So you think you know Vodka??

Ian Rettie

First question – where is vodka made? The most common answer - ‘Russia’.

Vodka certainly originated in Russia and Poland, but today it is produced everywhere. Very little of the vodka consumed in the US is actually produced in Russia. Russian Standard is Russian, and Stolichnaya can be made in either Russia or Latvia. A quick glance at the vodka section in Stone Oak Liquor shows products from several European countries – including Poland (Sobieski, Belvedere, Chopin), Latvia (Stolichnaya), Sweden (Absolut, Svedka), Finland (Finlandia), France (Grey Goose, Ciroc, Pinnacle), UK (Three Olives), Netherlands (Ketel One, Kru), Austria (Monopolowa), Iceland (Reyka). Polar Ice and Crystal Head are from Canada, and 42 Below is from New Zealand.

Domestic vodkas include top selling brands such as Smirnoff, Skyy, UV, Heaven Hill, etc., as well as Texas-made products such as Tito’s, Dripping Springs, Deep Eddy, Savvy, and from San Antonio there are Enchanted Rock and Cinco.
Second question – what is vodka made from? Without hesitation a lot of people answer - ‘potatoes’.
In fact the overwhelming majority comes from grain. Grain neutral spirits are used in most vodkas, though some do specify wheat. Rye can also be used (Chopin make both wheat and rye versions). Tito’s is made from corn, and there are a few potato vodkas including the European Monopolowa, Luksusowa, Vesica, (Chopin also make a potato). Famous Vodka is made from Idaho russet potatoes. Ultimat vodka is made from wheat, rye, and potato.

Then there are more interesting sources: Ciroc is made from grapes and Kai (Vietnamese) from rice. Vodka can be made from molasses, sugar beets, or soybeans.
A brand-new vodka on the market – Spike – claims to be the first vodka in the world to be made from cactus! It is also made here in San Antonio.
The main claim to fame for vodka is that it is tasteless, so any difference between grain and potato vodkas is negligible – filtering should remove all the impurities that provide the taste. One theory is that potato vodkas are somehow more ‘oily’, and some people claim to be able to tell the difference, but in blind taste tests this is rarely true. Having said that, cactus vodka does seem to produce a unique flavor – a sort of soft tequila taste completely without any ‘burn’.
Third question – how many different flavors of vodka are there? Answer – too many!