All about vodka

Encyclopedia of Alcoholic Drink

Strong alcohol should be distinguished, first of all, according to the raw materials, which is it made of.

The basis of strong alcohol in the Southern Europe made wine, in the countries with colder climate grain and potatoes. The Scotts and the Irish learnt to produce whiskey of barley, the Spaniards and the Frenchs brandy of grapes, the Poles, the Ukrainians and the Russians vodka of wheat, and the Scandinavian aquavitae of potato.

In the Caribbean countries the sugarcane was grown. Within almost the whole territory of Latin America the alcoholic drink was made of it, which was further called rum. The Mexican began to produce distillate of pulque, which primarily was called agave whiskey or agave aquevitae, and further it was known as tequila or mescal.

The first strong drink, produced in the Northern America, was rum, made of sugarcane. But soon the Scots and the Irish by origin have found equivalent to the usual barley: in the dryer and hotter climate of the southern part of North American continent maize grows well, and in colder climate of the northern part rye develops well. Thus, maize and rye became the basis of American and Canadian whiskey.

Strong alcohol is also divided into old and new. In the process of historical development quite clear rules were worked out, which determined production and aging technology of various alcoholic drinks. In this way, for instance, the minimal term of aging, established by public legislation for American and Canadian whiskey, amounts to 2 years, for cognac 2.5, and for Scottish and Irish whiskey 3 years.

It is the truth that people did not age all alcoholic drinks in the woods it is expensive, and not all people admire it. Vodkas, gins and grappa are not traditionally aged. They come to the consumer transparent and colourless. And some alcoholic drinks, including rum, tequila, grape and fruit brandy, aquavitae, are produced both in old and new states.

In general, in the global trade the strong drinks are roughly divided into whitespirits (white, as a rule new spirits) and brownspirits (brown, that is old spirits, though sometimes the brown colour can be achieved not due to the aging, but due to the colouring agent caramel).

There are five main consumer drinks in the world, that is vodka, whiskey, brandy, rum and gin. Though, the world of strong alcoholic drinks is much more rich and wide, than this list of five products and their division on whitespirits and brownspirits.

More difficult and developed classification can be suggested according to raw materials, aging, producing methods and origin.

If we try to make a detailed list of modern strong drinks, we will get the following:

clean spirits (without flavor) made of grapes, fruits, grains, sugarcane and agave juice;

flavored distillates of various raw materials (grains, grapes, molasses) that is first of all gin, anis and aquavitae;

drinks, produced on various spirit basis with usage of great number of aroma and flavoring agents and sugar bitters, liqueurs, infusions and creams.


Drinking culture

Consumption of vodka of high quality requires sophisticated gastronomic and cultural accompaniment.

Before talking about correct consumption of vodka, it should be mentioned, that traditions of vodka consumption were formed within centuries. Consumption of vodka is possible only by adult people. In the range of vodkas there are special womens vodka, among which there was lemon vodka.

Before consumption, it is necessary to cool vodka and to serve it up with the temperature 8-10 C. It is not allowed to dilute vodka with water, as it is ready for use product, which meets the requirements of the highest gastronomic criteria. It is not allowed to put pieces of ice into the glass for cooling.

Vodka should not be drunk in haste. As each élite drink it should be tasted, giving credit to its flavor, aroma and peculiarities of production of this or that kind.

The ideal appetizer for vodka is boiled potato with pickled (with crunch) cucumber.

Within a number of centuries an ideal range of delicate appetizers, the first and the second courses, was formed, which is harmonically combined with vodka.

Let us name only some of them:

ham, veal, salted meat,

meat jelly,

herring, caviar, sturgeon balyk, chum salmon, hunchback salmon,

pancakes, meat dumplings, soups,

sauerkraut, tomatoes, salted squash, pickled and salted mushrooms.

