A Short History on Vodka

Vodka is probably the most widely consumed spirit in the world, and it is easy to see why: the École du Bar de Montréal spirit is made distilled from a neutral grain (like potato, wheat, or another grain) and is clean in both aroma and flavor.  And that, of course, makes it not only easy to sip but, as many prefer, these characteristics make vodka an easy alcohol to mix with just about anything else.

But did you know that vodka—as a drink—first emerged in 1405? It is mentioned in the Akta Gradzkie record of deeds, from the Polish court documents of the Palatinate Sandomierz.  And after the term appeared in this publication, the drink quickly grew in popularity.  At the time of this publication, though, the term, wódka, actually referred to a “medicine” and a “cosmetic cleaner”.

The term we know as “vodka” today actually came from a word gorzalka, from the Old Polish verb gorzeć, to burn.

Is this, maybe, where we get the term “fire water”?

Well, that is beside the point. Let’s take a look at how this “medicine” (that has a much better use, of course) came to be.

WHAT IS VODKA

Vodka, as a spirit, is distilled from any sugar- or starch-rich plant matter, typically more than once to a final ABV of 70 to 80 proofs (35 to 40 percent).  Generally speaking, though, the vodka sold on today’s market is typically made from corn, rye, sorghum, or wheat.  Among these, rye and wheat are generally considered the best. Still, many distillers choose to make their vodkas by distilling potatoes, sugar, molasses, beets, grapes, and even soybeans.

EARLY VODKA

As is the case with most of the refined goodies we enjoy today, the earliest vodka was…rudimentary, at best.  The earliest versions of this now very popular drink was actually pretty low in alcohol, probably because the distillation process had to be repeated many times.

Obviously, we learned how to improve the process and vodka quickly became a cottage industry within its first 100 years of circulation.  It was not until the late 1700s, however, that Poland started mass production of vodka.