What are vodkas made from? | Find out all about vodkas

Today, we are delving into the fascinating world of vodka production, exploring the ingredients that go into crafting this beloved spirit. Have you ever wondered what are vodkas made from? Well, you’re in luck. In this blog post, we will be shedding light on the grains, fruits, and even vegetables that serve as the foundation for this clear, smooth, and versatile beverage. Join us as we embark on a journey through the centuries-old tradition of vodka-making, uncovering the secrets behind its production and understanding why it has become one of the most popular spirits across the globe.

What is the vodka?

Vodka is a super clear and strong alcoholic drink that’s distilled. This stuff has its roots in Poland, Russia, and Sweden. Vodka is mostly made with water and ethanol, but there can sometimes be other stuff in there too. The traditional way to make vodka is by distilling fermented cereal grains and potatoes. But nowadays, some brands get creative and use corn, sugar cane, fruits, honey, and maple sap as their base.

The origins of vodka

The name vodka actually comes from the Russian word for water, “voda”. But here’s the thing: the origins of this legendary drink are a bit up in the air. Some folks believe it started way back in the 8th or 9th century, with debates about whether it began in Poland or Russia. Regardless, we know that by the 14th century, vodka was already a big deal in Russia. It was enjoyed in Russia, Poland, and the Balkan states for quite some time. But here’s where things get interesting: after World War II, vodka started taking off in a big way in the United States and Europe.

Myths about vodka

Get ready to debunk some common myths about vodka.

Not All Vodka is the Same

Forget what you’ve heard – vodka actually has distinct flavors depending on where it’s from and what it’s made from. Eastern European vodkas are bold and robust, while Western vodkas are softer and approachable. Give Icelandic Reyka, Poland’s Monopolowa, or Ketel One from the Netherlands a try, and you’ll notice the subtle differences. Smooth is just the beginning.

More Distillations ≠ Better Vodka

Distillations different Better Vodka
Distillations different Better Vodka

Contrary to popular belief, a higher number of distillations doesn’t always mean better vodka. Overdistilling can actually strip away the flavor and character of the base ingredients. Some brands are embracing their unique identities, like Fog Point Vodka, which uses California grapes and distilled fog. And don’t forget, Reyka prides itself on being distilled only once.

Vodka Comes from More Than Just Potatoes

Potatoes may be a popular choice, but vodka can be made from anything. Rye, corn, wheat, and even grapes are fair game. Ciroc and VIDO Vodka are grape-based, while many American vodkas are made from corn, wheat, or other grains. The final product may not showcase the base product’s characteristics, but they’re still there in traces.

Say No to Cheap Vodka for Cocktails

Don’t ruin your cocktails with bottom shelf vodka. Whether it’s a Vodka Tonic or a Lemon Drop, even with a few ingredients, the flaws in the vodka will shine through. Abou-Ganim advises against being too thrifty with your spirit choices. Life’s too short to suffer from the aftermath of cheap, poorly distilled vodka.

Price Doesn’t Equal Quality

Bigger price tag doesn’t mean better vodka. Don’t fall for branding tricks. The best way to find your perfect vodka is to experiment. Taste vodkas from different price ranges and see what suits your palate. You might be surprised by the gems you find at all price points. Trust Abou-Ganim, who has enjoyed both $12 and $50 vodkas alike.

What are vodkas made from?

Answer of what are vodkas made from
Answer of what are vodkas made from

Curious about what are vodkas made from? Well, it can be distilled from a variety of starch- or sugar-rich plant matter. Nowadays, most vodka is made from grains like sorghum, corn, rye, or wheat. If you’re looking for top-notch quality, rye and wheat vodkas are the way to go. But wait, there’s more. Some vodkas are crafted from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice, and even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. In certain Central European countries, like Poland, vodka is created by fermenting a mix of crystal sugar and yeast. The European Union is even discussing standardizing vodka, with the Vodka Belt countries insisting that only spirits produced from grains, potatoes, or sugar beet molasses should be called “vodka,” following traditional production methods.

