For the majority of booze lovers, vodka is the ultimate alcoholic beverage. It’s palatable, readily available and highly-versatile. Even naysayers can admit that it’s sometimes enjoyable and downright good. For those who don’t like its taste, vodka offers unparalleled health perks. It’s an antitoxin, a disinfectant and antiseptic, all in one.
Despite knowing this, one question remains, who really invented vodka? With Russia and Poland all claiming to be the origin of this odorless alcoholic drink, its history remains a contentious issue to-date. In this post, we’ll examine where vodka originated from.
The History of Vodka
Scholars have debated about the origin of vodka for decades. Here are the main schools of thought:
The Poles or Polish people believe that they’re the original inventors of this popular alcoholic drink. After all, vodka has been produced in this country since the Middle Ages. Here, the first written record of the drink appeared in the court documents of the Palatinate of Sandomierz, back in 1405.
According to this theory, the word “vodka” is derived from Polish “wódka” . This was an umbrella term that was used to refer to chemical compounds including medications and cosmetics. The current drink- vodka- was at the time known as gorzałka, meaning “to burn”.
Despite the early documentation, Poland did not produce vodka on a large scale basis until in the late 16th century. The production mainly took place in Krakow where manufacturers would export spirits to Silesia.
At the time, the production techniques used were rudimentary. Often, the distillation process was repeated up to 3 times, before the beverage was diluted to yield 30 to 35% abv.
Although there’s substantial proof that the Poles produced vodka sometime in the 16th century, it is not until late in the 18th century when Poland began industrial production of vodka. This time, the production took place in the eastern part of Poland, which was governed by the Russian empire.
In 1871, the first rectification distillery was set up in Poland. Later in 1925, the production of clear vodkas was declared a Polish government monopoly.
The second school of thought has it that vodka production began in Russia in the 14th century. Based on this theory, a monk by the name Isidore is credited with inventing the original recipe of the Russian vodka.
Isidore, who served at Chudov Monastery, was well-versed in distillation equipment. He used his expertise and knowledge to create the first high-quality type of alcoholic drink named “bread wine”. For a long time, this drink was only produced in the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and had an alcohol content of less than 40%.
The first documentation of the word vodka in Russia can be traced back to the decree of Empress Elizabeth in 1751. This decree also stipulated regulations for the ownership of vodka-producing distilleries. By the 1860s, the drink had become pretty popular in Russia, primarily because the state endorsed its consumption.
Taking this into account, it’s not surprising that Russia is still among the largest producers and consumers of this alcoholic beverage. In fact, the average monthly consumption per person is 17.28 shots.
Vodka, defined as a distilled and clear liquor, has a rich history that spans across several Eastern European countries namely Russia and Poland. As evident from this article, its history is pretty diverse, and this corresponds nicely to how differently the drink is produced and enjoyed worldwide.