Vodka has a reputation as the liquor store simpleton—too neutral to garner much intrigue. But somehow, hidden behind vodka’s clear exterior, lies a fascinating beverage with as much history as the darkest of spirits. Here, 11 surprising facts about the colorless liquor.
It May Be Less Likely to Give You a Hangover
Distillers filter vodka several times to achieve a neutral flavor, weeding out taste-causing ingredients including congeners, a byproduct of fermentation. Congeners are responsible for all the good tastes in darker spirits, as well as nasty harsh ones distillers want to avoid. But the flavor-packed chemicals are a mixed blessing, as the liver struggles to break them down, leading to nasty hangovers. That doesn’t mean you can drink vodka all night and feel chipper the next morning, but you may be a hair less in need of some hair of the dog than your tequila-slugging neighbor.
There’s a Bottle of Vodka That Costs $3.75 Million
Whiskey isn’t the only spirit that inspires people to drop absurd sums of money. There’s vodka for one percenters as well: Billionaire Vodka. Don’t let the name fool you—it only costs $3.75 million—but it’s a steal at that price considering it’s filtered through crushed gems and diamonds. Of course, the bottle is glitzed out too. It comes encrusted with diamonds and a solid gold label, and it’s encased in platinum and rhodium. Plus, it’s delivered by an armed courier via Billionaire Aviation or Billionaire Yachting, and comes with a private concierge service, presumably to pour the uber-expensive vodka into a golden chalice for you.
There’s a Vodka Belt
Like the Farm Belt of the Midwest, the Eastern European Vodka Belt is appropriately named for its main source of commerce. While there’s no strict borders, it generally refers to the Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland), the Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania), Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland (likely vodka’s birthplace).
There’s About 100 Calories per Shot of Vodka
Though vodka usually tastes cleaner and more pure than other spirits with stronger flavors, it isn’t any healthier and comes in at the standard 100 calories per shot. But the science behind the nutrition of booze is pretty tricky, so don’t go trying to meet your daily 2,000 calorie intake with vodka.
Vodka Can Be Made From Basically Anything
Most vodka is made from grains, like wheat, rye, corn, rice, quinoa or sorghum, but that’s just the beginning. Potatoes are another common option, though distilling them is a bit harder than The Great Escape would lead you to believe. There’s also vodka made from fruit like apples and strawberries, vodka made from honey and maple sap, and even vodka made from dairy products like milk and whey.
Vodka Can Treat Poison Ivy
Vodka may not be the your go-to spirit for outdoorsy excursions, but with the spirit’s handy ability to combat the itch-inducing plant of hell, maybe it should be. Unlike water, vodka can wash away pesky urushiol left by contact with the leaves, though apparently the trick works even better if the alcohol is over 100 proof. You’ll need some heft mixers if you want to actually drink the stuff on your hike.
Vodka Actually Has a Lot of Flavor
Some vodkas market themselves as being totally tasteless, but that doesn’t mean vodka fans are out of luck if they’re looking for a spirit with flavor. According to the experts, vodka varies significantly in taste, from grainy bread to citrus to creamy goodness and back again.
Vodka Comes in a Box
Whatever you do, don’t slap the bag. Griffon Vault Vodka shook up the boxed booze market by releasing vodka in the same dispensable, disposable packaging as everyone’s favorite wine, Franzia. The vodka company claims the product is meant to reduce waste, but all we hear is “vodka on tap, vodka on tap, vodka on tap.”
You Can, in Fact, Brita Filter Your Way to Better Vodka
Bottom shelf vodka is a crime against taste buds, but if you somehow end up with a bottle of the bad stuff, don’t just dump it down the drain. Pull out your Brita water filter and send that sucker through the filter a few times to achieve a passable—dare we say, palatable—base for cocktails. The effects are especially noticeable in terms of texture, though taste can be minorly improved with enough diligent congener-cleaning, as well.
You Actually Should Keep Vodka in the Freezer
Low temperatures restrain the volatile compounds in spirits that contribute to taste, so putting that precious bottle of Pappy in the freezer is a recipe for DIY disappointment. But a quick spin in the deep freeze may actually improve vodka, muting harsh notes and thickening the spirit into a pleasing, creamier sip.
Russians Love Vodka (Even More Than You Think)
Every stereotypical Russian from the movies carries a bottle of Smirnoff like a second form of I.D., but Russians do seriously love the stuff. There’s a minimum price on the spirit to make sure society remains intact, Siberian teachers have been paid in vodka, vodka toasts at Russian events are intricate and lengthy, and, when celebrating the surrender of Nazi Germany, residents of Moscow literally drank the city dry in under 24 hours.