Think you know your vodka? Think again. As one of Sweden's most popular exports, Absolut vodka has been filling martini glasses and warming hearts worldwide since 1879. And when you're in the game that long, you build up quite an interesting history.
1. The old guy depicted on each bottle's seal is the company's founder
And he was a pretty big deal. In 1877, Lars Olsson Smith came up with a revolutionary new way to distill liquor without creating fusel alcohol, resulting in a cleaner, more pure spirit without any off-flavors.
2. He originally refused to sell his vodka in Stockholm
As an F-you to Stockholm's former liquor monopoly, founder L.O. Smith refused to get the required liquor license and instead set up a shop on a nearby island and offered free ferry rides to anyone who wanted to visit. That's some genius marketing.
3. Andy Warhol used Absolut vodka as an aftershave
The eccentric pop artist adored the brand's minimalist aesthetic and played an enormous role in Absolut's rise to cultural-icon status here in the States (as a drink, not as an aftershave -- not sure where he was going with that). Throughout his prolific career, Warhol created over 50 different pieces centered around the almighty bottle.
4. And, thanks to Andy, America has become the Swedish company's largest market
Forty-five percent of it, in fact. Absolut's Åhus distillery cranks out half a million bottles a day just to satisfy the needs of American vodka enthusiasts.
5. There's a real geographical area called the "Vodka Belt"
The area, which has Scandinavia at its western edge and also includes Russia and much of Eastern Europe, makes up the core of the vodka-producing world. Longstanding protectors of tradition, Vodka Belt countries only recognize spirits distilled from grain or potatoes as real vodka (sorry Diddy).
6. The producers were locavores way before it was a thing
Everything needed to produce Absolut's core brands is grown within a 75-mile radius of Absolut's distillery in Åhus, Sweden. And once being a locavore did become a thing, the company got hyperlocal: 100% of the wheat that goes into Absolut’s luxury brand, Absolut Elyx, comes from the Råbelöf estate, a 600+ year-old family-run winter wheat farm near the distillery.
7. It's got the whole farm-to-bottle situation down to a science
It takes exactly 2lbs of winter wheat to create a single bottle of Absolut vodka. As for Absolut Elyx, each square meter of the Råbelöf estate's rolling wheat fields yields one kilo of harvested wheat, which ultimately translates to one bottle of tasty, tasty luxury liquor.
8. Those bottles might look clear, but they're actually green
Figuratively speaking. In keeping with Absolut's commitment to sustainable business practices, each bottle is made with 40% recycled glass.
9. The bottle design was inspired by an antique medicine bottle
The squat, round, crystal-clear glass bottle greatly resembles the sort you'd find in 18th-century Swedish apothecaries. Storing it in your medicine cabinet, however, is not recommended.
10. The brand's original name translated to "Absolutely Pure Vodka"
In 1879, old L.O. Smith introduced the world to "Absolut Rent Brannvin," or “Absolutely Pure Vodka,” in homage to his prized liquor's immaculate constitution. Since that whole thing was kind of a mouthful, the name was quickly shortened to Absolut.
11. Absolut Elyx's name is a double entendre
The company originally wanted to call this top-shelfer "Elixer," but the legal powers that be came down on the name's potential medical associations, so they shortened it to Elyx -- which, conveniently, is a derivative of the Swedish word for "luxury." How on-brand.
12. Remember those back-page Absolut ads? They were HUGE.
We're talking 1,500 separate ads run over 25 years. That's the longest continuous ad campaign in the history of time (seriously). They were also revolutionary -- Absolut was the very first company to incorporate sound and movement into its print ads, like those sweet little blinking lights.
13. And they made quite a difference By the time Absolut's record-breaking ad campaign ended in 2007, the company's share of the American vodka market had jumped from 2.5% to its current 45%.
14. Absolut Citron was the world's first commercially available clear flavored vodka
Thus securing its position as the best way to class up a Lemon Drop shot.
15. Smaller-batch Absolut Elyx is distilled using 100% copper stills... and for good reason
Copper naturally attracts sulphur and other byproducts that can have a sharp, burning effect for the drinker. The copper interacts with the alcohol vapors throughout the entire process, giving Elyx a distinctly smooth, refined character. Also, it looks super cool.
16. Absolut put out a Lenny Kravitz record back in the day
In a 2005 promotional push called Absolut Tracks, the vodka maker recorded and released a 10-track album consisting of a base song (Kravitz's "Breathe") as well as nine subsequent covers from artists like Little Louie Vega and Jazzanova. Some poster ads even included headphone jacks so you could plug in and listen while waiting for the bus.
17. And recently partnered with deadmau5 to make a... video game?
The virtual-reality experience immerses users in a night out with Absolut and the uber-famous Canadian DJ. It's out July 27th, so you better get on that.
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Meredith Heil is a staff writer for Thrillist. Verses autobiographical, ABSOLUT-ly classical, last thing she's worried about is what another rapper do. More at @mereditto.