Vodka (Russian: водка, Polish: wódka) is a distilled liquor.
Vodka, one of the world's most popular liquors, is composed solely of water and ethyl alcohol with possible traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made from a fermented substance of either grain, rye, wheat, potatoes, or sugar beet molasses.
Vodka’s alcoholic content usually ranges between 35 to 50 percent by volume; the standard Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish vodkas are 40 percent alcohol by volume (80 proof).
Historically, this alcoholic-proof standard derives from the Russian vodka quality standards established by Tsar Alexander III in 1894. The Muscovite Vodka Museum reports that chemist Dmitri Mendeleev determined the ideal alcohol content as 38 percent; however because in that time distilled spirits were taxed per their alcoholic strength, that percentage was rounded upwards to 40 percent for simplified taxation calculations.
For such a liquor to be denominated “vodka,” governments establish a minimal alcoholic proof; the European Union established 37.5 percent alcohol by volume as the minimal proof for European vodka.
Vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt — Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries — and elsewhere. It is also commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the bloody Mary, the screwdriver, the White Russian, the vodka tonic, and the vodka martini.
A Cosmopolitan is a cocktail made with vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice. Informally referred to as a Cosmo, the Cosmopolitan is usually served in a cocktail glass. For this reason it is often erroneously categorized as a martini because martinis are also served in cocktail glasses.
Screwdriver is a cocktail made with orange juice and vodka named after the tool. Its name originated in the 1950’s when American oil-rig workers in the Middle East did not have a swizzle stick handy while drinking on break and so used a screwdriver instead.
A Bloody Mary is a cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice, and usually other spices or flavorings such as Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, beef consomme or bouillon, horseradish, celery or celery salt, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. The epithet "Bloody Mary" is associated with a number of historical and fictional women, most notably Queen Mary I of England (see Bloody Mary (person) for others); however, there is no known connection between the name of the cocktail and any of these people.
The Black Russian is a cocktail of vodka and coffee liqueur (usually three parts vodka to two parts coffee liqueur, per the Kahlúa bottle's label, or five parts vodka to two parts coffee liqueur, per IBA specified ingredients). It is traditionally poured over ice cubes or cracked ice in an old-fashioned glass.
The White Russian is a sweet cocktail for many occasions. The "Russian" part of the name comes about because the drink includes vodka—it is not a traditional Russian drink, but rather a pun on the name of the anti-Bolshevik "White Russians" from the Russian Civil War.
A Soviet Cocktail is a cocktail made from vodka, sherry, vermouth and frequently garnished with lemon peel. A typical recipe for a Soviet cocktail is to take 1 1/2 oz of vodka, 1/2 oz of vermouth, 1/2 oz of dry sherry and shake them with crushed ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass, dropping the twisted lemon peel into the glass. A typical proof is 60, although this varies depending on the proof of the different ingredients.