What do we know about these Russians and their vodka?
Vodka (Russian: водка, Polish: wódka, Belarusian: Гарэлка, Ukrainian: Горілка) is a distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol, sometimes with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits or sugar.
The name "vodka" is a diminutive form of the Slavic word voda (water), interpreted as little water: root вод- (vod-) [water] + -к- (-k-) (diminutive suffix, among other functions) + -a (postfix of feminine gender).
The word "vodka" was recorded for the first time in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. At the time, the word vodka (wódka) referred to chemical compounds such as medicines and cosmetics' cleansers, while the popular beverage was called gorzałka (from the Old Polish gorzeć meaning "to burn"), which is also the source of Ukrainian horilka (горілка). The word vodka written in Cyrillic appeared first in 1533, in relation to a medicinal drink brought from Poland to Russia by the merchants of Kievan Rus'.
The word vodka was attested in English already in the late 18th century. A description of Russia by Johann Gottlieb Georgi, published in English in 1780 (presumably, a translation from German), correctly explained: "Kabak in the Russian language signifies a public house for the common people to drink vodka (a sort of brandy) in." William Tooke in 1799 glossed vodka as "rectified corn-spirits".
Another possible connection of "vodka" with "water" is the name of the medieval alcoholic beverage aqua vitae (Latin, literally, "water of life"), which is reflected in Polish okowita, Ukrainian оковита, Belarusian акавіта, and Scandinavian akvavit. (Note that whiskey has a similar etymology, from the Irish/Scottish Gaelic uisce beatha/uisge-beatha.)
Scholars debate the beginnings of vodka, and it is a problematic and contentious issue due to little historical material available on the subject of the origins of the drink. According to some sources, first production of vodka took place in the area of today's Russia in the late 9th century however some argue that it could happen even earlier in Poland in the 8th century. According to the Gin and Vodka Association (GVA), the first distillery was documented over three hundred years later at Khlynovsk as reported in the Vyatka Chronicle of 1174. For many centuries, beverages differed significantly compared to the vodka of today, as the spirit at that time had a different flavor, color and smell, and was originally used as medicine. It contained little alcohol, an estimated maximum of about 14%, as only this amount can be attained by natural fermentation. The still allowing for distillation – the "burning of wine" – was invented in the 8th century.
According to a legend, around 1430, a monk called Isidore from Chudov Monastery inside the Moscow Kremlin made a recipe of the first Russian vodka. Having a special knowledge and distillation devices, he became an author of the new type of alcoholic beverage of a new, higher quality. This "bread wine" as it was initially known, was produced for a long time exclusively in the Grand Duchy of Moscow and in no other principality of Rus' (this situation persisted until the era of industrial production). Thus, this beverage was closely associated with Moscow.
Until the mid-18th century, the drink remained relatively low on alcohol content, not exceeding 40% abv. Multiple terms for the drink are recorded, sometimes reflecting different levels of quality, alcohol concentration, filtering, and the number of distillations; most commonly, it was referred to as "burning wine", "bread wine", or simply "wine". ("Wine" in the modern meaning of the word - grape wine - had to be imported and was only affordable for aristocrats and wealthy merchants.) Burning wine was usually diluted with water to 24% ABV or less before drinking. It was mostly sold in taverns and was quite expensive. At the same time, the word vodka was already in use, but it described herbal tinctures (similar to absinthe), containing up to 75% by volume alcohol, and made for medicinal purposes.
Things that are made into vodka Vodka can be made from different things:
Unlike cognac or whisky, vodka is not usually matured in barrels, but bottled immediately. Some Scandinavian vodkas called akvavit (Latin aqua vitae, "water of life") are matured in oak barrels before they are bottled. When the vodka is bottled, it is ready for drinking.
Different kinds of vodka
There are two basic kinds of Vodka: clear vodka and flavored vodka. Some types of vodka have plants or herbs added to the unflavored vodka to make it taste better. Flavored vodka is popular in America.
As simple as the idea of drinking vodka may seem, there are a few things one must know for proper vodka etiquette. Let us further explore the methodology of vodka drinking.
Common practice when drinking as part of a group is to synchronize your drinking; everybody drinks at the same time. It is considered an offense to drink before somebody makes a toast. Some of them can be extremely poetic, especially when drinking with soldiers who have been following century old traditions of squad drinking. The strangest drinking habit has to be when the drinker grabs the nearest person's head and takes a deep sniff of their hair after downing a shot of vodka.
Why not try some vodka next time you're out in a bar or nightclub. If you plan to have a hardcore drinking session, try it at home with really cold vodka stored in the freezer. Keep some traditional Russian medication handy for your hangover: pickle juice. Like they always say: Nas zdarovia : To our health!
When you are done with the first bottle, it should always be placed either beside the leg of the table or on the floor. An empty bottle on a table is a bad omen for drinkers as it is perceived to be a sign of poverty. In order to spare the trouble of carrying two bottles, dedicated drinkers can prepare a fatal formula by mixing vodka and beer in those infamous 2.5 liter bottles of brewski . This acquired-taste mix is called yorsh and has been known to send 250 pound soldiers into a deep coma.
