Spirits Explained: Vodka

September 17, 2017

Vodka is a lovely beverage consisting mainly of ethanol and water. Sometimes, it has flavorings and traces of impurities. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Vodka is traditionally made through the distillation of fermented potatoes or cereal grains, but modern brands today use other ingredients like sugar or fruits. Although we know Vodka mostly from Russia, it is also very popular in cold countries like Poland, Ukraine, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland. And they like to drink it ice-cold but without ice. 


There’s extremely little background info available regarding vodka's heritage. It was initially used as medicine (hell yeah!) and contained only 14% of alcohol since this amount can be achieved through natural fermentation. The still which allowed for distillation increased alcohol content and purity was created in the eight century. Most vodka sold today has an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 40%, or 80 proof (as a reminder: proof = 2x ABV).

Vodka DIY - Now you're talking!
A word of warning: While it is possible to make vodka at home, it is best that you don’t do it because moonshine can be dangerous (for example you can go blind or die). 

1) Pick the ingredients
Choose the ingredients you’d like to ferment, but make sure that it has starches or sugars so that alcohol is produced. If you want to make vodka from potatoes and grains, you should make a mash with active enzymes which break down the starches from the potatoes or grains and create fermentable sugars. 


Depending on the mash ingredients, you have to choose whether you have to use additional enzymes. You can buy amylase enzyme powder from a homebrew shop then add it to the mash to convert the starches into fermentable sugars. The starches should be gelatinized (= jelly) first in order for the enzymes to break down starches. Un-gelatinised ingredients like malted grains or potatoes are heated in water to the starch’s gelatinization temperature. Potatoes typically gelatinize at about 66° C or 150° F. 

2) Fermenting
Fermentation is done in a sanitized vessel that should be sealed to avoid cross-contamination. This process usually lasts for 3 to 5 days. 
Strain the liquid or mash into the fermentation vessel. Add yeast to the fermentable medium and stir it with a sanitized spoon to mix in the yeast. Transfer the fermented liquid into a distillation device or a cleaned vessel. 

3) Distilling

Stills heat the fermented alcoholic wash to a temperature that’s higher than alcohol’s boiling point, but lower than water’s boiling point. This way, the alcohol evaporates while the bulk of the water doesn’t. The vaporized alcohol travels up into the column still. This causes the alcohol vapor to cool and condense back to liquid. This alcoholic liquid becomes vodka. You can pass the beverage through a carbon filter to get rid of unwanted aromas and flavors. 

Vodka Fun Facts
After drinking vodka for quite some years, you might enjoy bragging with some fun facts next time you do:
•    Vodka is fermented grains or potatoes and distilled from water ethanol, so it contains a very small amount of fusel oils. As it is carbon filtered as well, vodka is among the purest beverages in the world.
•    Vodka goes bad if kept for a long period of time. Generally speaking, try to finish the bottle within 1 year of the manufacturing date (shouldn't be too hard).
•    1 liter of vodka weighs 953 grams (lighter than water). 
•    Vodka is an all-rounder: You can soak your razor blade in vodka to disinfect it and prevent rusting. Since alcohol can kill mildew and mold, you can use vodka to clean bathrooms and glasses.  

Most Famous Drinks with Vodka 
James Bond loves drinking vodka. The Vodka Martini, in particular, is well known in his famous spy work ("shaken, not stirred"). Vodka is a great base for different fruit flavors. Here are some of the most popular drinks with vodka:


The pink fruity cocktail is also called the Cosmo. Some pour a lot of cranberry juice to make it sweeter, while others simply love the drink’s pretty color. To make one, you need cranberry juice, citrus or clear vodka, lime juice and Cointreau. 


Bloody Mary 
Made from combining tomato juice, vodka, spices, lemon juices and hot and Worcestershire sauces, a glass of Bloody Mary is a favorite for brunch. You can also customize this drink to suit your needs. It can help fight hangover as well. 




Vodka Tonic

To make a glass of Vodka Tonic, you just need lime juice, vodka, and tonic water. Tonic water isn’t sweet and won’t leave you craving for more sugar. If you are looking for a refreshing lightly alcoholic beverage, the Vodka Tonic is just right for you. 



Lemon Drop Martini
The lemon drop martini is made from combining vodka, lemon juice, and triple sec. It’s usually served with a small amount of sugar the rim of the glass, making the drink a combination of sweet and sour flavor.



If you want to enjoy these and more lovely vodka cocktails, it is best that you get yourself a professional bartender. A mobile bartender can make such drinks properly and safely in the comfort of your own home!  

Now, get yourself a drink. You deserve it!




Joshua Mentrup

Alcohol Connoisseur

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