Vodka (Russian: водка, Belarusian: Гарэлка, Ukrainian: Горілка, Polish: wódka) is a distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits and/or sugar.
Vodka is a spirit that was virtually unknown in the United States prior to the 1940s . Traditionally prepared vodkas had an alcoholic content of 40% by volume. Today, the standard Belarusian, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian vodkas are 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 80 proof. The European Union has established a minimum of 37.5% ABV for any "European vodka" to be named as such. Products sold as vodka in the United States must have an alcoholic content of 30% or more.
Vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt countries of Eastern Europe and around the Baltic Sea. It is also commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, Sex on the Beach, Moscow Mule, White Russian, Black Russian, vodka tonic, and in a vodka martini.
So now we know a little history on Vodka but why would you want to do anything else with vodka but drink it? Because it is widely available, effective and less toxic than many of the chemical alternatives you might use!
The Many Uses Of Vodka:
- Clean Your Billiard Tables: As a great cleaning solution, vodka can be used to clean the cloth on billiard tables (apply some vodka to a brush and clean it against the grain).
- As an Air Freshener: 1oz. vodka, 6 oz. filtered water, 20 – 40 drops of essential oil, a few suggested oils are: peppermint, jasmine, citrus oils. Simply mix in a spray bottle and spray around for instant freshness. This mix will keep well for at least a month.
- To Clean Your Eyeglasses: Simply wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth, dampened with vodka. The alcohol in the vodka cleans the glass and kills germs.
- Keep Cut Flowers Fresh: If you’re going to have fresh-cut flowers working hard to brighten up your decor, show some hospitality and give them a little drink. Several drops of vodka and a large pinch of sugar added to the water in your flower vase, changed daily, stunts ethylene production and will extend the vitality of bouquet.
- Treat Poison Ivy: For many, one of the hazards of enjoying the great outdoors is an encounter with poison ivy, oak or sumac. It can lead to a nasty, long-lasting rash. Unfortunately, poison ivy is spreading, thanks to global warming. To avoid the uncomfortable reaction, immediately pour vodka on skin that has come into contact with poison ivy, and the alcohol will wash away the itchy culprit, urushiol oil. Some have said that the vodka needs to be at least 100 proof to work. Others have argued that straight rubbing alcohol works better, but we're guessing you may not have that as handy if you are on your average picnic.
- Freshen Laundry: You can keep your clothes smelling fresher with vodka — really! Simply spritz your duds with the stuff, then hang to dry in a well-ventilated area. (Do a spot-test first to be safe.) Vodka kills odor-causing bacteria, but doesn't leave a scent when dry.
- Clean Collars and Cuffs: Vodka is a great dissolver of oil and fat, so it can be used to clean collars and cuffs of woolen jackets. After you've cleaned it with a tissue dipped in vodka, iron the cleaned spots through a clean tissue until it is dry. The alcohol in the vodka will dissolve the fat, and the tissue afterward will help remove the rest of the substance.
- Get Rid of Wine Stains: Spray vodka on stain, scrub with brush then blot dry.
- Shine Your Fixtures: It's easy to get your chrome, glass and porcelain fixtures shining like the top of the Chrysler Building. Guess what does the trick? Moisten a soft, clean cloth with vodka, then apply a little elbow grease.
- Get rid of bees and wasps: Fill a sixteen-ounce trigger-spray bottle and spray bees or wasps to kill them.
- Remove Bandage Painlessly: Saturate bandage with vodka which will dissove adhesive.
- Calm the Sting of Sea Creatures: The pain of jellyfish and ray stings is magically dissipated with meat tenderizers (the enzymes that work to break down meat’s proteins also break down the stinging agents in the venom). But if you find yourself at the beach with vodka instead of meat tenderizer (and who doesn’t?)–it can help alleviate the punch those stings can pack. Douse the area with vodka. (And…have a shot while you’re at it?)