The production process of vodka

Making vodka is all about distillation. By heating it up, vodka gets its alcohol content boosted through evaporation and condensation. This process sets it apart from other types of alcohol that aren’t distilled. To start, the ingredients are fermented, using yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. Then, the liquid goes through distillation before water is added. When it comes to distillation, vodka takes a ride in a column. This method came about in the 19th century to speed up production for commercial distillers who were tired of cleaning pots after each batch. In column distilling, big columns are constantly filled with mash. As the steam rises, it meets the mash. The type of water used in vodka distillation is key. It has a direct impact on mashing, cooling, and reducing the vodka. High-end brands like Grey Goose brag about their use of wheat and spring water. To ensure purity, distillers often run the product through things like charcoal.

Number of times vodka distilled

The range is usually 3 to 7 times, but some vodkas go as far as 10 or more. Why all the extra distillations? It’s all about getting rid of any impurities or contaminants in the vodka.

Most people agree that 2 or 3 distillations are perfect. But hey, if you want some top-notch vodka, there’s no harm in going the extra mile.

Some distillers swear by more distillations for a purer and smoother vodka. By removing impurities like methanol and other oils, the vodka becomes even more pure. And we all know that a smoother vodka means a tastier experience.

Do all vodkas taste the same?

Ever wondered if all vodkas taste the same? Well, it turns out that’s not true at all. Despite the common misconception that vodka is tasteless, vodka lovers know that each brand has its own unique flavor. So, if you’re picky about your vodka, you definitely have your own go-to brand.

What makes American Liquor Co vodka different?

This makes American Liquor Co vodka different
This makes American Liquor Co vodka different

What sets American Liquor Co vodka apart? Well, it’s made with the classic vodka ingredients: wheat, rye, potato, and corn. But here’s the kicker – it’s not your average vodka. This is a unique blend that perfectly balances the flavors of each ingredient in one smooth sip.

Proofing quality of vodka

Most liquors, like rum, tequila, gin, vodka, and whiskey, are usually around 80 proof. But here’s the twist, some rums and vodkas can pack a punch with even higher proofs. Don’t worry though, it’s all legit. They’re totally allowed to be made that way.

Notes about additives and reverse osmosis of vodka

Many U.S. vodka distillers are adding sneaky ingredients to their vodka, all while claiming it’s additive-free. But here’s the truth: Felene Vodka ACTUALLY has zero additives. That’s right, none.

Believe it or not, a whopping 90% of the vodka available in the U.S. is infused with citric acid and sweeteners. Why? Well, it’s a trick to hide unpleasant flavors and the burn that often comes with vodka. And guess who’s doing it? Most of the top-selling domestic and imported vodkas.

But let’s get real. Why should you care about this? Firstly, it’s just not authentic. Adding these ingredients is a way to cover up a lower-quality product. And let’s not forget, “citric acid” means it’s ACIDIC. In simpler terms, it lowers the pH of the vodka, which is usually associated with cheaper, lesser-quality vodka. The real deal doesn’t need any extra additives and maintains a naturally higher pH level.

Felene Vodka, on the other hand, is the real deal. No additives, naturally great taste. It’s also gluten-free, organic, and non-GMO.

What determines the price of a vodka bottle?

When it comes to the fancy “premium” vodkas, the cost of the glass bottle itself is often the biggest expense. In fact, for those popular premium vodkas, the bottle can cost as much, if not more, than the vodka inside. So, if you’re more interested in a pretty bottle to decorate your bar with, that’s up to you. But, if you’re looking for top-notch quality in the actual liquid, then the bottle design is just an added expense that can account for a third of the cost.

The truth is, a vodka brand is often considered premium simply because of its price, not because of what’s inside the bottle. As a savvy consumer, it’s important to ignore the fancy packaging. And let’s not forget, how a brand is marketed can heavily influence our perception of its quality. As we’ve mentioned before, those meaningless claims of “number of times distilled” and the elaborate packaging are just tricks to make us think the vodka is better than it actually is. Don’t be fooled, these things say more about a brand’s marketing budget than its quality.

