Exactly when the history of vodka began is unknown. Its inventor is also a mystery. The earliest mention dates from 1405 in the Sandomierz Court registry in Poland. But it also developed in Russia, Lithuania and other countries.
Possible Origin of the Word
The word vodka appeared in Russia in 1751 meaning water. The word is recorded in documents that emerged during the reign of Catherine the Great. The paper was dated June 8, 1751. It refers to ownership of distilleries that were producing the drink.
However there are other possible origins of the word vodka. The Novgorod chronicle refers to vodka as an herbal alcoholic tincture. In the long history of vodka it was included in pharmaceutical listings. The word was often combined with bread wine.
Vodka was often used in phrases like “vodka in bread of wine”. Some scholars suggest that vodka was derived from vodit meaning diluting in water. During the early Middle Ages, alcohol was used as an ingredient in herbal medication. The word’s origin is still unclear.
The word vodka was also known by other terms. In Poland it was known as gorzalka and in Belarus harelika. The Ukrainian word is horilka and in Lithuania it is known as degtin.
A Brief History of Vodka
As stated, vodka started out as an antiseptic. It was only in the 1300s that people discovered it could be used as a drink. By the mid 1300s variations of the drink had become very popular in Russia. It became a fixture in both religious festivals and celebrations.
In 1771, the German chemist Christian Weigel invented the Liebig condenser. It helped improve distillation and preparation of drinks, including vodka. By the 18th century, vodka was a staple in the homes of the wealthy.
Eventually the drink became popular with the masses. However it was only in the 1930s that the drink came to America courtesy of the Smirnoff Company. However it really didn’t become popular until the 1950s.
The history of vodka in the 1950s was marked by increasing popularity throughout Europe and North America. It would gain popularity in other countries around the world. By the mid 1970s, it was the most well known hard liquor in the US.
Today the drink remains one of the popular in America. Despite the emergence of other hard liquors, it has never lost the popularity it gained starting in the 1950s. Often it is mixed with martini and others.
While unflavored vodkas remain popular, they can also be flavored. Among the most common ingredients added are vanilla, ginger and cinnamon. Different fruit favors can be used too. Honey is a popular flavoring in Russia.
Among the Polish bison grass is widely used. In northern Europe, the drink is flavored with various herbs. The drink is also flavored with different fruits. Sweden has over forty different flavorings for vodka. The alcohol content varies per country.
The origin and history of vodka has often been disputed. Both Russia and Poland claim to be its country of origin. But there can be no argument about its intoxicating taste.