanced and often very conceptual situations. Absolut is a quality product for vodka drinkers. It may not be the best, but it is a good, reliable vodka that as the industry’s leader has built a name for itself. It’s a clean-tasting vodka that won’t leave you hurting in the morning. One thing about Absolut that’s great is the innovation in the tastes of the brand. Their flavoured vodka line is very impressive. These are truly unique blends of flavours that are created in limited releases and inspire homemade infusions. This Swedish vodka is perfect for is moderate price and therefore makes The Daily Drink’s list of top vodka’s.

Smirnoff Vodka:

Mickeys of Smirnoff vodka lined up on a shelf. 750 ml bottles

In the vodka world, Smirnoff is a ubiquitous name. This is not only due to huge ad campaigns but also because Smirnoff (the brand) has a product available in so many different flavours and proofs. The vodka is in almost every United States bar. Smirnoff is quite cheap as well. Smirnoff is a fine vodka on the bottom shelf, but when it comes to casual drinking, it doesn’t make the cut. Smirnoff is your friend if you’re in a bar and don’t want to fork out for Grey Goose or Ciroc. Smirnoff Red Label holds our low-as-we’ll-go rating.

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