What is vodka?

Vodka is a strong spirit, typically with 40% alcohol by volume (70° proof) – i.e. the same strength as whisky and gin. It is usually distilled from grain: rye or wheat make the best vodka, but it can also be made from barley, corn, sorghum and rice. Some respectable vodka is also made from potatoes.

In fact, vodka can be made from any material which is rich in starch or sugar, and is sometimes made from fruit, or molasses, or just sugar. (There is a campaign within the industry, however, to restrict the name 'vodka' to spirits distilled from grain or potatoes.)

The strength of vodka can be ratcheted up to as much as 70% alcohol by volume (ABV) in bottled commercial vodka, and even to 95% ABV to make 'pure spirit', or 'rectified spirit', which is mixed with water as an ingredient for home-concocted flavoured vodka (see the section on How to make Krupnik).

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