How to drink vodka?

Here are some popular ways to drink this versatile spirit:

1. Take it straight: Sip on pure vodka like a boss. Enjoy it as shots or savor it slowly in a tumbler glass. High-quality vodka deserves a little extra attention, so take your time.

2. Keep it cool: Chill out with chilled vodka. Get rid of the bite and enjoy a smoother texture by adding ice cubes to your tumbler or storing the bottle in the freezer until it’s ice-cold.

3. Get creative with cocktails: Mix things up with vodka cocktails. Add it to your favorite mixed drink to enhance the flavors and lower the alcohol content. Keep it simple with a vodka tonic or go all out with complex concoctions. Vodka pairs amazingly well with juices like orange, lime, grapefruit, and lemon.

4. Add some flavor: Infused vodka is all the rage. You can buy flavored vodka, but why not make your own? Grab a glass jar, pour in the vodka, and toss in ingredients like thyme, cucumber, coconut, mint, or blackberries. For a sweet twist, pop some gummy candies into the jar for a few hours and enjoy a boozy treat.

5. Pair it with good grub: In Russia, they know how to do it right. Pair vodka with traditional appetizers called “zakuski” for the ultimate experience. Try it with sausages, salmon, fresh cucumbers, olives, or pickles to enhance the flavors and complement the vodka.

6 thoughts on “What are vodkas made from? | Find out all about vodkas”

  1. I’d always thought that vodka was made from potatoes, but I just finished a bottle of Divine Vodka and it’s made from 100% grapes. A) it was awesome. B) why is that still considered vodka?

    For that matter I also bought a bottle of bourbon made from grapes from the same vineyard. If both things are made from 100% grapes, what determines why one is “bourbon” and one is “vodka”?

  2. Vodka is just alcohol and water. You can make it from anything with a high starch or sugar content (potatoes or grapes). They ferment the ingredients to make alcohol. They then run that through a purifier to get rid of any impurities such as it tasting like potatoes or grapes. One of the differences between mediocre vodka and high quality is how much they purified it.

  3. Vodka doesn’t have to come from potatoes, it can be made from anything which will ferment. Even grass, or salmon and old newspapers. Vodka just needs to be a clear spirit distilled to 190 proof.

  4. Rotten newspapers?? What we drink as beverage alcohol is ethanol, its produced from yeast eating sugars provided by pretty much any fruit or vegetable source. Potato is actually not very common because it doesn’t convert to sugar easily. Most vodka is made from corn, wheat, and sugar beets. Wood and wood products like paper will produce very little ethanol, it is primarily methanol. Which is poison. Super duper poison. Adding wood products or failing to sufficiently pick out stems and such are the cause of blindness and deaths you hear about during the prohibition. Do not try to drink something made from rotten newspaper. In addition to being gross and unnecessary and a huge pain, all you will get is poisoned.

  5. So I recently learned that there are distilleries producing vodka from grape sugars, and was wondering how it differs from Grappa?

  6. No such thing as vodka made from grapes. Such a thing would generally be called a grape based neutral spirit which differs from grappa in that the latter doesn’t try to remove every trace of flavour. Only marketing (ie Ciroc) perpetuates grape “vodka” as a thing. This does not apply to the US it seems as a neutral spirit has a liquor proof requirement (190 according to others in is thread) while in Europe we refuse to acknowledge a vodka made from anything other than rye, spelt, barley, or in the case of Ukraine and Russia, potato or wheat, as vodka.

    Grappa is a different class of spirit, usually referred to as a macerate brandy. A macerated fruit or pomace mix (in the case of grappa, a pomace made of the leftovers from wine making) is used to distill it from scratch and then cut down with water to the desired alcohol content, sugar content, and flavour ratio.

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