Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Vodka was first distilled in Russia in medieval times and for medical purposes, and became a popular drink in the 16th century. Its name means “little water.” It has traditionally been made from the cheapest source of starch available, usually grain, but sometimes potatoes and sugarbeets. The source is unimportant, since the fermented base is distilled to eliminate most aromatics, and the remainder is removed by filtration through powdered charcoal to produce a smooth, neutral flavor. The essentially pure mixture of alcohol and water is then diluted with water to the desired strength, a minimum of around 38%, and bottled without aging.