Almost all types of vodka are very popular amongst vodka fans. Whether it is a straight drink or a mixed cocktail, vodka remains one of the most popular and dominating spirits.
The word Vodka finds its roots in a Russian word, which means ‘little water’.
Vodka is probably the fastest popularity-gaining liquor. It’s a colorless liquor, mainly containing water and alcohol along with a few of the following – wheat, potato, barley, corn, molasses or beets.
Vodka is a very versatile spirit and can be drunk either neat, on the rocks, or more popularly in cocktails. Being the best mixable drink, vodka can be used as a base for many popular cocktails and blends well with most other spirits and flavors.
If we consider the fact that vodka is a colorless and tasteless liquid, it would mean that there is no way to classify the different brands of vodka and therefore all would be the same – of the same quality, taste, flavor and color. However, this is not true. There are several methods of distilling vodka and therefore each brand has a distinct identity. The quality of vodka is judged by its smell, aftertaste and the burning sensation that you get in your throat after you down your drink.
The Various Options
There is no internationally accepted standard classification of vodka. But, there are a few broadly classified variations according to place of origin, flavor or brewing procedure.
The Neutral Party
Neutral vodka is produced using the traditional Russian or Polish recipe.
◆ Vodka, initially, was a dominant drink of Eastern Europe, however, its popularity spread over most parts of the world. The earliest Russian vodka was a neutral spirit and had strong alcoholic aroma. In Poland, the extent of purity of vodka has been considered while grading the liquor, according to which, the variations of vodka are: standard, premium and deluxe.
◆ The Russians implement their own system under which Russian Vodka is categorized as high-quality and export-worthy. Moreover, in Russia, vodka that is labeled strong contains more than 55% alcohol by volume.
◆ In the United States, neutral vodka is called classic or regular. Here, vodkas are to be free of distinct taste or aroma and hence most of the brands in the US taste more or less the same. Vodkas are differentiated on the basis of their price, brand name and alcohol content.
The Ultimate Flavor
Flavors added to neutral vodka forms flavored vodka. Originally, vodka has been utilized to lace other drinks because of its neutrality. The origin of flavored vodka was due to an effort to deodorize the strong alcoholic taste of earlier neutral vodka.
With time, flavors became the essence of vodka brewing and various brands began to showcase their skills and expertise with innovative flavoring.
There are many traditional flavored Russian and Polish vodka types –
◆ Kubanskaya Vodka (lemon and orange)
◆ Pertsovka Vodka (peppercorns and chili peppers)
◆ Okhotnichya or Hunter Vodka (ginger, coffee, cloves, lemon, anise, and other spices)
◆ Żubrówka Vodka (buffalo/bison grass)
◆ Starka Vodka (might contain dried fruit, fruit tree leaves, brandy, port, etc.)
Besides the traditional flavored vodka drinks, recently there have been many new introductions of contemporary flavors. Of these the most popular flavors usually include fruit flavors like oranges, apples and berries. Many countries also flavor vodka locally according to their choice of taste and flavor. In that way, there are hundreds of flavored and induced varieties.
The Regional Touch
Each region producing vodka has its type casting which reflects culture and heritage of that region.
◆ Eastern Europe is known as the hub of vodka. Here, people prefer straight drinks when it comes to vodka and a zakuska or snack is eaten after every such shot. Every country here produces vodka and each has its distinctive flavor and taste. The earliest spirit distilled here is known to have been done from mead. Distillates meant for medicinal purposes were originally known as vodka, and there was no separate identity of this spirit. However, with time, vodka acquired the status of a spirit.
◆ Potato and grain-based vodka is the specialty of the Polish. It is said that vodka is being produced in Poland since the 1400s. Initially, vodka or okowita was used as an aftershave lotion, and as medicine for joint pain. Commercial vodka distillation, however, did not get established before the 18th century. Poland became an exporter of the infused spirit during the 19th century, and prospects only appeared to be getting better.
◆ Vodka giants like Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine mostly use wheat and rye. Russia believes in the fact that vodka was first produced or rather created in their country and with time, vodka became an integral part of the Russian culture. New techniques and machines were imported from other countries and vodka production became the most advanced industry. Till date, production of high quality vodka is a trademark of Russia.
◆ Wheat along with other grains are made use of in vodka production in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Western European countries including the Britain, Holland and Germany mostly produce grain-based vodka while France and Italy make use of grapes and fruit in producing vodka.
In today’s America, vodka is the most popular white spirit to be sold in the market, as is used mostly for making some of the most world famous cocktails and shots.
◆ The US and Canada make use of grains and molasses and so is the case with Caribbean and Australia. Sale of vodka in America was limited to European buyers, however, with the takeover of Smirnoff by an American company, sale of vodka took a leap in the States.
The Most Famous of them All
Considering the fact that there are numerous types of vodka brands in the market and so many claiming their vodka as the best one, choosing the perfect vodka can be a tough job. However, the choice entirely depends upon your taste and how you wish to consume it. For use in cocktails, a Smirnoff or Absolut would be an ideal choice, however, for a shot or a straight drink, you should consider a Grey Goose, Armadale or Stoli.
Most Famous Vodka Brands –
◆ Ketel One
◆ Grey Goose
◆ Van Gogh
◆ Hangar One
◆ Three Olives
◆ White Diamond
With the rising variety and choice in selection, this clear liquor is here to stay. Vodka is gaining popularity faster than any other drink, and has spread its wings in Asia and Africa. The biggest reason for its popularity is undoubtedly its versatility as it blends well with most other spirits and liqueurs. Some of the most popular cocktails like the Cosmopolitan or the Long Island Iced Tea, have vodka as their base, and of course, who can forget Mr. Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” Martini?