You may not have ever considered it, but what has become known as “The Water of Life” has quite the rich history. First documented in Russia near the end of the 9th century, people have been enjoying vodka for hundreds of years. In that time, the creation of many different variations and cocktails have continued to add to the enjoyment of experiencing this historic spirit.
The Early History of Vodka
It all began in the Middle Ages when distilled liquor was most commonly used for medicinal and medical purposes. Because of its great value for healing, it became known as “the water of life”. However, this was not the only name for vodka at the time. Different varieties of “hot wine” (what the Russians often called vodka) were produced. Each variety was considerably better and stronger than the previous. The varieties were broken into categories of “plain wine”, “good wine”, and “boyar wine” (high quality). The early distillation process of vodka was rather crude, leaving the resulting product with many impurities. To mask the imperfections, various flavors from fruit, herbs and spices were often added to help improve the taste.
While it is not uncommon to hear debates of the origins of vodka, one thing is for certain, the product in the 9th century and the product that we drink today would have been considerably different. For starters, our distillation process has been refined over all of that time, which results in a much cleaner, purer version of the drink. Additionally, we know that early vodkas would have contained very little alcohol compared to the types that we drink today. It is estimated that early vodkas would have only had a maximum alcohol content of about 14%, as this is the highest amount of alcohol content that would have been able to be achieved by natural fermentation. Since then, the distillation process has evolved, and today is it common to see most vodkas sold in stores with an alcohol content of at least 40%- a significant increase from its predecessor.
Today, Vodka can be made from any starch or sugary plant matter, including wheat, rye, corn, and other types of grains. The spirit can also be made from potatoes, grapes, soybeans, and many other products. Vodka is most commonly produced in an area known as the “Vodka Belt”, which includes the countries of Russia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, as well as the Baltic and Nordic states.
If you are interested in further information about vodka or any other type of spirit, wine or liquor, read our blog to learn more. To try some for yourself, come by Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, MA. Our 20,000 square foot location is home to a wide variety of beer, spirits and wine, as well as tobacco and gourmet specialty foods. Our selections come from all over the world, and if you are interested in trying some for yourself, you can! Visit our website to view our calendar of free events and tastings. You’re sure to find something that you will love!