Historians do not generally agree on the historical origins of vodka; it’s not clear when distillation became a commonly understood practice. Also, it’s not clear when it came to be used for beverages. There are many different substances that have been called vodka over the years, but since roughly the 15th century, the term has referred almost exclusively to a certain type of liquor. Truthfully, the definition of vodka is somewhat vague because there are very few countries that closely regulate how it is made. You could contrast that with substances such as whisky. In most whiskey-producing countries, there are strict definitions of what constitutes a certain kind of whiskey; to mimic that sort of standardisation, the European Union is said to be considering definitions for vodka. However, there are some guidelines to what makes a vodka.

What Makes a Vodka

A vodka is a clear liquor that is distilled from a must made of some kind of sugar or starch-producing vegetable. The most common liquors are made from either grains or potatoes. They’re made that way because the distillation process for making vodka is attributed to Russia, where grains and potatoes grow more readily than other sugar-producing vegetables. In warmer climates, vodkas are made from fruits or other vegetables. However, it is widely believed that the best vodkas are made from grains or potatoes. In the United States and other countries without a history of vodka distillation, the vodka is often produced by large agricultural-industrial firms that distil large amounts of grain into neutral grain spirits. Those spirits are then processed, filtered, and repackaged as affordable vodka. That’s why cheap vodka is readily available from retailers. Be that as it may, just because it is affordable, does not mean that it is a bad product.

The Process

The process for making an affordable vodka is largely the same as the creation of some of the most expensive and well-regarded liquors. A grain, fruit, or starch is mashed with water and yeast; the yeast consumes the sugars and converts them into alcohol. This produces a wine-like substance generally called a must or a mash. That alcoholic liquid is then distilled, so that the alcohol is transferred into a new container and the rest is left behind. This process is not exact; some substances do travel with the alcohol. That’s why the distillation process is repeated. Often, the best liquors are distilled several times. For affordable vodka, this process usually happens at a large distiller that also harvests grains and vegetables for other purposes. The discarded vegetables, though still perfectly edible, can be used to create liquor. These agricultural firms are able to convert what would have otherwise been wasted into a valued product; that’s why it is available so cheaply.

They will then distribute the neutral spirits to bottling companies. These companies often distil the liquor again, filter it, and repackage it. Since the costs are very low for the distiller and very low for the bottler, the costs will also be low for you. That’s why affordable vodka is still a good quality product.