Vodka is the most common distilled spirit found in cocktails and mixed drinks and it is essential to every bar. Its popularity comes from the general characteristic that it has no discernible or distinct flavor or smell and it is often clear. This allows the other ingredients of a drink to become the focal point.
HOW VODKA IS MADE:
Vodka is often called a 'neutral grain spirit' because the standard method for making it is by fermenting and distilling grain. This can be corn, rye, wheat, or any other grain that the distiller chooses to use.
Potato vodka has long been a popular product of Poland and other potato growing regions, such as Idaho in the United States. Other bases for vodka include beets and grapes.
Vodka is a rectified spirit, meaning that it is often distilled at least three times, though some are distilled five or more times. It has become common practice for a vodka brand to broadcast that their vodka has been distilled x number of times. The assumption is that the more times it is distilled, the cleaner and smoother it is.
After distillation, vodka is then filtered, often through charcoal. Vodka requires no aging and is ready to drink right away. However, it is cut with water from still strength to a bottling proof, which is typically 80 proof or 40 percent alcohol by volume.
HOW DOES VODKA TASTE:
Since vodka has no distinct taste, a stylistic difference in brands is their texture on the tongue. Two brands that represent the two prominent styles are Absolut and Stolichnaya. Absolut has an oily, silky sweet texture, while Stolichnaya is clean and watery with an almost medicinal finish.
It should also be pointed out that vodka is not necessarily tasteless or odorless and there are distinct differences between vodkas. The flavor of vodka is subtle and often like a clear grain.
The heat of a vodka is another term you may hear. This is the burn that is revealed on the tongue or back of the throat when you drink vodka straight. It is often another way of deducing how clean or smooth a vodka is.
The flavored vodka scene has exploded in recent years and if you can think of a flavor, it is probably available somewhere. This includes favorites like citrus and berry along with chocolate and pomegranate.
A new category simulates the taste of a variety of desserts and candies. There are even more obscure flavors like salmon, bacon, hemp, and even tobacco, though these tend to not last long on the market.
Some flavored vodkas are produced using the traditional infusion method of steeping ingredients like fresh fruits and herbs in a finished vodka. Many vodkas, however, simply add ingredients like natural or artificial flavor extracts to the vodka.