History of vodka

Vodka creation begins its history in distant and poorly known past. Some experts state that for the first time vodka appeared in XII century somewhere in the outskirts of Moscow, others consider it to have Ukrainian or Polish origin. Vodka origin is closely connected with invention of distillation and creation of the first distillation stills, and it is possible, that the Chinese and the Mongols, who invented the same apparatus, have made contribution in vodka appearance. Anyway, all experts agree that vodka originates from Russian drink bread wine, which is obtained via fermentation of bread moisten in water (common origin of alcoholic drinks and kvass).

The first knowledge of vodka receiving in Ancient Rus can be found in Viatskaya chronicle, but at that time it was used as remedy. Vodka production began its development a bit later, thus, the history of Russian vodka should be started from the second half of XIV century, when in 1386 Genoese embassy brought grape alcohol, called aquavitae, to Moscow and showed it to the great prince, boyars and foreign pharmacists. It is interesting, as it is the first documentary evidence of acquaintance of our ancestors with spirit.

1533 is a memorable year in the history of Russian distilling. Just then the first tsarist tavern was opened in Moscow, and vodka trade was concentrated in the hands of tsarist servants. By the end of the century in all regions of Russia vodka was sold only in the tsarist taverns. The middle of XVIII century is widely regarded as peak in development of Russian distilling. This golden period in the history of Russian vodka began on March 31, 1755, when according to the decree of Catherine II, distilling was determined as exclusive prerogative of noblemen, who were exempted from any taxation. The volumes of noble distilling were determined strictly according to their rank: nobility could produce more vodka than gentry. Other segments of population were not entitled to produce vodka; they had to buy it from the state. It is quite interesting, that noble and state distilling did not get in the way of each other, and they just complemented each other. In the second half of XVIII century a variety of vodka kinds appeared. Each landlord-producer laid emphasis in having of his own kind of this drink. As a rule, at that time flavored drinks with usage of various floral components, that is herbs, berries and fruits, were called vodka. Vodka of household production was notable for high quality, which was achieved not only due to the fourth distilling, but also due to special, non-industrial way of purification, using natural animal protein coagulant (milk, egg albumens).

At the beginning of XIX century Russian vodka was brought to France. After Napoleons defeat and entry of Russian troops to Paris in 1814 vodka appeared in the restaurant Vaire, leased by Russian government for nurture of generals and officers of the army. In such a way vodka became available for French notables restaurant customers, who saw its true value.

Russian nobles-distillers kept strict watch, in order to distill vodka as clean as it possible and as slow as it possible. They aimed to distill vodka only for the half of the volume. This referred not only to the first, but also to all the next distilling processes. In the process of time, except bread grain, the spirit was produced of potato, boiled or mashed, but anyway it was mixed with grain malt. It should be noted, that potato vodka cannot be completely purified of fusel-oils.

The scientists made the great contribution to study and improvement of vodka preparation. In 1789 the chemist T.Ye. Lovits suggested to use wood coal for vodka purifying of fusel-oils. And in 1865 the final determination of vodka as Russian national strong drink became possible due to works of the great Russian chemist D.I. Mendeleev. There was much gossip, Mendeleev was said to invent the secret of Russian vodka preparation, which was known all over the world due to its exclusive taste, or that he produced false French wines. But all this talks were based only on the one fact Mendeleevs dissertation On Mixture of Spirit and Water.

Within a year and a half he searched for ideal proportion of volume and mass of spirit and water in vodka, he carried out mixture of various samples of water and spirit, which was quite difficult and time-consuming. Determination of ideal proportion of volume and weight of spirit and water in vodka for a long time was tough row to hoe for investigators. The case is that spirit in combination with water can compress the whole mixture. For instance, blending of a liter of spirit with a liter of water will never give two liters of mixture.

D.I. Mendeleev have proved, that ideal concentration of spirit in vodka amounts to 40 %. It can be hardly obtained via mixture of precise weight proportion of alcohol and water. Afterward, only vodka with the alcohol content 40 % could be named Moscow vodka. In 1894 this advice of the great chemist was patented by the government of Russia as Russian national vodka Moscow special. On consumption of vodka of 40 the most of heat is generated, and the drink is the most homogeneous. Besides, vodka of 40 does not burn the gullet.