Let’s face it, you only drink vodka when you want to get drunk. That’s true for most of the population. It’s not a drink to unwind with after work, is it? It’s not a drink to hand to a new acquaintance visiting your home for the first time. It doesn’t say, “I’m sophisticated” like a Martini or “I’m one of the guys” like a beer does. Vodka’s a tasteless drink, right? Well, that’s the first thing you’ve misunderstood. If it had no taste, all vodkas would be the same but they’re not.
All the same?
You really need to be an expert to understand the difference between vodkas but it doesn’t take a connoisseur like Tony Abou-Ganim, who wrote Vodka Distilled, to know that not all vodkas are alike. In a recent interview with liquor.com, he explained that “Traditional-style vodkas, primarily from Eastern Europe, are much more assertive, robust and celebrate their raw ingredients.” When compared with the sort of “softer, more approachable vodka” made for the West, it’s pretty clear which one has a fuller flavour.
Let’s be clear, vodka can be made from potatoes but that’s pretty rare. Sweden’s Karlsson’s Gold Vodka is an example but not many vodkas are made using distilled potatoes. For example, in France they make Ciroc from grapes. You can also get vodka made from milk. Black Cow is a brand made using milk. It’s made using fermented whey that’s made into beer using a yeast that converts milk sugar into alcohol. That’s then distilled and treated to make the vodka. Apart from those varieties, most vodka is made from corn, wheat or other grains.
The longer it’s distilled, the better
The above statement isn’t true. In the liquor.com interview, Abou-Ganim explains that vodka can be over-distilled. If this happens, you’ll strip out all the “flavour, aroma and character of the base ingredients,” according to Abou-Ganim. All you’ll be left with is pure alcohol. While drinking some cheap vodka often feels like it’s nothing more than pure alcohol, it’s not. This is a drink that needs to be expertly crafted like a lot of other spirits. Why is it that we all instantly believe that whiskey is a finely produced drink that’s expertly crafted using methods handed down from generation to generation but vodka’s seen as nothing more than alcoholic water? Perhaps that’s because vodka is distilled primarily using water. In fact, the name comes from the Russian word for water - 'voda'.
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