Vodka is a spirit that was virtually unknown in the United States prior to the 1940s. Traditionally prepared vodkas had an alcoholic content of 40% by volume. Today, the standard Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Latvian and Lithuanian vodkas are 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 80 proof. The European Union has established a minimum of 37.5% ABV for any "European vodka" to be named as such. Products sold as vodka in the United States must have an alcoholic content of 30% or more. For homemade vodkas and distilled beverages referred to as "moonshine", see moonshine by country.
Vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt countries of Eastern Europe and around the Baltic Sea. It is also commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, Sex on the Beach, Moscow Mule, White Russian, Black Russian, vodka tonic, and in a vodka martini.
A number of Russian pharmaceutical lists contain the terms "vodka of grain wine" (водка хлебного вина vodka khlebnogo vina) and "vodka in half of grain wine" (водка полу хлебного вина vodka polu khlebnogo vina). As alcohol had long been used as a basis for medicines, this implies the term vodka could be a noun derived from the verb vodit’, razvodit’ (водить, разводить), "to dilute with water". Grain wine was a spirit distilled from alcohol made from grain (as opposed to grape wine) and hence "vodka of grain wine" would be a water dilution of a distilled grain spirit.
While the word vodka could be found in manuscripts and in lubok (лубок, pictures with text explaining the plot, a Russian predecessor of the comic), it began to appear in Russian dictionaries in the mid-19th century. It is, however, already attested in Sámuel Gyarmathi's Russian-German-Hungarian glossary (1799), where it is glossed with Latin vinum adustum ("burnt [i.e. distilled] wine").
People in the area of vodka's probable origin have names for vodka with roots meaning "to burn": Polish: gorzała, berbelucha, bimber; Ukrainian: горілка, horílka; Belarusian: гарэлка, harelka; Lithuanian: degtinė; Samogitian: degtėnė, is also in use, colloquially and in proverbs); Latvian: degvīns; Finnish: paloviina. In Russian during 17th and 18th centuries, горящѣе вино or горячее вино (goryashchee vino, "burning wine" or "hot wine") was widely used. Compare to German Branntwein, Danish; brændevin; Dutch: brandewijn; Swedish: brännvin; Norwegian: brennevin (although the latter terms refer to any strong alcoholic beverage).
Russia A type of distilled liquor close to the one that would later become generally designated by the Russian word vodka came to Russia in the late 14th century. In 1386, the Genoese ambassadors brought the first aqua vitae ("the water of life") to Moscow and presented it to Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy. The liquid obtained by distillation of grape must was thought to be a concentrate and a "spirit" of wine (spiritus vini in Latin), from where came the name of this substance in many European languages (like English spirit, or Russian спирт, spirt). However, Encyclopædia Britannica states the first Russian vodka was made in 14th century, brewed by Sydnayaska Krueger of the Krueger family, which later evolved into the company now known as Smirnoff.
The first written usage of the word vodka in an official Russian document in its modern meaning is dated by the decree of Empress Elizabeth of June 8, 1751, which regulated the ownership of vodka distilleries. The taxes on vodka became a key element of government finances in Tsarist Russia, providing at times up to 40% of state revenue. By the 1860s, due to the government policy of promoting consumption of state-manufactured vodka, it became the drink of choice for many Russians. In 1863, the government monopoly on vodka production was repealed, causing prices to plummet and making vodka available even to low-income citizens. By 1911, vodka comprised 89% of all alcohol consumed in Russia. This level has fluctuated somewhat during the 20th century, but remained quite high at all times. The most recent estimates put it at 70% (2001). Today, some popular Russian vodka producers or brands are (amongst others) Stolichnaya and Russian Standard.
How vodka is consumed Vodka is either drunk pure, or cocktails are made with it. The simplest form of cocktail is to mix it with orange or lemon juice. Usually, vodka is drunk during a longer meal. Usually salty or sour things (not sweets) are served. In Russia and Poland, Vodka is drunk from glasses that can hold about 100 grams (0,1 litres) of vodka. Very often, it is consumed with a slice of lemon (much like Tequila). The glass is usually emptied in one draught, while holding the breath. Directly afterwards something small is eaten. Before drinking, a toast is given.
Cultural It's traditional in Russia and other Slavic countries to put a glass of vodka with a slice of bread (usually black bread) on top on graves or near photos of the deceased in their memory. This is similar to what people in Western country do with flowers.
· First Rule: drink what is served to you in one gulp. Nobody measures the quantity of alcohol poured, this is left to the discretion of the pourer.
· Second Rule: never sip or mix vodka. Mixing is perceived as a western way of doing things since orange juice is often more expensive than the vodka itself.
· Third Rule: always buy back a round of drinks to everybody that treats you. Although this step might seem like a difficult one when your senses are altered after a few too many intakes of Russia's little water , this is expected. Failing to follow this courtesy might land you a first class spot on the vodka black list.
Drink it hard and drink it fast
Americans usually wash vodka down with a sip of Coca-Cola, Sprite or juice. Although Russian drinkers don't normally mix the two together, this way of drinking is very common.
Drinking on an empty stomach can leave undesired effects. Therefore, tradition dictates that the usual drinking party involves a lot of eating between shooters of vodka. This custom is called a zakuski , an expression akin to what we call an entre . Zakuski comes in a large variety of choices: caviar on blinis, smoked fish, black bread, pickles and even wedding cake when desperate.