Vodka sales generate more than $6.6 billion each year in the US alone. A staple ingredient in many classic cocktails and flavored alcoholic drinks, if you drink alcohol you will probably have consumed vodka at some point.
But have you ever thought about where vodka comes from? If you’re wondering – how is vodka made – read on to discover the fascinating process of vodka production.
What Is Vodka?
A colorless and flavorless distilled liquor, vodka is a classic alcoholic spirit. Understood to originate from the ‘vodka belt’ – Sweden, Finland, Poland, and of course Russia.
Vodka was traditionally comprised of just two ingredients: water and ethanol from fermented grains like wheat or corn. Fermentation is the process of adding sugar to yeast to produce alcohol. This only creates a product of around 16% alcohol, so distilling it takes it to full potency.
These days, many distilleries use other sources of ethanol such as sugar beet, fruit, or potato. They sometimes achieve a signature taste by adding other elements such as spices or botanicals.
The best vodka brands can be consumed neat or over ice. However, it’s more commonly mixed into classic vodka cocktails like the Cosmopolitan, Screwdriver, and White Russian.
How Is Vodka Made: Production Process
The vodka production process typically involves 6 key steps. We’ll break it down for you here.
Mix Your Ingredients
Before fermentation, you need to combine your base ingredients. As mentioned, this typically includes grains, potatoes, or beets. They’ll need to be heated up with water and yeast and combined well ready to ferment.
Ferment The Mash
This mix of ingredients is often referred to as vodka mash. Now you just need to leave it for a couple of weeks. This gives compounds time to break down and start producing ethanol.
Once fermented, all you need from this mix is the ethanol, which is strained from the solids. You can discard the solids, all you need from here is the natural alcohol you’ve made.
Distillation is the process of evaporating a liquid and then collecting the vapor when it recondenses into a liquid. This process removes impurities and is repeated as many times as needed until achieving the desired purity.
Vodka distillations vary – cheap vodka will only have been distilled a couple of times, whereas luxury vodkas can be 25 times or more.
Collecting and Sorting
Not all of the distilled liquid can be used for vodka. In the first 35 percent of the collections, the ‘foreshots’ or ‘heads’ can be toxic. The final 35 percent, the ‘tails’ are generally impure and low quality.
The mid 30 percent, the ‘hearts’, are the good stuff. They’re collected and continue on to the next stage.
Filtration and Dilution
To achieve the clean, smooth mouthfeel associated with high-quality vodka, the liquid is usually filtered. At this stage, it will be upwards of 95 percent alcohol, so it will need to be diluted down to form the final product.
US standards dictate that vodka must be minimum 40 percent alcohol, so water is added to achieve the desired solution. Your vodka is ready!
The Craft of Vodka Making
So now you have the answer ‘to how is vodka made’! Professional vodka makers and distilleries all have their own variations of this process to create their own unique brands. The final product is the popular liquor we know and love today.
For more fascinating guides and articles, check out our other lifestyle and luxury articles!