VodkaDistillate of cereals and tubers from Russia
Although the traditional drink of Poland (woda = water) and Russia (voda = water), it is among the most widely consumed alcoholic beverages in the world. Vodka was popularised in Europe by Napoleon. He became acquainted with the distillate during the Russian campaign in 1812, which was followed by the disastrous retreat. In order to warm his troops, who had run out of alcohol and food due to the excessive lengthening of the supply chain, he raided large quantities of Vodka as a remedy to the most fearsome enemy: the cold.
Vodka is a super-alcoholic beverage made from the distillation of potatoes and cereals (Poland rye, Russia rye and wheat). The ingredients are roughly chopped and left to macerate in water for a few hours. The resulting wort is gradually heated to boiling point to allow the usual splitting of starch into fermentable sugars and to arrive at a yellowish, thick, sugary liquid. After filtration, the must is fermented for a few days at a controlled temperature with the addition of selected yeasts, until a wash with 6-8 % ethyl alcohol is obtained. It is then distilled with column apparatus and a distillate with a high alcohol content of around 85-90 % is obtained. This is then filtered over quartz sand or charcoal obtained from hardwoods such as beech or birch, whose porosity and high adsorptive power retain many coarse substances responsible for anomalous tastes. The grade is then reduced to 40 %, chilled and finally filtered to stabilise clarity.
In northern Europe it is consumed neat and cold, in small glasses, in combination with caviar and salmon. In other Western countries it is mainly used in cocktails and fruit-based long drinks because it complements well and gives harmony.