While vodka is as clear and simple seeming as water, don’t be fooled— it’s a complex alcohol that takes near-genius levels of engineering to get to the right consistency, flavor, and ‘tongue-appeal’ as the experts say.
Next time all the basic bitches reach for their go-to booze (raise your hand if vodka seltzer with lime is your jam), remember that there’s more to it than meets the eye, or the lips in this case. Here are 15 wtf things we learned about our fave spirit. Cheers ya’ll!
1. Basically any starch can make a vodka, but not all starches taste delish
“Many of the most popular vodkas are made from grains – like rye, wheat and corn; but you can really use almost any starch,” explains Jamie Gordon, Absolut Corporate Mixologist. “Potatoes, beets, molasses and grapes are all base ingredients for some of the bigger vodka brands out there. The flavor profile of any given vodka is uniquely affected by the characteristics of its raw ingredients, so what you start with is important.”
2. Vodka can be paired with almost any flavor
Unlike other spirits, vodka is so versatile that you can drink it with sweet, spicy, sour, or bitter flavors. Consider it a blank canvas for you to paint your best cocktail art on.
3. In Sweden, you drink vodka DURING your meal
“In Sweden, a small shot of strong alcoholic drink, most often vodka, is traditionally taken during the course of a meal – called Snaps. The ritual is associated with conviviality and camaraderie (and frequently song) – where the host of the meal raises his glass, makes eye contact with every guest, and gives the Swedish toast, ‘skål!’ – ‘cheers, and everyone drinks,” says Gordon.
4. In Russia, you keep it neat
The old school Russian tradition for drinking vodka is to have it straight up— no fancy mixers or additions. Just throw a shot right back.
5. It’s rude not to finish your vodka in Russia, by the way
If you toast to someone and don’t finish your entire shot or glass of vodka, it’s basically a dismissive gesture to the host or person being toasted. Bottoms up!
6. The Polish also like it neat
Except they always prefer it chilled, but without ice. Adding ice to a Polish person’s vodka is also mildly insulting, because it’s seen as diluting something that’s essential. Who would do such a thing? Only heathens.
7. You must finish the bottle in a Polish house
Let’s say you end up at a lovely Polish family’s dinner— nobody leaves the table or goes home till the bottle is finished. There’s simple no concept of saving some for later. Bring a DD or plan to spend the night when visiting your friends in Warsaw.
8. Georgians will toast 20-30 times in a night, so when in Georgia, EAT
If you find yourself drinking vodka in Georgia (the country, not the state with the best Real Housewives), get ready for at least 20-30 drinks over the course of an evening. It’s tradition, and even the old, grumbly men seem to be down with it.
9. The majority of commercial vodkas is 80 proof
That means each bottle is 40% alcohol. In the USA, it’s actually the law to have a minimum of 40% alcohol to be labeled as vodka, whereas the EU is slightly more lax.
10. The word “vodka” is slavic for water
Possibly because it looks like water, but more realistically because it’s essential for life.
11. People have been drinking variations of vodka since the Middle Ages
Used as far back as 1405, vodka was originally a medicinal drink brought from Poland to Russia by some genius merchants. It is estimated that early vodka was only about 14 % alcohol. In an early book on herbs, it was said to “increase fertility and awaken lust.”
12. Flavored vodkas vary by culture
While the USA may love olive, vanilla, or chocolate flavored vodkas, the Russians are standing strong with red pepper and honey as their perennial favorite.
13. Ukrainians love vodka with flower infusions
Seriously, forget the stick of vanilla. Ukrainians want real, live flowers hanging out in their vodka bottles. Also, they consider vodka a health drink.
14. Koreans love Soju, which is a smooth vodka made from sweet potatoes
Because it’s slightly sweet, soju pairs well with spicy Korean foods. They drink it alone in small shot glasses, sipping throughout the meal. Buyer beware, it sneaks up on you fast!
15. Grape vodka exists
No, it’s not the same thing as wine. Don’t get it twisted.