A Brief History of Vodka:
Vodka is a neutral spirit, well known for its lack of color, smell, and flavor. Its name is, supposedly, derived from zhizennia voda, meaning "water of life". Legend says that vodka evolved from a 12th-century neutral grain spirit that was created in a Russian monastery-fort called Viatka. Viatka + Voda = Vodka? Maybe!
It is generally accepted that traditional vodka was made from potatoes as it was easily accessible, fairly inexpensive, and produced a lot of alcohol. More pure grain alcohol (ethanol) means MORE vodka!
Vodka can be made of anything that can be fermented: fruits, grains, sorghum, and just plain sugar. The sugar source is combined with cultured yeast to begin the fermentation process. The yeast "eats" the sugar and the byproduct is ethanol. It is distilled and filtered to, usually, 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof). Sometimes more.... but never less. The Russians would frown upon it.
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Smirnoff is one of the oldest vodka brands. It was created by Peter Smirnoff in the early 1800's. He established his original distillery in 1818 by Iron Bridge in Moscow Russia.
in 1912 Smirnoff was making one million bottles a day! Business was going great until... The First World War brought prohibition to Russia. Vodka was, ineffectively, banned in Russia. Smirnoff Vodka lost a majority of business. Vladmir Smirnoff (descendent of Peter Smirnoff) moved some production to Paris France as to accommodate, and make some money, on the incoming Russian refugees. In 1925 Russia finally lifted the ban on Vodka but... it was too late for Smirnoff to recover.
Smirnoff was sold to a Ukrainian migrant in the United States 1934. Americans favored whiskey so vodka sales were dismal. Some marketing geniuses in 1937 came up with the idea to "rebrand" Smirnoff as a "white whiskey", with a milder flavor and BOOM! Vodka sales soared.
Shortly after World War II had ended... A guy named Jack Martin and a Los Angeles, California tavern owner named Jack Morgan were talking about the general failure of vodka in the United States. Vodka, although doing better than it was when it first started being made state side, still didn't have the market share that gin and whiskey had. In the midst of this conversation, Jack Morgan commented that he had a surplus of ginger beer in storage that he couldn't move, and thus this wonderful concoction was born:
- 2 oz Vodka
- 1 oz Lime Juice
- Fill with Ginger Beer
- Served in a copper mug and garnished with lime.
This cocktail caused vodka sales to explode in Los Angeles and thus everywhere else and sparked the creation of another famous cocktail... The Screwdriver.
The tavern that Jack Morgan owned was named "The Cock 'N' Bull". Which is now a brand name of a popular ginger beer.