5 excellent tips for understanding VODKA

The seduction of Vodka starts in the brain.

What one imagines, presumes and knows about each brand is a controlled sensorial construct that speaks before the drink can say something.

That’s a novelty; hence vodka is the current, modern drink with an ample sample of consumers. You choose the segment in which you want to be, and go there.

This doesn’t happen with other categories of famous drinks in which are required years of advancement by trial and error, and also demand previous knowledge of geography, climates and history.  And as if that were not enough, it’s necessary to memorize by regions, wine harvests and añadas.

Vodka doesn’t ask that of the consumer; we’ll explain why below:

It’s Modern

You’ll never feel out of date, and at the Bar, that’s important; you’ll never feel you’re drinking your grandmother’s drink.

Vodka will never proclaim it, but that’s the way it is.  Present-day, modern history of vodka began in 1979 with the redesign of a bottle of Absolut. It became consolidated as of 1980 when the first decade of the current marketing of a drink began; this patrimony has been disputed among Russians and Poles since the Fifteenth Century.

Russia shows the word vodka written in 1553 in the Cyrillic alphabet; it’s the identity and reference of a medicinal drink created in its territory by merchandisers who took it to Poland the first time in 1553-

On the other hand, Poland invokes documents from 1405 from the court of Palatinado de Sandomierz, in which wódka is mentioned.

Vodka was the drink of tough men in arms living in the steppes of what is today Russian and Ukrainian territory; these men fought on horse against the climate and their enemies.  The only available distillate, vodka, helped in both endeavors.  The cold of the environment didn’t freeze it, as alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water, -114oF.

The marketing revolution of the eighties and nineties, pulled the Cossack off the horse, took its sable and the entire rustic, fur dressings.

Then it put heels on it, and thus made vodka a subtle, modern, white, not amber, drink, loved by women.  From a warrior’s drink it went to being the drink of sophisticated people who labor in offices.

Diplomats discovered an additional advantage, modern vodka, well distilled (not one, but several times) is a drink that doesn’t leave its trace in your breath. Then its lightness was propelled in the thousands of receptions held every year across the world.

When the successive outbreaks of the Feminine Revolution conquered the world at the end of the Twentieth Century, no trace of the rusticity of the Cossack’s drink was left.

It has the purity you want.

Vodka has a costly attribute, looked for in luxury: Purity.

“The more the content of alcohol and water to be distilled, the lower the proportion of “fusel oils” and other aromatic substances will be, and the flavor will be more neutral”, explains the American professor, Harold McGee.

Vodkas tend to be distilled at up to 90% alcohol or more; Brandy and malt and corn whisky, at 60-80%

The extensive distillation of vodka “always seeks to obtain a soft, neuter flavor. Right away the almost pure mix of alcohol and water is diluted with more water until the desired gradation is reached, at least a 38%, and it’s bottled without ageing”, states McGee.

It’s versatile.

An essential characteristic of vodka is its neutral origin.

The best brands have excellent quality alcohol, very well distilled that doesn’t require other ingredients to make the drink you expect (unlike Gin and Vermouth, for example).

That neutrality of origin has served much in the creation of trends and fashion in the modern Bar.  Hence, vodka became a natural ally sought by dozens of thousands of bartenders, mixologists, bar aficionados, specialists in organizing receptions and parties, and by people who enjoy moments for two, in groups, or in solitude.

The brands rise from the crest of a wave, fashion, or styles that characterize regions of world consumption.

It doesn’t put you back in school.

The consumer reaches vodka when he wants to; he doesn’t have to take previous courses.

This (which is scarcely talked about, and less explained) makes a big difference with other drinks favored worldwide.

Take note, whisky has to be differentiated by countries: Scotland, Ireland, United States, Japan are the most famous, then there are hundreds of different national producers.  After the country, you have to choose regions, and finally, years of ageing and distilleries.  That can be disregarded when the consumer prefers a specific brand, and swears eternal loyalty to it.

Regarding Rum, there are more than 4o producing countries, and 200 options.

In Wine, the consumer begins to travel through hemispheres (north and south harvest at different periods), after the countries, regions, denominations of origin, subdivisions, grapes, vineyards and plots.  As you may have confirmed, without guidance and orientation, you’re lost among thousands of options, and when you feel you’re finally there, you still have to define añada and its evolution in the cask and the bottle.

In Vodka none of that happens.

It’s free

Modern vodka addresses the consumer from its brand; it doesn’t demand that it take sides with a specific flag; it doesn’t ask for you fingerprints to prove you’re drinking “the correct drink”.

In this sense, the lover of the drink feels free and happy, with no previous conditioning. Except for Russians and Poles who have developed ancestral, centennial identity relations with brands and styles, the lovers of the drink feel like citizens of the world.

They can change (or change) from one style to another, generally upgrading the standard to Premium for special occasions, or on the return trip when economic conditions are momentarily adverse.

In vodka there is no inherited commitment that characterizes other drinks, such as whisky and wine, for example.

With the king of world consumption in white distillates, there’s no need for fans of the drink to embrace a flag for life, neither  -in search of social standing – do they pay homage to a specific distillery with an unpronounceable name, or age.

This freedom makes it markedly different, free by its own right from purchasing decisions which in whisky characterize drinkers of Single Malts (whisky from a sole malt from a single distillery).  Likewise, in wine, fans of regions, and within these, of a variety of grape, a bodega, and a style of ageing.

The vodka lover moves between free boundaries, flags, languages, geographies and year of a brand’s foundation, searching for a single thing: A name.

In contrast to other drinks, it doesn’t have hundreds of options from which to choose, that doesn’t worry the consumer; he feels it’s an advantage because he doesn’t need to travel through labyrinths, but rather through safe paths, until he finds the label he’s looking for. He’s also free to give in to temptation, trying a different bottle he  finds attractive.

In vodka marketing, novelty and temptation rule over routine.

Alberto Soria  Writer / Journalist specialized in Gastronomy, Wines and Spirits / University Professor

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