The holidays are a time for celebration. Loved ones gather around to share food, gifts, and drinks. This holiday season spread a little cheer by impressing your friends and family with these facts about vodka. 

Vodka Isn’t Usually Made From Potatoes

While there are some potato vodkas out there, there’s a common misconception that most vodka is made from potatoes. In reality, vodka’s origin began with fermented grains and grapes. 1405 was the first mention of the word vodka in print, while potatoes weren’t used in the distillation of vodka until the 1790s. Potatoes were used then because it was cheaper than grains at the time (even carrots were used at one point!). Today, potatoes are much more expensive and labor-intensive when it comes to the distillation of alcohol. 

Vodka Is Chilled For a Reason

Have you ever wondered why vodka is stored in the freezer? The next time you make your favorite appletini recipe, remember that chilled vodka is the reason it tastes so smooth. There’s a lot of fire naturally in vodka due to the high alcohol content. Chilling vodka before serving it not only tames the majority of that heat, but it allows other natural flavors to shine through. 

The Word Vodka Actually Means Water

The word vodka is derived from the word voda, which is Slavic for “little water.” When it was first found in print it referred to medicines, however, while the drink was called gorzalka – a derivative of the word gorzec (which means “to burn.”) It has also been called “burning wine” throughout history. 

Vodka Was Once Banned in Russia

Upon entry of the first world war in 1914, vodka was banned in Russia to prevent soldiers from keeping themselves inebriated. At the time, vodka sales made up about a third of Russia’s income. This ban led to a dip in crime as well as a reduction in mental hospital patients. The decrease in suicides, however, interfered with Russia’s ability to study the human body since hospitals mostly used cadavers from suicides. While the thought of a funeral without vodka was inconceivable, alcohol-free weddings gained in popularity because they were less expensive. 

Eventually, this ban led people to find other ways to become intoxicated. Russia’s prohibition in combination with the war led to an increase in drug addiction. Not only that, but people were distilling spirits in their bathtubs and producing potentially deadly results. Eventually, Russia lifted the ban due to the need for money to help modernize the country. 

Vodka Was Initially Used Medicinally 

Vodka was initially used as an antiseptic as well as a cleansing agent. Vodkas were medical tinctures that could be as high as 75% ABV. It can still be used today for some medical purposes, such as disinfecting a wound or helping to relieve a toothache. Due to it’s drying, astringent nature, vodka can also be used to tighten pores and dry out acne or cold sores. 

Vodka has a rich history and has gone through many changes since its creation. Now that you know a bit more about the history of this popular alcohol, you’ll always have a little something to share at the next party!