We start where we left off – back in Russia where vodka was born. Back in the early days of vodka, the liquor was monitored and heavily taxed. As vodka spread, making the “water of life” was easier in Poland than Russia. In 1546, the King of Poland issued a decree allowing every citizen to make his or her own vodka. This is a huge deal when you think that alcohol was typically heavily taxed. This created a vast difference between the 2 nations and how they handled the drink.
By the late 1800’s, many Russians were producing their own cheap homemade vodkas. State control from production to sale of vodka ensued due to an epidemic of drunkenness by 1894.
It was only at the end of the 1800’s that the name “vodka” was officially and formally recognized. Russian distilleries adopted a common production technique and quality standard, probably due to the period of state control.
How did vodka become popular in the US? It wasn’t immediately a hit. Vodka took a little mixology magic and some pop culture to become what it is today.
Vodka spread to the U.S. by way of France after World War II. However, vodka sales did not immediately take off in the U.S. until the 1950’s when a business-savvy food and spirits distributor introduced the Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer) and started a vodka craze.
How many times have you heard “Shaken not Stirred”? In the 1960s, vodka got a second boost from a man named Bond, James Bond. Agent 007’s preferences in vodka martinis blew the drink into instant stardom.
Anyone familiar with Sex and the City knows the girls lived on Cosmos (vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice). Vodka saw another boost due to the pop culture phenomenon of 4 New York women. Every woman wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw and the sexy Cosmo helped the channel the fashionista fromSex and the City (1998-2004).
As we’ve traveled through history we’ve been reminded that monks may have made the first early recipe of the drink, vodka was thought to have many medicinal properties, too much of a good thing can lead to government control, and never underestimate the influence of pop culture.
And we’d like to conclude with one off the wall fun-fact, not on the vodka subject, but still fascinating. Until very recently beer in Russia was not considered an alcoholic beverage. Prior to 2013 anything under 10% alcohol content was considered the equivalent of a soft drink!
We have one more installment of Vodka on the way. Stay tuned for the final fun facts and bar trivia.