General Overview

Vodka is one of the world’s most popular distilled alcoholic beverages. In much of the world, its popularity owes to its convenient use in many cocktails such as vodka tonic, vodka martini, Bloody Mary and screwdriver. In much of the Slavic-speaking world including Russia, Poland and Lithuania, people drink vodka “straight up,” in a shot glass without any juice or tonic mixed in. Most vodka has an alcohol content of 35 percent to 50 percent by volume, though some manufacturers set the alcohol content at a minimum of 37.5 percent for it to be considered vodka. The majority of vodka is produced in the Nordic and Slavic countries, most prominently in Russia. The term vodka comes from the Slavic word for water.

How It’s Made

Vodka is made by the process of distillation of a fermented substance–often potatoes and rye or wheat grain–and less often, sugar beet molasses. Most vodka was traditionally made from potatoes and corn, but in recent years, most high-quality brands of vodka has been distilled from cereal grains. The potatoes and grains are heated until the starch is released and converted to sugar. Then this substance, called a mash, is fermented and heated to a high temperature to allow distillation to occur. The substance is then distilled multiple times until all of the spirit is extracted. Multiple distillations allow for a higher proof. Water is added at the end of the distillation process to decrease the alcohol content, and then the vodka is ready to be bottled and sold.

Quality Control

During the distillation and manufacturing process, tasters sample quantities of vodka from various batches to check for taste. The manufacturing plant is also strictly regulated by local, state and federal governments, which issue very strict rules regarding production, labeling, advertising, and plant hygeine and security. For example, flavored vodkas must list the most prominent flavor whether it be peach, berry or lemon on their labels. These guidelines ensure that all of the vodka made is of the highest quality and ready to be sold to consumers.