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October 4th marks National Vodka day so to celebrate I thought I would investigate the unanswerable questions:
Who discovered Vodka?
Who makes the best Vodka?
Who has the best traditions for Vodka?
For centuries the Russians and the Polish have argued over who discovered Vodka, a spirit which is a huge part of both cultures. Firstly though, what is vodka?
Vodka is an alcoholic spirit of Russian (or Polish) origin made by distillation of fermented grains such as rye, wheat and potatoes. A defining feature of Vodka is that it is not stored in oak barrels like many other spirits such as Whisky and Cognac. For a spirits to be advertised and sold as vodka it must have a minimum ABV of 37.5%. Although many people assume that Vodka is made with potatoes this is rarely the case. Yes most vodkas are made with potatoes but often they are mixed with grains as the high starch content in the potatoes must be broken down into sugars before distillation can take place.
Vodka was discovered in the late 14th Century. Both Russia and Poland lay claims of being the first to distil the first ever documented production of Vodka. There is currently no evidence to prove that Russia or Poland created Eastern Europe’s favourite tipple.
My next unanswered question is more of a subjective opinion than fact. Both Poland and Russia claim to make the best Vodka. Our very own Firestarter Vodka was created in Moldova so I am biased to say Russia. However Poland have their infamous Zubrowka Vodka which contains a unique flavour of woodruff, vanilla and almond. Statistics taken from ‘the spirits business’ show that Smirnoff (originally distilled in Moscow, Russia) is the world’s number 1 best-selling vodka.
Russia 1 – 0 Poland
So, who has the best traditions?
Both Russian and Polish weddings are known to last anywhere between two days and a week. During these days both nations celebrate marriage with Vodka.
The Russians are known to toast to the happy couple with ice cold vodka shots. After the shots the guests begin to chant Gorko! Gorko means bitter and the newlyweds must share their first kiss for as long as possible to take the bitter taste out of the Vodka.
The Polish also toast to the happy couple with ice cold vodka shots. However once the guests have toasted they throw the shot glass over their left shoulder and the glass must shatter. If the glass doesn’t break when it hits the floor this is deemed as bad luck. A very messy tradition some might say!
Russian 2 – Poland 0