Vodka History

Vodka history is problematic since no one can agree on its country of origin. However, it is known that it was first produced commercially in Russia in the latter part of the 9th century. The first official distillery was located in Khylnovsk in 1174. Surprisingly, vodka was used first as medicine and not as an intoxicant. It had only 14% alcohol content and was naturally fermented.

Ivan the Terrible, tsar of Russia, set up distilling taverns all over Russia in the 1500s and banned other distilleries in order to add to the royal coffers. Some of the nobility were allowed to distill vodka if they did special favors but were confined to only enough for their own use. There were fewer restrictions in Poland, where King Olbrecht gave everyone the right to make their own vodka in 1546. It was not unusual to find most farms equipped with distilling apparatus; vodka was so popular among the Polish people that in the 16th century there were nearly 50 distilleries just in the town of Poznan!

In vodka history in the early days, it was often called “bread wine” because it was fermented and later distilled from grains. It was a popular drink in Russia and neighboring countries. In fact, Poland was the first country to mass produce vodka in the 19th century. By 1911 89% of all the alcohol consumed in Russia was vodka. Even its name shows that affection, as it translates “dear little water”.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that vodka began to be popular outside the confines of Europe but in 1975 it became more popular than bourbon in the United States. Today, vodka is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world.