- For Healthier Hair: Add 1.5-ounces of vodka to a 12-ounce shampoo bottle, and then shampoo as normal. The alcohol will cleanse your scalp and your hair will become stronger and grow faster.
- No other remedy is better than vodka when fighting foot odor. Simply wash your feet with vodka.
- Vodka is also great when treating acne. Simply apply vodka directly to the pimples.
- Make lavender ironing water: Forget about scented fabric softener for fragrance, be like a cool French granny and use lavender ironing water instead. Mix 3 ounces of 90-proof vodka and 12 drops of pure lavender essential oil and let sit for 24 hours. Then add 12 ounces of purified water and swirl together. Store in the refrigerator until it loses its scent, around 6 weeks.
- Flakier Pie Crusts: Is your pie crust more cakey than flaky? Just add vodka. "It makes dough moist and easy to handle, resulting in a perfectly flaky crust," says Caroline Wright, chef and author of Twenty Dollar Twenty Minute Meals. The spirit prevents the dough from forming too much gluten (what toughens an overworked crust). Sub in 1 tablespoon of vodka for every third tablespoon of water, Wright advises. It evaporates as it bakes, so you aren’t left with a hint of the hooch.
- When making yeast-based dough, add a tablespoon of vodka to make it puffier.
- Get rid of unloved plants: Also known as weeds (poor, misunderstood things)–if you’ve got them and don’t want them, vodka can kill them. Vodka attacks broad-leaf weeds, like dandelions, chickweed, by breaking down their protective coverings which leads to lethal dehydration. Fill a spray bottle with an ounce of vodka, a few drops of liquid dish soap, and two cups of water. Spray on weeds, in the sunlight, and wilt away they will.
- Quash mold and mildew: Like vinegar, vodka can help combat stubborn mold and mildew stains in the bathroom. Spray it on stained caulk, let it sit for 30 minutes, and scrub with a brush.
- FOR HOMEMADE VANILLA: Get one real dried vanilla bean (available at specialty food stores) and slice it open from top to bottom. Place it in a glass jar and cover it with ¾ cup vodka. Seal the jar, and let it rest in a kitchen cabinet for 4-6 months, shaking it occasionally. Filter your home made vanilla extract through an unbleached coffee filteror cheesecloth into a decorative bottle...
Pic by Flickr user K.ristin
Risotto with vodka. Here’s the recipe for one portion. Melt butter (about 30 grams) and cook quorn for 3-5 minutes, then splash in lime juice and vodka (1 table spoon of each), add the rice and stir for a minute. Pour in the stock (about 300 ml), bring to a boil and transfer into a covered oven dish. Place in a hot oven (150 Celsius) and bake for 25 minutes. Add yogurt (about 50 grams) and stir through, before finishing in the oven (10 minutes). Delicious!
- At the first symptoms of food poisoning, take one shot of vodka, add a little bit of salt (on the tip of the knife), mix and drink it. This helps to stop the poison from spreading. Vodka with salt is also good if you have diarrhea.
- Vodka is well known as a great means of reducing high body temperature (above 38 Celsius). Apply vodka to a sponge and wipe the body with it, then let it dry without covering the body. The sick person will feel cold, but the temperature will drop quickly.
- It can also be used as a warm compress to cure a sore throat. Apply a small amount of vodka to a cotton or linen tissue (enough for it to become wet). Make a second layer from polyethylene or cellophane and tie it around your neck, then cover with a warm woolen scarf.
- If you have frostbite, then sometimes it is better not to use a warming massage, but instead to make a compress with vodka, apply it to the affected area and then take some internally (no more than 100 grams).
- Vodka is a great antiseptic. For instance, if you have a bee sting, apply some vodka to the spot. It will disinfect the skin and prevent the poison from getting into your body.
- For joints aches, take honey, diced radish and vodka in equal parts – say, half a glass – mix together and add one teaspoon of salt. Rub the concoction onto places where your joints hurt.
