History of Vodka

Russians and Poles will forever argue over who drank it first – and we will leave that argument between them. Let it suffice to agree that this “white drink” originated somewhere in northern/eastern Europe around 1400AD and has, since then, spread its popularity across the globe. Vodka, or more literally, “water” (derived from voda), was most conveniently discovered in the colder regions of Europe and Asia when burgeoning distillers realised that their fermented wine became more potent after freezing through the cold winter temperatures. With advanced distilling techniques brought over from the west in the 1400s and 1500s, the Slavic peoples were able to refine their vodka and create top-quality alcoholic drinks that would soon become the trademarks of their countries.

Vodka did not become popular in the US until the 1940s. It was introduced into the American market in the late 1800s and early 1900s when importers realised they could target Eastern European immigrants with a nostalgic drink. Also, many Russian distillers, who lost their livelihood when the Bolsheviks confiscated all private distilleries after the Revolution of 1919, escaped to the US and brought with them their trade vodka secrets and dreams to start again. Still, vodka did not find a prominent place on the stage of alcohol for Americans. Once alcohol rejoined the living with the repeal of the Prohibition Act in 1933, the Russian Vladimir Smirnov (changed to Smirnoff) sold the Smirnoff company to Rudolph Kunnett who in 1939 sold it to the Hublein Company. Several attempts were made at breaking vodka into the American market, but it was not successful until the company began to market it as a cocktail base. This proved to be a great strategy and vodka was on its way to make its mark on the American drinking culture. With its great versatility as a drink mixer it became a favourite at parties and social gatherings.