If I like something Russian, it's their ingenious invention of vodka. I'm here to drink!
And there's no doubt about it, a good drink. It's also a technical skill of sorts for passionate distillers because making a good vodka isn't easy.
But don't worry, you don't have to be called Ivan or live deep in the Siberian forest to uncover the secrets of good booze and teach you how to make vodka in the comfort of your own home.
What is vodka and how is it different?
Vodka is a distilled spirit, so technically, it's not too different from traditional American moonshine alcohol. However, this particular drink's most important feature is that it has to be clean and usually has no taste or smell. At least the ATF guys classify vodka, and they certainly know alcohol.
Another important aspect of vodka is that it has traditionally had an ABV content of around 40% (80%), so it has to be diluted. Apart from that, it's simply a good way to smuggle alcohol.
How do they make vodka?
Actually, it's not as difficult as you might think. Vodka puree is probably one of the most modest liqueurs because it can be made from starch, sugar, or any other source of liqueur readily available in the region.
It is traditionally produced with wheat, rye, and potatoes in Russia, simply because these ingredients are in abundance. However, there are varieties based on barley, molasses, refined sugar, fruit juices, and even cheap wine, which are just as delicious.
This is because vodka is the art of distillation, and it is here that a skilled distiller comes into his own.
The main purpose of vodka distillation is to make the brandy as clean and efficient as possible, with as little residual aroma as possible from the initial mash to the final product. As many of you may know from our guide to moonshine stills, this is easily accomplished using a column of reflux stills.
However, when using a pot still, vodka production is not suddenly a forbidden art: it just takes a little effort to get the same results as column reflux still. It is not particularly difficult to make vodka in a pot still, as it is usually distilled two or three times.
In addition to distilling, we recommend filtering the vodka to get the cleanest product possible. However, if you are familiar with the downtime and know how to cut it correctly, you won't have to do this.
Choose the type of puree you want to use and prep it
As I've said before, vodka is probably one of the least pretentious spirits in terms of the must-have variety. You can use what you can find at home or at your local grocery store.
However, depending on the ingredients you choose for your recipe, the mash's preparation may look different. That's why we'll first give you a brief overview of the most popular types of vodka batter and see how the choice of a particular mash will affect your overall efforts.
Potatoes are plentiful in Russia and Poland, so potatoes are traditionally used in vodka. But it's ironic that the Slavs based the production of their favorite brandy on American crops.
Potatoes are rich in starch, which can be broken down into sugars and fermented into a liqueur. However, in order to break down the starch, the mash must always contain more than a certain amount of malt grains, and these malt grains contain the necessary enzymes. Or you can buy the enzymes on their own. In either case, the fermentation of this type of wort must take into account the conversion of starch to sugar, which is an additional step in the whole process.
Wheat is a popular crop in vodka country, so it makes sense to have wheat in the classic vodka pudding. Most Russian vodka is made from wheat, and Russians would swear in Kalashnikov's last peel that vodka should be made from wheat.