What’s the Origin of Vodka

What’s the Origin of Vodka

Vodka seems to have first appeared in either Russia or Poland around the twelfth century, when it was known as zhizenennia voda (water of life) in the Russian monastery-fort of Viatka. The word vodka comes from the Russian word for water, voda or the Polish word wódka (in Polish the w has a v sound). The suffix “ka” was added to the root word centuries later. By the fourteenth century, vodka began to be used as a beverage; formerly, it was mainly used in perfumes and cosmetics. However, it was primarily employed as the base ingredient of many wonder drugs or cure-all elixirs. During the fifteenth century, Poland produced many types of vodka as well as several “grades,” which varied according to the number of times the vodka was distilled and refined. Until the sixteenth century, vodka was known in Poland as gorzale wino or gorzalka, which meant “scorched” or “distilled wine,” in order to distinguish it from beverages made from medicinal vodkas. At that time, rye was the chief ingredient in most vodka production. Also in the fifteenth century, Swedish distillers began using locally grown wheat to produce a form of neutral spirits they referred to as “brännvin” or burnt wine. This brännvin was originally used for medicinal purposes—but later on, because of the pleasing effects, gained popularity for general consumption.

“Before I start to write, I always treat myself to a nice dry martini. Just one, to give me the courage to get started. After that, I am on my own.” (Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White, 1899–1985, American writer, New Yorker Magazine)

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, vodka consumption grew dramatically. Vodka became the national drink of Russia, Poland, and Sweden. (There is a bootlegged distilled spirit (moonshine) made in Russia, similar to vodka and called Samogon.)

Excerpted from “101: Everything You Need To Know About Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila.” It is available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other on-line bookstores. Here is a link to Amazon. http://amzn.to/24ICnxe

Bob Lipinski, author of ten books; writes, consults, and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR boblipinski2009@hotmail.com


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