In Other Related News...
VODKA SAVES THE LIFE OF TWO ELEPHANTS IN FREEZING SIBERIA
The quick thinking of the handler has saved the lives of two Indian elephants that were stranded when their trailer caught fire in Siberia.
The elephants were part of a touring circus, and were caught in the cold once their transport was destroyed. Their handlers tried to get them to keep moving to keep warm, but soon realised it wasn’t enough, according to the RIA news agency.
The elephants, Jimmy and Magda, were then served a crate of vodka mixed with water each in an effort to heat them up from the inside. The spirit did the trick, keeping the elephants warm enough until a replacement vehicle arrived.
Did You Know...
- Vodka used to save lives, especially during World War II, when no other antiseptic was available. It was also widely used after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blast to clear a person's body of radioactive nuclides.
- Vodka is the purest drink in the world as it contains less fusel oils.
- Vodka does 'go bad.' An un-opened vodka should taste more-or-less the same once opened a few years, even a couple of decades later. However, once opened, vodka loses it's flavour as the alcohol slowly evaporates. It should be consumed within 12months for optimum taste!
- It contains no fat, and it can be used in any number of low-calorie diets.
- It lowers mortality rate if consumed moderately.
- It has great effect on cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of heart attack and blood clots.
- It decreases risk of stroke, Alzheimer's, and type 2 diabetes.
- It increases the amount of good cholesterol.
- Many countries around the world have accepted vodka as their national drinks (especially in Eastern Europe) and started changing the recipe of this drink to better suit their region. Poland likes to use potato and grain based vodkas, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine focus mostly on wheat and rye. Other Eastern European countries focus on other grains (same as UK and Germany), while France, Italy and Balkan region like to produce vodkas form fermented grapes and fruits (most notably Serbian plum based vodka "šljivovica", which is famous in entire Europe). Non-European countries also like to make their vodkas from molasses (that is case for US, Canada, Caribbean and Australia).
- In the Ukraine they call vodka, horilka, and the word for vodka comes from the Russian word voda, which means water. This is attributed to the water like appearance of vodka.
- Vodka’s popularity in Poland and Russia is due to the fact that highly purified spirit would not freeze as easily as other spirits during transport in the long freezing winters.
- The classic Russian or Ukrainian vodka is 40 percent (80 degrees proof), the number being attributed to the famous Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.
- Vodka Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia stated that Mendeleev thought the perfect percentage was 38, but since spirits during his time were taxed on their strength therefore the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation.
- While there are varied accounts of where vodka originated--either in Russia or Poland--the first variations of Russian vodka were meant for medicinal purposes. It is also reported that Polish vodka was scented and used as aftershave!
- Vodka may be classified into two main groups: clear vodka and flavored vodka.
- Flavorings often include red pepper, ginger, various fruit flavors, vanilla, chocolate (unsweetened), and cinnamon.
- During the times of Czar Peter, there was a custom which was held: each foreign ambassador at the courtyard should drink the so called “Cup of the White Eagle” being one and a half liters of vodka.
- A litre of vodka weighs only 953 g and not 1 kg as one might imagine!
- Up until 1885, vodka was only sold in 12.3 litre buckets...
During the last several centuries, great number of famous vodka brands has managed to fight their way to the top of popularity chain. Consumers all around the world can chose between thousands of vodka brands, and some of the most popular are:
Gray Goose (France)
Ketel One (Netherlands)
SKYY (California, USA)
Smirnoff (England, originaly founded in Moscow)
Three Olives (England)
White Diamond (Latvia)
The Best Vodka - according to FindtheBest, a online unbiased comparisons guide, seems for the moment to be Stolichnaya Gold from Russia, at $32 per bottle! However, preferences can be different depending on whether you serve the vodka straight-up, in a cocktail or in food dishes.
Main-Photo(s) credit: tzutzu, Travelin' Librarian